Dáil Éireann - Volume 492 - 18 June, 1998

Written Answers. - Marine Environment Report.

86. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources the headings or guiding principles, if any, developed to guide the work being undertaken on the quality status report relative to the Irish Sea which is being undertaken under the OSPAR Convention as an outcome of the work of the now defunct Irish Sea Co-ordination Group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14751/98]

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Dr. Woods): Under the auspices of the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR), to which Ireland is party, work is currently under way on the preparation of an environmental quality status report for the entire area covered by the convention. For the purpose of the report the convention area has been divided into five subregions. [1389] Ireland and the UK are responsible for the preparation of the report in respect of that part of the North-East Atlantic region within an area west of the UK mainland to the edge of the continental shelf — 200m — depth) and stretching roughly from the north of Scotland to the Brittany coast. The area, known as the Celtic Seas, includes all of Ireland's marine and coastal areas. In conjunction with similar reports on the four other parts of the OSPAR region, the Celtic Seas QSR will be assimilated into a Conventionwide QSR that will be published in the year 2000.

The report will focus on changes that are occurring, their causes and significance. It will comprise a compilation of existing knowledge together with an assessment of this information in relation to agreed criteria of environmental quality and a statement of the prevailing condition of the area. The report will have separate chapters dealing with: (i) geography, climate and hydrography; (ii) human activities; (iii) chemistry and marine biology.

The information gathered in this report will allow for an assessment of the environment of the maritime area covered by the OSPAR Convention and will provide a firm basis for future monitoring and management.

The Irish contribution to the QSR is being managed by the Marine Institute on behalf of the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources and the Department of the Environment and Local Government. The Institute has established a QSR office at the Forbairt laboratory in Shannon, County Clare, staffed by a team of four marine scientists. A national QSR steering group, comprising senior officials from the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources, the Department of the Environment and Local Government, the Marine Institute and the Environmental Protection Agency meet regularly to review progress on the preparation of the report.