Jul 31

PRESS RELEASE: Early signs of recovery in Irish Sea cod welcomed by IWT but it’s still too early for celebration

The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) welcomes news that cod in the Irish sea is beginning to recover after decades of overfishing. Only last year the status of cod in this area was officially ‘collapsed’ while every year since 2004 scientists have recommended that no fish at all be caught (advice which has routinely been ignored). In 2009 there were believed to be only 863 tonnes of cod left in the Irish Sea, plummeting from a high of nearly 18,000 tonnes in the mid-1970s[i]. The latest scientific data shows that there are now over 11,000 tonnes indicating early signs of recovery and new advice is that over 1,000 tonnes can be caught ‘sustainably’. However, caution is required as most of the fish were found to have spawned in 2013, with much lower spawning in subsequent years, meaning that the size of the stock is predicted to fall. Since cod can live to be over 15 years, and grow to at least 1.5m, the vast majority of fish in the Irish Sea today are still juveniles. While any increase in the population is welcome news, it is still far too early to reopen directed fisheries.

IWT Campaign Officer Pádraic Fogarty says: “The Irish Sea has been so overfished that it is an ecological wreck compared to its former abundance. While it is welcome news that the cod population is increasing, we must not overlook the fact that fish stocks in this sea are at historical lows, with many species having crashed in numbers or disappeared completely (e.g. whiting, sole, sea bass, skates, sharks etc). Much of this damage has occurred because of the extent of bottom trawling and only when large areas of the sea are closed permanently to this damaging practice will we see real recovery”.

The IWT continues to urge Ministers Michael Creed (Agriculture, Food and the Marine) and Eoghan Murphy (Environment) to implement existing agreements to end overfishing and create Marine Protected Areas that would protect our seas from damaging fishing practices.

__________

[1]According to the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (see www.ices.dk).

CONTACT:  Padraic Fogarty - IWT's Campaigns Officer - irishwildlife@iwt.ie for further details