The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) and Coastwatch are calling on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney TD to act urgently to protect marine life in areas designated for nature conservation. In May of this year, unregulated scallop dredgers moved into Blacksod Bay in Co. Mayo, a Special Area of Conservation and Special Protection Area. Scallop dredging is a particularly destructive form of fishing as it drags a bar with metal teeth along the sea floor, destroying marine habitats in its path. Dead sea grass washed on the shore testified to the destruction of this delicate habitat, which also acts as a nursery ground for commercial fish species and native oysters. There is serious concern that as scallop stocks are now fished out in Blacksod Bay, the under 10 m scallop dredgers will simply move on to the next available bay. Minister Coveney must act now to introduce a Statutory Instrument to prohibit all uncontrolled dredging in all marine European designated sites before these too are destroyed.
IWT Campaigns Officer Pádraic Fogarty says “Minister Coveney is relying on voluntary restraint to protect vulnerable marine life and this is simply inadequate. We urgently need the Minister to Act to protect these areas from destructive fishing before it is too late.”
Coastwatch Coordinator Karin Dubsky called for the Harvesting our Ocean Wealth headline nature protection goal to be implemented and challenged Minister Coveney to spearhead it. ‘Only last week the European Green Week took place, themed: Nature – our health, our wealth’ she noted. ‘Presentations from the EEA and EC showed how serious our marine habitat and species loss and damage are, the negative effects on jobs and social fabric, especially in rural areas and the enormous challenge to meet 2020 targets of halting the loss of biodiversity. But then there was a new wave of energy to rise to the challenge at this largest annual European environmental conference. It was led by the new Environment and Marine Commissioner Vella and had substance as the good mix of stakeholders and ages showed excellent examples of current government and stakeholder work to protect and manage our natural resources wisely.
Karin warned: ‘ We in Ireland have the goals and the designated sites on paper – but are in danger of missing out on this new wave of protection and wise use which looks at the ecosystem services and losses. Sadly there was a notable absence of Irish voices at Green Week and no matter how many eco-labels we put on fish farms or mussel bottom dredging the real Irish marine protection record needs to improve’.