THE Government has been urged to make West Cork Ireland's first 'coastal national park' to recognise its unique scenery, biodiversity and heritage.
Social Democrat TD Holly Cairns and councillor Ross O’Connell have made a submission to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government’s consultation on the draft National Marine Planning Framework.
The document outlines a twenty-year plan that will shape developments in Ireland’s maritime sector and their submission emphasises support for coastal and island communities, as well as emphasizing the importance of sustainable fishing, protection for Kelp in Bantry Bay, and proposing West Cork as Ireland’s first marine-based national park.
Ms Cairns said: “Marine planning has lots of potential to help develop West Cork in an organised and sustainable way.
"We have incredible natural and social resources here, from Allihies to Kinsale.
"We all know how the tourism industry has been devastated by Covid-19, and to help the sector going forward, we are suggesting that West Cork becomes Ireland’s first marine-based national park.
"We have the whole package on our peninsulas and islands: fantastic scenery, amazing biodiversity and rich natural and cultural heritage.”
The Social Democrat TD said the draft document has some positives, but there needs to be more input from communities.
"The Save Our Skibbereen and Bantry Bay Kelp campaigns have shown us that too often local groups are forced to take on large companies and state bodies - we should have a system that facilitates real participation.
"We can’t continue to rely on small groups of people to right these wrongs.”
Councillor Ross O’Connell agreed, outlining that coastal and island communities should be at the heart of marine planning.
“We wanted a greater commitment to supporting families and jobs through sustainable models that used local knowledge.
"We made submissions on offshore renewable energy to ensure that wave energy, a nascent but rapidly developing technology with minimal environmental and visual impact, is given a chance to help meet our energy requirements in a way that won’t affect tourism and other marine activities.
"The plan needs to be based on a coordinated approach that respects the experiences of the community.”