I refer the Deputy to my replies to his recent questions, PQs 37724/19 and 45449/19.
My Department is responsible for implementing the Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2018, the primary legislation underpinning the protection of biodiversity and nature in Ireland. The Wildlife Acts afford protection to a range of habitats and species and provide for regulation and control of activities that impinge on biodiversity, such as hunting and trade.
The legislative framework in place to protect our natural heritage is further strengthened by the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 SI No 477/2011, 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, giving 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.
Ireland’s 3rd assessment on the status of listed habitats and species was submitted by my Department to the European Commission in April 2019. A summary report has also been published and is available on the NPWS website (https://www.npws.ie/publications/article-17-reports).
My Department drives targeted conservation work throughout the country and co-ordinates a number of EU-funded LIFE nature projects. KerryLIFE, a project worth over €5 million to support two local communities in the Caragh and Kerry Blackwater areas, for instance, is focussed on helping restore populations of the endangered freshwater pearl mussel.
The NPWS Farm Plan Scheme offers a mechanism for engaging with individuals in a joint conservation effort. The scheme will be enhanced in 2020 to support measures to protect biodiversity and assist farmers with lands designated as SACs or SPAs, in their role as custodians of nature.
My Department's NPWS continues 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, including specific schemes to address particular threatened species.