Our Ocean Wealth, An Irish Angler’s World’s Submission

March 31st marked the deadline for submissions to “Our Ocean Wealth” Towards an Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland. A welcome development but one which this soldier did not for reasons which will become clear participate in. Having made submissions on previous occasions, emailed politicians, briefly worked in fisheries on a short term contract, and handed personally on June 8th last year a letter to our current fisheries Minister Coveney (reproduced below) asking for a major shift in fisheries policy to include the recreational angling and tourism sector, his subsequent response last December re increasing the Celtic Sea commercial cod quota by 77% based on the first strong year class since 2000 on an already depleted stock told me all that I needed to know.

Letter to Minister Coveney, 08/06/2011

Dear Minister Coveney,

The historical and present tradition is that the marine commercial fishing industry, politicians, and Eurocrats decide how Ireland’s inshore and oceanic waters are managed. To date their record is appalling, and banner headlines on page two of last Saturday’s Irish Times dated June 4th 2011 do not inspire confidence that you in your role as Minister are going to tread anything but the same well worn and disastrous path as your predecessors. How can you forecast the creation of 158 seafood sector jobs when upwards of 50% of the 56 already commercially targeted fish in Irish waters are dangerously over exploited with the status of many others uncertain?Until such time as the brief is widened to include all interested parties around the table and the marine is looked at from a position whose terms are based on restoration, strict management which may have to include entry restrictions to the industry, and a wider socio economic input to include recreational angling and other tourism interests, then unfortunately Ireland is going to further squander and destroy the one resource that really can turn around our ailing economy.It is possible for recreational sea angling and commercial sea fishing to co-exist; they did in the recent past before we sold our territorial waters to the then Common Market. When one considers just one statistic it puts a lot in perspective. The pelagic fleet is the flagship of Ireland’s commercial sea fishing sector probably responsible for most onshore processing jobs. In 2009 the Irish pelagic catch (predominantly herring, mackerel, blue whiting) was 155,000 tonnes worth approximately €112million. In 2010 the volume landed was marginally up but the value stayed the same. It is reasonable to assume that the margins were down and the costs were up in 2010.155,000 tonnes is an extraordinary figure for one nation to remove from the sea. Contrary to what the industry says mackerel as a resource are being hammered, the dramatically reduced shoals off north Co. Wicklow compared to 20 years ago and the preponderance of joeys (juvenile mackerel) within the catch prove this. Also when one considers that blue whiting end up as fish food for the aquaculture industry at a weight conversion ratio of 4:1( four kilos of blue whiting makes one kilo of farmed salmon) the whole exercise just does not make economic or environmental sense.Contrast those figures with recreational sea angling whose understated contribution to the economy is €33million. This is a totally underdeveloped industry reliant on a decimated resource which hinders its growth just as it does for the commercial sector. If restoration policies were implemented Ireland could develop a destination sea angling market the envy of Europe and the web of benefits filtering out into the accommodation, restaurant, pub, general leisure industry, and artisan fishmongers from what is accepted as a sustainable industry has to date not even been quantified.Having lost my job a year ago and presently developing a recreational angling business in Co. Wicklow, I have plenty of experience, vision, and a desire to add to the creative mix necessary to further the development of our marine based industries. Minister Coveney, you really have an opportunity to change the way Ireland manages and develops its marine resource. Like our economy it is in a parlous state but has the fundamentals for recovery. Please use vision and widen the brief away from just the political and commercial seafood sector to include all interested parties. Failure to do this, besides being undemocratic, will retain a status quo which in a few short years if left to its own devices, will render one of Ireland’s few natural resources with sustainable long term potential unviable.

Yours sincerely,

Now one could argue that the Minister through the “Our Ocean Wealth” initiative has listened to my request, however maybe close on four years of atrocious fiscal management and poor governance of this nation of ours exemplified by the latest “Household Charge” debacle has brought out the cynic in me. That said, my views on marine conservation along with possible solutions are in the ether through this blog site, and I am most certainly willing to get my hands dirty for the greater good. So Minister Coveney and Taoiseach take note, the marine conservation element of this website plus any relevant articles and posts contained is my submission, they all interlink. My contact details are available through the site, I look forward to hearing from you….

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