The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) and Extinction Rebellion are calling on Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to uphold the law in December by ending overfishing and averting catastrophe in our seas.
In 2013, the Irish presidency of the European Council negotiated a reformed Common Fishery Policy (CFP) which promised to end all overfishing in EU waters by 2020. Yet, on the eve of this deadline Ireland is still being identified as among the worst nations for negotiating fish catches above scientific advice [i], [ii]. According to the Marine Institute, less than half of commercially exploited fish populations are hunted within limits which scientists consider to be sustainable while fully eight are recommended to be shut down completely (including for herring, cod, haddock and whiting in various parts of the seas around Ireland) [iii]. This December the minister will go to Brussels for the annual carve up of fishing quotas – this year must be different in recognition of the climate and biodiversity emergency declared by the Dáil in May of this year.
The CFP also promised to end the atrociously wasteful practice of dumping dead marine life back into the sea (known as discarding) however this continues unabated. According to a submission to Minister Creed by the Irish Environmental Network, “there has been no measurable reduction in the levels of unwanted catch as Member States and the industry have focused their energy on maintaining the status quo”[iv].
In addition to its reckless approach to overfishing, Ireland has been accused by the European Commission of “severe and significant weaknesses” in the control of fishing activity with a lack of “effective” enforcement and penalties [v]. Supertrawlers and factory fishing boats effectively sieve the seas without supervision. Meanwhile Ireland has failed in its legally binding target to create a network of Marine Protected Areas covering at least 10% of the seas (current ineffective protections cover only 2.3% [vi]) and 60% of the shark species in Irish waters are threatened with extinction or ‘near threatened’[vii].
As oceans systems collapse, over-exploitation is not something that only affects marine life and it was recently reported that 25% of people illegally trafficked into Ireland are working in the fishing industry[viii]. Many small-scale fishers in coastal communities now do not have fish to catch, being left with crabs and lobsters.
IWT Campaigns Officer Pádraic Fogarty says: “As an island nation we should be mortified at our deteriorating reputation for managing the seas around us. We should be world leaders, yet we allow our ocean to be pillaged by an industry that’s effectively out of control. If Michael Creed allows overfishing to continue in 2020 he will be responsible for violating an agreement that Ireland itself brokered. The oceans are dying before our eyes – we should be doing everything we can to reverse this situation before it is too late.”