Collaborative Sustainable Innovation

co-designing small-scale fisheries governance approaches

Thinking about Ireland’s National Marine Planning Framework through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During these unprecedented times, we are being forced to reflect on the values that are needed to underpin the kind of society we want to live in, and the inadequacies of the current status quo. In Ireland, in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, the values that come consistently to the fore include solidarity, equity, empathy and care for fellow citizens. The big picture questions that we are currently reflecting on are not limited to our economy and healthcare system. They are permeating every single aspect of our lives. These reflections are therefore directly relevant to the framework we choose to manage our marine environment.

For the past two years, the Irish Government has been developing a national marine planning framework, led by the Marine Planning Policy and Development Division in the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. A public consultation on the draft National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF) finally closed on 30 April 2020, two months later than originally anticipated. Delays were caused first by the General Election in early February, and subsequently by the COVID-19 pandemic. In my submission to the policy consultation on behalf of the Trinity Centre for Environmental Humanities, I reflected on the national marine planning process in the unexpected context of a global pandemic.

Adapted front page of the National Marine Planning Framework Consultation Draft.

The Mayo Islands

They are special places, islands. People don’t know it until you visit them. It’s not all about numbers or population…. It’s the least isolated place I’ve ever been”, said a resident incomer to one of the Mayo islands to me, a few weeks before I visited them. I was intrigued, given that the islands of Inishturk and Clare Island lie about an hour’s (often choppy) ferry ride off the mainland, with tiny populations of between 40-60 (Inishturk) and approximately 150 (Clare Island). Whenever I ask about island populations and the response is a range, rather than a figure, I know that it is probably because there is no secondary school on the island, as is the case in Clare Island and Inishturk. The populations increase when students return from university and secondary school.