It is essential to cooperate with countries like Britain if Ireland is to protect biodiversity in Irish waters because "marine life does not respect international boundaries".
That is according to one of Ireland's leading experts on the proposed Marine Protected Areas Bill, which aims to cement the country's ambition to protect 30% of its maritime area by the end of the decade.
The EU's Marine Strategy Framework Directive legally compels member states to establish marine protected areas (MPAs), stipulating spatial protection measures be put in place to conserve biodiversity.
Campaigners have long called for MPAs to be expanded, with environmental coalition groups such as Fair Seas identifying 16 areas in Irish waters that should be designated as such to protect species such as sharks, rays, and puffins.
University College Dublin professor Tasman Crowe told TDs and senators at an Oireachtas committee hearing that the newly proposed bill provided a "huge opportunity" to enhance biodiversity protection.
The marine biodiversity and ecosystem expert, who is chair of the National Biodiversity Forum, said: "I think it is important for everyone to appreciate that designating an MPA does not entail putting a fence up around the area and preventing anything from happening in it...For example, if protecting a seagrass bed, leisure boats would perhaps be able to pass over it, but not to anchor in it."
Prof Crowe added stakeholder consultation and participation throughout the process of identifying and managing MPAs was perhaps the most important element.
"There is also explicit mention of transboundary considerations. Marine life does not respect international boundaries and it is essential that there is some joined-up thinking with our neighbours," he added.
"All in all, I think legislation based on this bill would represent a very significant step change in our relationship with our maritime environment and present a huge opportunity to better manage our interactions with it, both for the health and sustainability of the ecosystems themselves but also for the wellbeing and prosperity of current and future generations."