IOSEA 4 - Irish and Celtic Seas
In accordance with the EU SEA Directive, and with the concurrence of Ireland’s Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) the Petroleum Affairs Division (PAD) of DCENR is continuing its programme of Strategic Environmental Assessment of the entire offshore area by embarking on the next phase of work - Irish Offshore Strategic Environmental Assessment Phase 4 (IOSEA 4), which focusses on the Irish and Celtic Seas.
Despite the low historic exploration activity, PAD/DCENR has continued to conduct and to sponsor environmental data gathering and analysis in the area. This work has been administered under the auspices of the Petroleum Infrastructure Programme (PIP).
In addition, the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI), in cooperation with the Marine Institute has conducted a state-of-the-art survey of Ireland's seabed known as the Irish National Seabed Survey (INSS) from 1999 to 2005 at a cost of €32 million. The INFOMAR programme is continuing the work of mapping the Irish seabed in water depths less than 200 metres, concentrating on 3 Priority Areas and 26 Bays in its first phase (2006-2016). Many data displays are available and there is ongoing interpretation of seabed characteristics and their marine sub-environments. Other research projects such as the EU-funded MESH (Mapping European Seabed Habitats) project are also relevant. In addition, a series of industry-funded Environmental Appraisals (The West Coast of Ireland, The South West Coast Of Ireland, The South East Coast of Ireland) were carried out during the period 1995-1997.
In 2006, PAD/DCENR completed the first phase of the Irish offshore Strategic Environmental Assessment, which focussed on the Slyne, Erris and Donegal region (IOSEA 1). In 2007 the second phase, which focussed on the Porcupine Basin, was completed (IOSEA 2). In 2008 the third phase, which focussed on the Rockall Basin, was completed (IOSEA 3).
Hence, there is a large catalogue of environmental base data and some analysis that has already been conducted. However, PAD/DCENR recognises that the work is not exhaustive and some areas have been only lightly examined to date.
Decision to Conduct an SEA
In accordance with the EU’s SEA Directive, PAD/DCENR has now embarked on the next phase, which focusses on the Irish and Celtic Seas. This programme will firstly inform the Irish government of specific environmental considerations in its ongoing licensing process. Secondly, it will be a more efficient means to provide oil companies working offshore with an operational baseline against which they can conduct their work and ensure responsibility to environmental protection.
PAD/DCENR recognises that this study will be a pre-cursor to a consultation process and plans to utilise the outputs as communication instruments to fulfil the requirements of the SEA process.
The IOSEA 4 Programme
External environmental experts, Xodus Group Ltd have been appointed to conduct the data gathering, analysis and preparation of the Environmental Report for IOSEA4. The assessment will be managed by a technical Steering Group, which has membership drawn from Governmental and non-governmental agencies, environmental agencies, industry and the research and university sectors.
The Steering Group will publish the Environmental Report. A six week public consultation process will then take place, after which a final report will be published, taking account of the issues raised during the public consultation phase.