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Last to leave, turn out the lights…


Save the seal, save the whale, save the corals, save the energy crisis - when will our Government make an effort to save Ireland’s fishing industry and its coastal communities?



One can’t help feeling that our fishing industry is under attack from every possible angle - if its not European fishing superpowers pressurizing the EU Commission then its our own marine department and regulators doing their best to work against the industry, but now, in the name of environmental conservation, it is the banning of trawling in certain areas - another little stab in the ‘death of a thousand cuts’ for Irish fishermen.


Before the conservationists jump all over me, I’m not saying that certain sensitive seabed areas, such as those with delicate coral life in GENUINE deep seas should not be protected - but the entire strategy of closing down fishing areas piece by piece, often under different plans, is clear to be seen.


In the press release below, one of the Fair Seas statements reads “The Irish government has committed to protect 30% of our waters before 2030. We need to ensure that MPA legislation is ambitious and timely to conserve, restore and protect our ocean. Our ocean territory is home to endangered sharks, globally important seabird colonies, and animals threatened with extinction. It is vital that we act now to restore critical habitats, safeguard wildlife and help address the climate crisis” — 


The operations of the Irish fishing industry, not now or ever, has been a threat to sharks, seabirds or animals threatened with extinction - and yet 30% of Irish waters are to be closed to fishing by 2030. 


Not all of this 30% will be areas that are fished anyway but even if only 10% are currently productive fishing grounds then this, on top of the recent loss of 30% of fish quotas in Irish waters for Irish fishermen [as a result of BREXIT] and on top of the growing number of wind farm licences to be established on even more fishing grounds, is yet one more step in the gradual but apparent strategically-planned extermination of this industry.


And, as for the statement of a fishing ban on ‘deep sea’ areas, how on earth can the extremely important Porcupine Bank be included amongst this category when it is a plateau in 200m of water that rises to 145m?


During my days as editor of Fishing News I was a guest of the then fisheries minister Richard Benyon to Westminster for a meeting with a group of environmentalists and to hear their proposal for banning fishing in ‘deep sea’ waters.


But, as the only fishing industry representative in the room I felt compelled at the end of their presentation to point out to the Minister (and the environmentalists) that in their screen graphics they showed sensitive corals that grew at depths of 600m+ but then the fishing areas that they wanted to close were all in waters of less than 250m…


Meanwhile, MPAs (Marine Protected Areas) can be the thin end of a very dangerous wedge.


A decade ago in the UK for example, there were many, many proposals for ‘protected’ areas - and each of these came from different green groups but all working with the same strategy - MPAs, MZCs (Marine Zones of Conservation), MCZs (Marine Conservation Zones), and a half a dozen other titles etc etc - but at the end of the day they were all MPAs under one name or another.


And with individual cases of single areas applying for the status of ‘protected’ such cases seemed reasonable and harmless enough — until the eventual plan of ‘joining the dots’ of all these MPAs became apparent - leaving fishermen the losers of vast sways of perfectly good fishing grounds.


Joining up a string of MPAs is a logical step in a region such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef but is far from logical in Irish waters which are known to be the richest and most productive fishing grounds in all of Europe.


Come the next election people need to ask themselves just how far is the Irish Government willing to go in defending everyone and everything except for its fishermen, their families and the hundreds of years of heritage and tradition on this island nation?



  • Fair Seas’ press release below:



“EU DECISION TO BAN DEEP SEA FISHING IN SENSITIVE WATERS IS GOOD NEWS FOR IRELAND” says FAIR SEAS

 

A coalition of Ireland’s leading environmental non-governmental organisations and networks says progress is beginning to be made towards protecting some of the most vulnerable ecosystems within Irish waters. Fair Seas has welcomed a decision by the European Commission to close parts of the Northeast Atlantic to bottom fishing but says more action is needed.  

 

The move will see deep sea fishing using gear such as trawls, gillnets and bottom longlines, banned in 87 sensitive zones. The area amounts to 16,000 km2 of EU waters, of which nearly 9,000 km2 are within the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

 

Fair Seas published a report in June identifying 16 ‘Areas of Interest’ for MPA designation in Irish waters. The new closures line up almost perfectly with the areas identified by Fair Seas. 

 

The new ban on bottom fishing will apply to 1.8% of Irish waters. Fair Seas is urging the Government to designate a minimum of 30% of Irish waters as Marine Protected Areas by 2030, up from the current figure of 2% which the group says is wholly inadequate. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are areas of our seas and coasts legally protected from activities that damage the habitats, wildlife and natural processes. 

 

Aoife O’ Mahony, Campaign Manager for Fair Seas highlighted the need for legislation to be implemented in Ireland, she said, “The Irish government has committed to protect 30% of our waters before 2030. We need to ensure that MPA legislation is ambitious and timely to conserve, restore and protect our ocean. Our ocean territory is home to endangered sharks, globally important seabird colonies, and animals threatened with extinction. It is vital that we act now to restore critical habitats, safeguard wildlife and help address the climate crisis. The time for action is now.”

 

Regina Classen, Marine Policy and Research Officer with the Irish Wildlife Trust said, “This is incredible news for Ireland. We have sensitive ecosystems in the deep waters off the Irish coast. These areas are home to cold water coral reefs, deep sea sponge reefs and sea-pen fields which are easily damaged by bottom-contacting fishing gear. Not only are we now protecting fragile deep sea reefs from bottom trawling, but even a part of the Porcupine Bank, which is heavily trawled for Dublin Bay Prawn, is now protected due to the presence of sea-pens.” 

 

Ireland South MEP Grace O’Sullivan, Green Party Spokesperson for the Marine added,  “The news that over 16,000km2 of fragile marine ecosystems are to be strictly protected is a fantastic development for Ireland and our seas. Civil society organisations have worked hard to achieve this victory over the last few years and should be commended. These areas are home to priceless biodiversity and are also some of the most effective at storing carbon. I believe these areas could now play a central role in the government’s work to protect at least 30% of our waters with new Marine Protected Areas, a third of which should be ‘strictly protected’ from human interference. The EU meanwhile must now ensure that these commitments are met by Member States as the clock is ticking towards 2030.”

 

The Fair Seas campaign is led by a coalition of  Ireland’s leading environmental non-governmental organisations and networks including  Irish Wildlife Trust, BirdWatch Ireland, Sustainable Water Network, Friends of the Irish Environment, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Irish Environmental Network and Coastwatch. It is funded by Oceans 5, Blue Nature Alliance, BFCT and The Wyss Foundation.




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