Green Party Senator Pauline O’Reilly has said that sprat fishing has reached ‘fever pitch’ in Ros a Mhíl, Co Galway this week
Green Party Senator Pauline O’Reilly has said that sprat fishing has reached ‘fever pitch’ in Ros a Mhíl, Co Galway this week and more boats are arriving in the west of Ireland.
The Galway based politician was asking questions of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, during last Wednesday’s Seanad sitting.
She called on the Minister to reinstate the six-mile ban on fishing vessels over 18 metres, which was overturned during the summer by the High Court, and called for the outlawing of sprat fishing as it is a vital food source for other sea life.
In her question to the Donegal TD she said:
“I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say there is a crisis in fishing and this last week has seen, as expected, an increase in overfishing for sprat at Ros a Mhíl.
I have been contacted by local fishers in Galway and indeed by environmental organisations over the last few days to call on you to act, urgently on the hollowing out of marine life along the west coast and I thank you Minister McConalogue for coming into the House today to address it.
“One of the most important fisheries policy shifts in the history of the Irish State”, that is what a step taken to ban trawlers over 18 metres in length from fishing within 6 nautical miles of the coast has been called.
“It was very much welcomed. This was in a letter to yourself 13 days ago by Birdwatch Ireland, National Inshore Fishermen’s Association, An Taisce, Cork Environmental Forum, Cork Nature Network, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Environmental Pillar, Friends of the Irish Environment, Irish Seal Sanctuary, Ireland Whale and Dolphin Trust, Irish Wildlife Trust, Oceana, Seas at Risk, Sustainable Water Network and Our Fish.
“I mention all of these groups by name to emphasise the importance for all the public that we represent. As you are aware devastatingly this ban was overturned on a technicality last summer.
“The impact has been felt in particular in relation to sprat. Sprat is a keystone species in our bays, vital to the ocean food chain. They are intrinsic to the very ecosystem of the seas around us, feed fish from herring, mackerel, white to dolphins and porpoises.
“When you see a pod of dolphins in the bay you can be sure they are feeding on sprat. Now the future of all of these species hangs in the balance due to intensive overfishing of their prey.
“Fishing communities have been left devastated by this intensive trawling, as their stock dries up with nothing to feed on.
“It is up to the Minister to legislate and issue policy directives to protect fishing communities and to protect marine life to reimplement this ban.
“Bays act as nurseries for juvenile fish, and with sprat being used now for fishmeal and not for human consumption, there is nothing to stop the very youngest being fished and then ground up and sold to some farms including fish, mink and pig farms.
“The additional difficulty, Minister, is that no quotas nor Total Allowable Catch exists for sprat fishing, unlike other pelagic fish such as herring and mackerel and I am hearing reports of up to 200 tonnes coming out of an area in a single day, per fishing pair.
“That’s the equivalent of 52 million fish. We must act now when fishing and nature hangs in the balance.
“What is new is that it has reached fever pitch in Galway, at Ros A Mhíl over the last week, with more boats arriving than ever before as the season gets going.
“It is simply not fair, nor just, that our local fishing communities have quotas where there are no quotas for sprat, nor jobs.
“Fishers and environmental NGOs have joined together to call for action on this important issue for marine biodiversity, a sustainable industry and the social benefits for life along the west coast of Ireland, from West Cork to Donegal.
“Minister I would ask you what emergency action have you and can take to address this urgent issue. The ban itself is a commitment in the programme for government.
“It appears justification in the courts for overruling the ban was based on issues around the public consultation and not the ban itself.
“Can you commit to addressing this to reinstate the ban. In the long term what actions are you taking to stabilise sustainable stocks for our fishing communities and indeed for nature itself. Thank you Minister.
Minister McConalogue said:
“The High Court ruling of judicial review proceedings which relate to Policy Directive 1 of 2019 has been appealed in the last week by myself and by the State to the Court of Appeal Senator O’Reilly and a stay has been sought on the orders granted therein.
“I am committed, I can assure you, to the sustainability of fishing in Irish water and the commitment made in our programme for Government that inshore waters continue to be protected for smaller fishing vessels and pair trawling to be prohibited inside the six mile limit.
“I will also be closely monitoring the situation in relation to fishing activity and working with my department to ensure further efforts are made to gather data and that we avail of all the resources and capabilities at our disposal to ensure that we fully access and get a better understanding of the nature of the sprat fishery and of their life-cycle so that we can be informed in the time ahead as well but I do thank you for bringing this to the attention of the Seanad today and I look forward to staying and continuing to be engaged with you and the Óireachtas on this important matter.
Speaking this evening to The Fishing Daily on the issue of the six-mile ban, Patrick Murphy, Chief of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation said “We will be asking many questions of the Senator.
“I feel regardless of sprat fishing, turfing out all boats over 18 metres outside the six miles during storms and gales is crazy.
“What would she say to a fisherman’s family if the worst tragedy happened, God forbid, as a result of pushing boats out to the open sea in the depth of winter.”