Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Questions (58)

Maureen O'Sullivan


58. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she will request the national biodiversity centre to cease listing specific locations including grid references of sightings of protected birds and animals, particularly species targeted and persecuted by coursers, hunters and shooters such as hares, badgers, deer, otters, pine martens and so on; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24078/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

The National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC) is funded in the main by Heritage Council. It is also supported by my Department's National Parks and Wildlife Service which work closely with the NBDC on a range of issues, supplying it with very large volumes of data and working, for examples, around invasive alien species and biodiversity awareness.

Readily available data on the distribution of Irish species is considered a significant aid to the full consideration of nature and biodiversity in policies and programmes at many levels of administration. The creation of a national biodiversity database and mapping system was intended to address this particular need so that decision making across sectors can more readily incorporate the needs for the conservation of species and account for impacts on biodiversity.

Already the usage of the National Biodiversity Data Centre’s Mapping System demonstrates that information on protected, threatened and invasive species is increasingly being used to inform decisions in relation to planning, on individual site level but also through EIAs and Appropriate Assessments.

The National Biodiversity Data Centre operates Ireland’s citizen science portal which provides a facility for members of the public to engage in biodiversity recording by submitting sightings of wildlife and to map these sightings. This portal has received a high level of engagement by the general public, with almost 12,000 people submitting records, generating almost 430,000 observations of more than 8,600 different species.

Any data submitted through this system are licensed for publication under the Creative Common with Attribution (CC-BY) license. The data are then freely available for use by others, provided they are correctly attributed. This is a commonly used license for publishing data and conforms to the Irish Government’s open data policy.

The National Biodiversity Data Centre does, however, have a strong duty of care to ensure that the provision of open data does not significantly increase the risk to the conservation of species. To this end, the Data Centre constantly reviews its operations and takes on board advice from partner organisations, in particular my Department's National Parks and Wildlife Service, on issues where it is prudent not to disclose specific location information on threatened or protected species. Situations are reviewed on a case by case basis, and safeguards are already in place to protect some of the most vulnerable species.

Measures have been taken not to disclose detailed location information for a number of species, including Freshwater Pearl Mussel, Killarney Fern, Irish hare, all bat roosts, White-tailed sea eagle, Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Peregrine and Merlin.