Thursday, 19 September 2019

Questions (10)

Oral answers (5 contributions) (Question to Culture)

Deputy Durkan has requested permission for Deputy McLoughlin to take his question.

Bernard Durkan

Question:

10. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the action she can take to restore or protect 82 species of birds and animals deemed to be extinct or threatened; if her Department can sponsor specific schemes nationally to address the red lists species; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37724/19]

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I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to raise this question on behalf of my colleague Deputy Durkan who is at a meeting. He asks the Minister what actions she can take to restore or protect 82 species of birds and animals threatened with extinction, if the Department can sponsor specific schemes nationally to address the red lists species and if she will make a statement on the matter.

My Department, through its National Parks and Wildlife Service, NPWS, is responsible for implementing the Wildlife Act 2018, the primary legislation underpinning the protection of biodiversity and nature in Ireland. The Wildlife Act 2018 affords protection to a range of habitats and species and provides for regulation and control of activities that impinge on biodiversity, such as hunting and trade.

The legislative framework in place to protect biodiversity is further strengthened by the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011, which also fall under the remit of my Department. These regulations transpose the EU Birds Directive and the EU Habitats Directive into national law and provide for protection of certain habitats and species across the European Union and give a framework for specific measures to be taken to target areas of concern in each member state. The main instruments provided for are the designation of special protection areas, SPA, aimed at the protection of threatened species of birds and special areas of conservation, SAC, aimed at protecting other animal species and habitats.

My Department is also responsible for developing and publishing Ireland's national biodiversity action plan. The most recent plan, Ireland's third, was published in October 2017 and contains a range of actions to protect and conserve biodiversity, including measures to restore and conserve habitats and protect vulnerable species.

The NPWS, working together with national experts and colleagues in Northern Ireland, produces regional red lists for the island of Ireland. Red lists are published on an irregular basis as datasets and the necessary national expertise for taxonomic groups become available.

In addition, threat response plans are being prepared by NPWS as part of Ireland's response to the judgment of the European Court of Justice in case C-183/05 and the requirement to establish a system of strict protection for species listed in Annex IV of the Habitats Directive.

These plans provide detailed information on range, distribution and habitat. They also focus on the particular threats facing each species and identify the measures required to address these threats, as well as identifying who is responsible for implementing them and providing a timeframe for delivery.

The NPWS will continue to monitor and assess the status of vulnerable species in Ireland and takes into consideration any appropriate responses possible within their remit and the resources available to the Department, including specific schemes to address particular threatened species.

I know that Deputy Durkan, and I suppose everyone in this Chamber, is concerned about the many sensitive species of birds and animals, such as the corncrake and others. People tell me regularly that the corncrake is nearly a thing of the past. It is vitally important that the Department, the officials and the Minister do everything that can be done, particularly to enhance or increase the special areas of conservation to help protect the various birds and animals that could be extent in a few years. They are threatened unless we now take action. The Minister has outlined that and I appeal to her on my behalf and that of my colleague to do whatever is possible to ensure they are protected.

The Deputy mentioned the corncrake. The population of corncrakes in Ireland has been monitored annually since 1993 but it is critically low, with an estimated 83% decline between 1978 and 2018 with only 153 calling males remaining. The breeding range population declined by 86% between 1972 and 2018. Since 2005 the population has remained stable and there are nine special areas of protection which have been designated for the protection of breeding corncrake populations in Ireland with an estimated 70 calling males, approximately 45% of the total national population. There are many positive outcomes and conservation measures we are undertaking for the corncrake. They include the provision of early cover dominated by broadleaved herbaceous species such as the iris or nettle, the suitable corncrake friendly mowing machine with late cutting, a friendly mowing pattern and late cover provision by leaving some field strips unmown until September, maintaining early cover strands through to the season’s end and field operations reduced or removed from late April and general access to meadows kept to a minimum from May to August.

Question No. 11 answered with Question No.7.

Question No.12 replied to with Written Answers.