An Irish Anglers World

Crazy Law Curtails Ireland’s Tourist Bass Angling Potential

A fine shore caught bass from Co. Wicklow, Ireland.As has been written previously in this column, angling tourism is worth an understated €100 million to the Irish economy, with sea angling tourism contributing roughly a third of that figure. It could be so much more, a serious anomaly in present passenger boat transport legislation exists which is most definitely affecting the creation of jobs in the angling services sector. Let me explain.

Bass angling is big business especially in America, and we attract lots of American tourists. Also, forty percent of Ireland’s tourist traffic hails from the United Kingdom where there are an estimated 300,000 bass anglers. Wexford is home to some of the best rod and line bass fishing in Europe. Guided boat fishing for bass in coastal waters using flies and lures, from vessels averaging 20’ in length carrying up to three passengers, is a feature service in US states such as Massachusetts.

Professional small boat bass angling guides in America can earn before tips up to $800 per day, providing a service which is an exciting addition to the social fabric of coastal regions, and of course attracts tourists while providing real employment and spin offs to local service providers such as hotels, B/B’s, restaurants, pubs, etc. Under present Irish charter boat passenger legislation the type of operation described above is not allowed, which is not only anti job creation on a number of fronts, but also limits Ireland’s potential as a tourist destination.

To keep this simple and jargon free, The Department of Transport is the regulatory authority for merchant shipping which includes passenger boats. Under current legislation a qualified skipper can hire a small boat for self drive purposes to a complete novice with no sea going experience. That person can then proceed out to sea by law travelling up to three miles off and fifteen miles up or down the coast. In effect this country is legally putting that novice boat person potentially in danger.

On the other hand, should the novice decide to hire the qualified skipper to take them out to sea in the very same boat, under present legislation they would be disappointed as current regulations regarding the carrying of passengers at sea will not allow it. A ridiculous state of affairs but there you are. What makes it worse is that the relevant department within the last 18 months has been notified by this writer of the anomaly and its implications regarding job creation and tourism, with to date no visible action or even an update. Why am I not surprised?

The contribution of tourist sea bass angling to Ireland is substantial, and could be further increased if qualified professional skippers were allowed to carry anglers, in recognised small boat vessels such as Boston Whalers, within Irish coastal waters up to three miles out and fifteen miles along the coast. Today privately owned craft of a similar specification fish up to twenty miles off the coast in safety, why limit a professional?

Should anybody from the relevant department mentioned above, a local TD or Minister happen to read this column, please contact me. The opportunity to develop further jobs and tourism revenue is very real, let’s amend this ridiculous law NOW!

By Ashley Hayden ©

First published in” An Irish Anglers World” weekly column, People Newspapers, 12/07/2011.