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Minister Smith Welcomes Events To Highlight Biodiversity Week 18-25 May 2008

Mr Brendan Smith TD, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food welcomed the many events taking place around the country as part of Biodiversity Week 2008.

"There is no doubt that biodiversity is under threat from the expansion of human activities worldwide," the Minister said. "Growing populations require resources, land for development, infrastructure, and food production and that demand places habitats and species under pressure. It is not just exotic species in far-away places that are under threat, although these often receive the publicity and tend to come to mind when we hear of biodiversity loss. Threats to biodiversity exist all around us and Biodiversity Week is an opportune time to remind people of the importance of this issue from an Irish perspective."

Biodiversity, or 'biological diversity', is quite simply the variety of all life forms on Earth. It is our life support system and all agriculture depends essentially on biodiversity, as do marine and freshwater food resources. Ecosystems breakdown wastes and recycle nutrients, filter and purify water, buffer against flooding, maintain soil fertility, purify air, and provide natural resources such as wood, textiles, and of course food.

"Almost 75% of Ireland's land area is devoted to agriculture and forestry. The sector has an enormous influence on biodiversity and can make a significant contribution to maintaining biological diversity and the healthy environment necessary to support it. Similarly, our coastal waters are rich in biodiversity which we have a responsibility to protect and foster.

"I am pleased to say that my Department has been to the forefront in the implementation of the National Biodiversity Plan (2002-2006). The Plan identified over 90 actions necessary to help halt the loss of biodiversity and over half of those actions fell within the remit of my Department, under broad headings such as agriculture, fisheries, forestry and conservation of genetic resources."

Minister Smith noted that the mid-term review of the National Biodiversity Plan, published in November 2005, recognised the considerable progress made by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in addressing the action points within its remit.

"The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is currently involved in the consultation process for the preparation of a 2nd National Biodiversity Plan to run from 2008-2013 and will continue to offer support for the protection and enhancement of biodiversity where appropriate through a range of measures such as the Rural Environment Protection Scheme, Organic Farming Scheme, the Forest Environment Protection Scheme, its commitment to the principles of Sustainable Forest Management and the programme of work overseen by the National Advisory Committee on Plant and Animal Genetic Resources and Marine Environmental Management Systems."

21 May 2008

Notes

National plan

The National Biodiversity Plan (2002-2006) was published by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in 2002. The Plan identified over 90 actions necessary to help halt the loss of biodiversity and over half of those actions fell within the remit of this Department under broad headings such as agriculture, fisheries, forestry and conservation of genetic resources.

The mid-term review of the National Biodiversity Plan, published in November 2005, noted the considerable progress made by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in addressing the action points within its remit. As of May 2008, the Department is involved in the consultation process for the preparation of a 2nd National Biodiversity Plan to run from 2008-2013.

DAFF Measures that contribute to halting the loss of Biodiversity

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food operates a number of measures that support the protection and enhancement of biodiversity.

  • The Rural Environmental Protection Scheme has been in operation since 1994. The current Scheme, REPS4 launched in 2007, includes a far greater emphasis on biodiversity with options such as habitat creation and Supplementary Measures in addition to mandatory protection measures.
  • Organic Farming Scheme (introduced 2007) requires production methods that do not damage the environment, respect the countryside, and promote the highest standards of animal welfare;
  • The Forest Environment Protection Scheme (FEPS) was introduced 2007 to target REPS farmers and was designed to encourage the establishment of high nature-value woodlands.
  • All forest operations in Ireland are carried out in compliance with the principles of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM), which meets high environmental, social and economic standards. SFM is implemented through the Forest Service Inspectorate, a National Standard, a Code of Best Forest Practice and a suite of environmental and forestry practice guidelines which includes Forest Biodiversity Guidelines;
  • The Department implements a co-ordinated programme for the conservation and utilisation of Genetic Resources in agriculture, food and forestry. The programme is overseen by a National Advisory Committee on Plant and Animal Genetic Resources;
  • Over 4000 Commonage Framework Plans have been completed in a joint programme with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government - designed to eliminate overgrazing and permit the recovery of common lands;
  • There are general obligations under the Single Payment Scheme to keep land in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC), as well as very specific obligations to comply with the relevant legislation implementing EU Directives on birds, habitats, nitrates and groundwater.
  • The Marine Environmental Management Systems (MEPS) intervention, facilitates projects that address environmental concerns, particularly those intended to protect and develop aquatic flora and fauna while enhancing the aquatic environment, including the protection of marine biodiversity.
  • The continued building of social capital in the seafood industry where the marine environment and its sustainability are increasingly viewed as key components of appropriate fisheries management, governance and biodiversity conservation.

Date Released: 21 May 2008