Environmental groups, including the Irish Wildlife Trust, BirdWatch Ireland, Coastwatch, the Irish Seal Sanctuary and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group are calling on the authorities in Ireland with responsibility for fisheries to provide sustainable fishing options for the inshore fishing fleet. In this regard there must be an immediate ban on the use of tangle nets which, according to BIM’s own report, are responsible for the indiscriminate capture of marine life, including critically endangered species such as angel shark and common skate as well as protected species such as whales, dolphins and seals. A tangle net is a loose sheet of netting which is sunk to the seafloor with weights in order to entangle passing fish and other marine life. A tangle net can be left at sea indefinitely, acting as a death trap for any passing creature. During stormy weather they can even be carried away to act as ‘ghost nets’, effectively fishing forever.
As such tangle netting is one of the most destructive forms of fishing and should be outlawed. As the authority for the sustainable development of the Irish seafood industry, it is incumbent upon BIM to ensure that practices which lead to a loss of biodiversity and fishing opportunities are prohibited. All fishing methods, and particularly those in areas already designated for biodiversity protection, must be selective and not indiscriminate. BIM and the Marine Institute must provide an alternative method to capture crawfish to our inshore fishermen.
The IWT’s Campaign Officer, Pádraic Fogarty says “The use of tangle nets in particular is leading to conflict between fishermen and wildlife, especially seals. BIM’s report shows that seals are using tangle nets as feeding stations resulting in financial losses to fishermen and mortality of seals themselves. A number of shark and ray species (especially common skate and angel shark) are facing extinction in Irish waters and tangle nets pose a significant threat that may push them over the edge. It is imperative for the sustainable future of our fisheries that destructive methods such as tangle nets are prohibited.”
 Ronan Cosgrove, Michelle Cronin, David Reid, Martha Gosch, Michael Sheridan, Nicholas Chopin and Mark Jessopp. 2013. Seal depredation and bycatch in set net fisheries in Irish waters. Fisheries Resource Series Vol. 10 (2013).
Photo: Seal tangled in nets. Courtesy of the Irish Seal Sanctuary.