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Displaying items by tag: Atlantic salmon

Anecdotal evidence suggests that coronavirus restrictions have been a boost to wild Atlantic salmon returns in Irish rivers this year, as SeafoodSource reports.

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) says it is awaiting official data to support the suggestion that decreased predation over the last six months has allowed more wild salmon to cross the Atlantic and spawn in Irish rivers.

However, even with this potential boost, the overall trend for wild salmon numbers in Ireland is one of decline — the commercial fishery seeing a 35% drop between 2007 and 2019, while rod-and-line angling catches are down 2.4% year on year over the last two decades.

SeafoodSource has more on the story HERE.

Published in Fishing

Research from Dr Katie Thomas of the Marine Institute has investigated the mechanisms for growth mark formation in scales of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar Linnaeus) and the cause of variations in scale growth measurements.

Dr Thomas recently graduated with her PhD on her thesis, titled Scale Growth Analysis of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L) Unlocking Environmental Histories, from the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) under the supervision of Dr Niall Ó Maoiléidigh, Marine Institute; Dr Deirdre Brophy, GMIT; and Tom Hansen, Institute of Marine Research Norway.

The PhD was funded by the Marine Institute, the Institute of Marine Research Norway and the Loughs Agency, Northern Ireland.

The Atlantic salmon is native to the temperate and sub-Arctic regions of the North Atlantic Ocean, utilising rivers for spawning and nursery and the marine environment for adult feeding, development and rapid growth.

Direct observation of the salmon’s life is challenging and costly, so scales are widely used to assess and monitor changes in growth.

“The entire life history of an individual fish is recorded on a scale which begins to form during the fry stage of the lifecycle,” Dr Thomas said.

“As the scale develops, it lays down concentric ridges or rings called circuli, which look similar to rings on a tree. The number of circuli on a scale and the distances between each circuli are measured to provide a history of individual and population growth histories.

“These changes over time can be used to infer the salmons use of the ecosystem, and indicate whether changes in growth are apparent over time and between populations.”

Scale measurements are taken from a specific body location as recommended by the International Council for Exploration of the Seas (ICES) to standardise scale analysis globally.

The first aim of Dr Thomas’ research was to compare wild Atlantic salmon growth measurements from different body areas and to establish a calculation or a conversion that could be applied to match the measurements from the standard sampling location.

“Because scales do not form at the same time, the size and shapes of scales can look very different to each other. The next part of my research was to take size and shape measurements from scales across the body and produce a calculation that determines where on the body a scale may have originated,” she added.

Overall salmon survival during the marine phase is strongly linked to the post-smolt growth period, which is the scale growth from when a young salmon migrates to sea up to the first winter at sea.

It is widely believed that circuli form on the scale every seven days during the summer and every 14 days during the winter and also the wider the distance between the circuli, the better overall growth is

As this had never been experimentally validated before, the next aim of the research was to undertake experiments in the Institute of Marine Research laboratory (Matre) in Norway.

Dr Thomas explained: “Results from the experiments showed that circuli formation rates are not constant but ranged between four to 18 days. In addition, the spacing between the circuli did not reflect growth rate suggesting that wide spacing between each circuli was not necessarily an indication of good growth.”

In the last stage of the research, scales from Atlantic salmon collected from three Irish rivers — Burrishoole, Moy and Shannon — between 1954 and 2008 were analysed to determine if marine growth had changed during that period.

The research showed that post-smolt scale growth declined over the decades corresponding to declines in return rates of Atlantic salmon, but the change in growth was not consistent between the different rivers.

This highlighted that the trends observed in one national index river may not be representative of change across all Irish populations, and that more than one index river should be used to investigate survival rates in our salmon populations.

The new knowledge generated from the PhD thesis supports more accurate interpretation of scale growth measurements, furthers our understanding of the factors affecting the survival of the wild Irish salmon and ultimately benefits the future management of this iconic species.

Dr Niall Ó Maoiléidigh of the Marine Institute said: “Dr Thomas’ research feeds directly into the institute’s long-term monitoring and stock assessment programme for Irish salmon stocks and the ongoing programme of research in the Burrishoole national index river initiated in the 1960s.

“These results are helping unravel the complicated links between climate change and factors which are causing persistent declines in salmon returns to rivers, not just in Ireland, but in countries on both sides of the Atlantic where salmon occur.”

Dr Thomas’ thesis is available on the Marine Institute’s Open Access Repository. A paper from this thesis titled ‘Experimental Investigation of the effects of temperature and feeding regime on scale growth in Atlantic salmon Salmo salar post-smolts’ was also recently published in the Journal of Fish Biology.

Dr Thomas’ current research is funded under Ireland’s DCF Pollack Programme, which is supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

Published in Marine Science

#Seafood - Wild Atlantic salmon is now available at fish counters around Ireland.

This salmon comes from sustainably managed traditional net fisheries on estuaries and rivers around Ireland, where the number of returning salmon allows fish to be harvested while maintaining a healthy stock of spawning fish for future generations.

In total, the commercial quota for the wild Atlantic salmon harvest is just 11,131 from a total of 58,599 (angling and commercial combined), which makes it a premium and sought-after product.

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) says wild Irish salmon can be regarded as truly organic, having lived its life in the wild, fed on wild fish and krill, and travelling thousands of miles on its long ocean migration, ensuring firm flesh and high levels of healthy Omega-3 oils.

Salmon conservation measures ensure that only appropriately tagged and recorded wild salmon, commercially caught within the state, may be sold.

As part of the wild salmon and sea trout tagging regulations, all legally caught wild salmon must have a valid gill tag (green in the case of draft net, white in the case of snap net fishing) or tail-tag, in the case of imported wild salmon, before processing, and only authorised dealers or commercial licensed salmon fishermen may sell them. It is not permitted to sell rod caught wild salmon within the state or sell wild salmon without a valid gill or tail tag attached.

Sean Kyne, Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, said: “Wild Atlantic Salmon is a premium product. We all have a duty to ensure that conservation measures continue to be effective. Buying or selling illegally caught salmon jeopardises Ireland’s potential to have a sustainable salmon fishery into the future.”

Farmed salmon and organic farmed salmon is a very different product to wild salmon. Farmed salmon is widely available year round. If consumers have any doubts as to the origin of the salmon, please ask the supplier and help conserve Ireland's wonderful wild salmon resource. Farmed salmon being sold as wild should be reported to the Food Safety Authority. For more information visit www.fisheriesireland.ie.

Published in Fishing

#Angling - Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) recently welcomed a visit from Dr Jed Wright of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, who is an expert in habitat assessment, protection and restoration programmes for Atlantic salmon in the Gulf of Maine.

During this visit, Dr Wright spent a day viewing weirs on the Rivers Nore and Slaney and was impressed by the "innovative" fish passage techniques used to support fish migration efforts over a number of these structures.

Following this, Dr Wright gave two informal talks dealing with riverine habitat restoration and barriers assessment in Maine.

Dr Cathal Gallagher, head of research and development with Inland Fisheries Ireland, said IFI "welcomed this important opportunity to share expertise in riverine and habitat restoration techniques. 

"It is important that Ireland shares expertise in dealing with complex and difficult issues associated with restoration of damaged rivers and habitat. This is of particular importance when addressing Ireland’s commitments under the Water Framework Directive.”

Published in Angling

#Angling - From today 1 June, Northern Ireland's anglers are banned from selling salmon caught in rivers under new measures from the Legislative Assembly.

As BBC News reports, Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure Carál Ní Chuilín said that the new rules are "the first step in a series of conservation measures aimed at protecting stocks of the iconic Atlantic salmon".

The rod and line catch sale ban is intended to encourage the practice of 'catch and release' which is set to become mandatory next year, and also brings NI legislation into line with the rest of Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

It comes months after the shocking news that just three out of every 100 wild salmon returned to Northern Ireland's rivers in 2011, prompting concerns that the species has declined to "Dodo levels".

Moves have already been made to control the commercial offshore netting of salmon in order to boost their numbers in the North's waterways.

Another threat to salmon numbers is the rise of invasive species in Northern Ireland's waterways, which as the News Letter reports have cost the economy more than £46 million a year, according to Environment Minister Alex Attwood.

Highlighting the risk to NI's marine wildlife and plantlife, as well as fisheries and agriculture, the minister said "increasing awareness of the threat of invasive species and the need to tackle them is key to achieving success".

A new strategy by the Legislative Assembly will involve partnerships between government, the community and environment groups "working in tandem" to deal with the problems caused by invasive species such as the Japanese sea squirt, detected in Strangford Lough last year.

Published in Angling

#FishFarm - Inland Fisheries Ireland has welcomed "a clear acceptance of the impact of sea lice on juvenile salmon" following a recent Marine Institute publication that identifies the effect of sea lice emanating from aquaculture facilities on wild Atlantic salmon mortality.

According to IFI, the paper published in the Journal of Fish Diseases "concurs with previously published international research" that it says establishes an incontrovertible link between fish farm developments and negative effects on local wild salmon numbers, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

It adds that "the debate can now progress to identify the best methodologies to reduce or eliminate this impact" as well as moves on "the issue of escaped farmed salmon".

In a statement on the new paper, IFI says the research "identified that just under 40% of released juvenile salmon showed a significant difference in return rate between sea lice ‘treated’ and ‘non-treated’ groups, indicating that mortality from sea lice is significant in 40% of the releases in the study. Unfortunately, there was a significant effect from sea lice in six different bays along the west coast over the study period.

"This recent study provides further evidence that salmon will be impacted by sea lice. The location of salmon farms in relation to salmon rivers and the control of sea lice prior to and during juveniles salmon migration to their high seas feeding ground is critical if wild salmon stocks are not to be impacted.

"The development of resistance to chemical treatment of sea lice and other fish husbandry problems, such as pancreas disease and amoebic gill disease, are likely to make effective sea lice control even more difficult in future years."

IFI also highlights the Norwegian government's concerns about the impact of sea lice and escaped farm salmon on wild salmon stocks.

The statutory body for the protection and conservation for Ireland's inland fisheries reiterated its support for "the development of a sustainable aquaculture industry" to "safeguard wild salmon and sea trout stocks into the future".

It adds that recommendations on the above issues have been made in its submission to the Department of the Marine on the Environmental Impact Statement regarding the proposed deep-sea organic salmon farm in Galway Bay, a scheme that has been the subject of controversy over recent months.

Published in Fishing

#INLAND FISHERIES - Minister of State Fergus O’Dowd was on hand to launch the Atlantic Aquatic Resource Conservation (AARC) conference in Limerick on Wednesday 28 November.

The conference, attended by delegates from five countries, is intended to showcase integrated collaborative water resource management projects across the European Atlantic Arc, comprising Portugal, Spain, France, Britain and Ireland.

The AARC project is the culmination of work undertaken by 13 international partnerships across these five countries, and the conference provides an opportunity to share the research, findings and recommendations to support the conservation of native fish species.

As the project nears conclusion next month, all AARC project requirements have been met and exceeded in a number of cases, according to Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).

In Ireland specifically, the project has made a valuable contribution to the Shannon Salmon Restoration Plan (SSRP) which looks at redressing the decline in Atlantic salmon populations throughout the Shannon river system.

Overall, says IFI, AARC has provided an important instrument to facilitate a pan-European approach to conserving our indigenous, migratory fish stocks.

Speaking at the launch of the conference, Minister O’Dowd highlighted the importance of EU research programmes like AARC in enhancing international research and collaboration.

“The strong inter-regional co-operation, under AARC, between regional authorities and research institutions has increased our knowledge of the conservation requirements of these important European fish species,” he said.

“AARC has ensured that we will play our part in utilising this new knowledge and co-operation for the enhancement of the conservation status of important EU species and habitats.”

AARC is a three-year project, launched in 2009, which focuses on migratory stocks of protected fish species: shad, Atlantic salmon, sea trout, sea lamprey, European eel and smelt. Across Europe these species have economic, cultural and environmental value but are in decline.

The issue of their decline is truly transnational, says IFI, and can only be addressed through long-term intensive transnational collaboration.

A major theme running through the AARC project was establishing the role of wider stakeholders in the management of our aquatic resources. Many of the AARC partners have worked to engage local stakeholders in protecting, conserving and managing these resources through the AARC project activities.

In Ireland, the project dealt with restorative initiatives for Atlantic salmon in the Shannon system. This included determining the genetic composition of contemporary and historical populations of salmon in the Shannon and comparing the relative performance in the wild of the progeny Feale, Mulkear and Shannon wild and hatchery salmon populations.

IFI was joined in the project by fellow partners ESB Fisheries Conservation, University College Cork and the Marine Institute. Of the total project budget of €3.87m, Irish partners received €754,242 over the three years.

The Shannon AARC project will address issues pertaining to fish passage, water quality, habitat and hatchery programmes in addition to the construction of a project specific geograpgic information systems (GIS), co-ordination of stock assessment surveys and the promotion of catchment management.

Ultimately it will help identify important factors in the conservation of Atlantic salmon in the Shannon, and will provide a set of useful maps and a spatial visualisation tool for improved planning and development throughout the Shannon catchment.

Results will help inform fisheries staff of the current status of Atlantic salmon populations in the Shannon as well as provide a useful inventory or potential and/or historical salmon locations in the Shannon.

The project will also benefit inter-agency co-operation, particularly in relation to River Shannon fisheries management, and will strengthen the links with relevant research institutions and international fisheries experts.

Published in Fishing

#GALWAY FISH FARM - The board of Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has issued a statement on the proposed Aran Islands deep sea salmon farm in Galway Bay, which has been the source of some controversy in recent weeks.

The board said it agrees with the recent statement by Minister Fergus O’Dowd on offshore salmon farming, and that it welcomes the development of Ireland’s aquaculture sector "once any development complies with Ireland’s obligations under relevant EU environmental legislation, particularly the Habitats Directive, and does not adversely affect salmon and sea trout stocks."

In addition, the IFI board said it has made a submission on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prepared by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) for the proposed offshore salmon farm as part of the public consultation process, which is available on the IFI website.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the public consultation period began last month for the 500-hectare organic fish farm to be located off Inis Oirr. BIM has applied for a deep sea salmon farming licence at the site, which would be one of the largest of its kind in Europe. If approved, the operation could more than double Ireland's current farmed salmon production rate.

The IFI board's statement notes: "In the submission, concerns were raised in relation to the location and scale of the proposed salmon farm and how its development and operation could impact on wild salmon and sea trout stocks and their habitat.

"These concerns are based on scientific reports by respected authors and knowledge of the impact of existing fish farms on salmon and sea trout populations off the west coast of Ireland."

The submission also highlights "recent peer reviewed international scientific literature on the impacts of sea lice on salmonids" which poses a significant threat to wild salmon in Irish waters, as reported on Afloat.ie.

The board said it does not believe "that the corpus of peer reviewed international scientific literature which recognises the negative impacts of sea lice on salmonids have been adequately dealt with in the EIS".

While welcoming "any sustainable initiative which will provide jobs in rural coastal communities", the IFI board said it questions the figure of 500 jobs it's been reported the 15,000-tonne fish farm project would create, making comparison to a new 2,000-tonne aquaculture scheme in Scotland that's expected to create just four full-time positions.

The board members say they "have serious concerns that whatever the number of jobs created by the current proposal, they will be more than offset by the associated loss of jobs in the recreational angling and tourism sectors" if the scheme results in any negative effects on those areas.

"Ireland's reputation as a pristine wild fishery destination must be safeguarded," they added, noting that proposals for two further offshore salmon farms in Mayo and Donegal "are premature given that significant issues over the current proposal have not yet been resolved.

"No further applications should be progressed until all stakeholders are satisfied that the current proposal is sustainable and has no adverse impact on wild salmon and sea trout stocks."

Inland Fisheries Ireland is the State agency charged with the conservation, protection, development management and promotion of Ireland's inland fisheries and sea angling resource.

Published in Galway Harbour

#FISHING - Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) has begun the process of statutory consultation as the next step in its licence application for the controversial proposed deep-sea fish farm in Galway Bay.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie at the end of June, Ireland's fisheries board had announced a "significant delay" of four to six weeks before publishing the licence application.

But in a recent statement, BIM announced that it received permission some weeks ago from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the marine to begin the statutory consultation process, in which it is sharing the licence application and Environmental Impact Statement "with a list of State bodies for their appraisal and feedback".

The statutory consultation will continue till Tuesday 2 October 2012, and BIM promises that all feedback will be made available to the public via the BIM website "to further assist them in their assessment of the Environmental Impact Statement when it goes to full public consultation".  

The 15,000-tonne organic salmon farm would be located off Inis Oírr in the Aran Islands on a 500-hectare site, and would be one of the largest of its kind in Europe, projected to be worth €103 million annually for the economy.

BIM intends to franchise the licence, should it be approved, to a third party "who agrees to a legally binding contract to farm the Atlantic salmon to the highest organic and environmental standards". Approval of the project could also see the creation of as many as 500 jobs, some 20% more than previously estimated.

The news comes after the ministerial apprival of salmon farm licence assignments from five separate operators in nearby Connemara, designed to "consolidate and revitalise" aquaculture in the region.

But the Aran Islands scheme has faced opposition from local anglers who fear that the fish farm could have a detrimental effect on wild salmon numbers.

Explaining BIM's plans for the consultation process, the statement added: "Previously, both statutory and public consultation would have been carried out in parallel. However, Ireland has recently (June 2012) ratified the Aarhus Convention. The convention lays down rules to promote citizens involvement and to improve public consultation in the making of decisions with potential environmental impact by the state. 

"Given the recent ratification of the Convention and for a number of other legal and technical reasons, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, has signed a new Statutory Instrument (SI No 301 of 2012), bringing into law new periods of public consultation for fish farm licence applications. In this instance the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine have instructed BIM to carry out statutory consultation in full before proceeding with public consultation.

"BIM believes that this approach will help to further inform the public during their period of consultation."

Published in Fishing

#ANGLING - Climate change in the Atlantic may be a significant factor in the decline of wild salmon returning to their native rivers in Ireland - especially with the news that a section of ice twice the size of Manhattan has calved from a glacier in Greenland.

Angling correspondent Derek Evans writes in The Irish Times about the major ice sheet separation along the north-west coast of Greenland, which experts have attributed to warming ocean temperatures.

It is the second such indident to occur in the past three years, after the Petermann glacier lost some 97 square miles of ice in August of 2010.

As reported on Afloat.ie last year, the effects of climate change on the world's oceans are forcing species such as wild salmon to adapt by feeding in colder waters.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Angling
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Ireland's Commercial Fishing 

The Irish Commercial Fishing Industry employs around 11,000 people in fishing, processing and ancillary services such as sales and marketing. The industry is worth about €1.22 billion annually to the Irish economy. Irish fisheries products are exported all over the world as far as Africa, Japan and China.

FAQs

Over 16,000 people are employed directly or indirectly around the coast, working on over 2,000 registered fishing vessels, in over 160 seafood processing businesses and in 278 aquaculture production units, according to the State's sea fisheries development body Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

All activities that are concerned with growing, catching, processing or transporting fish are part of the commercial fishing industry, the development of which is overseen by BIM. Recreational fishing, as in angling at sea or inland, is the responsibility of Inland Fisheries Ireland.

The Irish fishing industry is valued at 1.22 billion euro in gross domestic product (GDP), according to 2019 figures issued by BIM. Only 179 of Ireland's 2,000 vessels are over 18 metres in length. Where does Irish commercially caught fish come from? Irish fish and shellfish is caught or cultivated within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but Irish fishing grounds are part of the common EU "blue" pond. Commercial fishing is regulated under the terms of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983 and with ten-yearly reviews.

The total value of seafood landed into Irish ports was 424 million euro in 2019, according to BIM. High value landings identified in 2019 were haddock, hake, monkfish and megrim. Irish vessels also land into foreign ports, while non-Irish vessels land into Irish ports, principally Castletownbere, Co Cork, and Killybegs, Co Donegal.

There are a number of different methods for catching fish, with technological advances meaning skippers have detailed real time information at their disposal. Fisheries are classified as inshore, midwater, pelagic or deep water. Inshore targets species close to shore and in depths of up to 200 metres, and may include trawling and gillnetting and long-lining. Trawling is regarded as "active", while "passive" or less environmentally harmful fishing methods include use of gill nets, long lines, traps and pots. Pelagic fisheries focus on species which swim close to the surface and up to depths of 200 metres, including migratory mackerel, and tuna, and methods for catching include pair trawling, purse seining, trolling and longlining. Midwater fisheries target species at depths of around 200 metres, using trawling, longlining and jigging. Deepwater fisheries mainly use trawling for species which are found at depths of over 600 metres.

There are several segments for different catching methods in the registered Irish fleet – the largest segment being polyvalent or multi-purpose vessels using several types of gear which may be active and passive. The polyvalent segment ranges from small inshore vessels engaged in netting and potting to medium and larger vessels targeting whitefish, pelagic (herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting) species and bivalve molluscs. The refrigerated seawater (RSW) pelagic segment is engaged mainly in fishing for herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting only. The beam trawling segment focuses on flatfish such as sole and plaice. The aquaculture segment is exclusively for managing, developing and servicing fish farming areas and can collect spat from wild mussel stocks.

The top 20 species landed by value in 2019 were mackerel (78 million euro); Dublin Bay prawn (59 million euro); horse mackerel (17 million euro); monkfish (17 million euro); brown crab (16 million euro); hake (11 million euro); blue whiting (10 million euro); megrim (10 million euro); haddock (9 million euro); tuna (7 million euro); scallop (6 million euro); whelk (5 million euro); whiting (4 million euro); sprat (3 million euro); herring (3 million euro); lobster (2 million euro); turbot (2 million euro); cod (2 million euro); boarfish (2 million euro).

Ireland has approximately 220 million acres of marine territory, rich in marine biodiversity. A marine biodiversity scheme under Ireland's operational programme, which is co-funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and the Government, aims to reduce the impact of fisheries and aquaculture on the marine environment, including avoidance and reduction of unwanted catch.

EU fisheries ministers hold an annual pre-Christmas council in Brussels to decide on total allowable catches and quotas for the following year. This is based on advice from scientific bodies such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. In Ireland's case, the State's Marine Institute publishes an annual "stock book" which provides the most up to date stock status and scientific advice on over 60 fish stocks exploited by the Irish fleet. Total allowable catches are supplemented by various technical measures to control effort, such as the size of net mesh for various species.

The west Cork harbour of Castletownbere is Ireland's biggest whitefish port. Killybegs, Co Donegal is the most important port for pelagic (herring, mackerel, blue whiting) landings. Fish are also landed into Dingle, Co Kerry, Rossaveal, Co Galway, Howth, Co Dublin and Dunmore East, Co Waterford, Union Hall, Co Cork, Greencastle, Co Donegal, and Clogherhead, Co Louth. The busiest Northern Irish ports are Portavogie, Ardglass and Kilkeel, Co Down.

Yes, EU quotas are allocated to other fleets within the Irish EEZ, and Ireland has long been a transhipment point for fish caught by the Spanish whitefish fleet in particular. Dingle, Co Kerry has seen an increase in foreign landings, as has Castletownbere. The west Cork port recorded foreign landings of 36 million euro or 48 per cent in 2019, and has long been nicknamed the "peseta" port, due to the presence of Spanish-owned transhipment plant, Eiranova, on Dinish island.

Most fish and shellfish caught or cultivated in Irish waters is for the export market, and this was hit hard from the early stages of this year's Covid-19 pandemic. The EU, Asia and Britain are the main export markets, while the middle Eastern market is also developing and the African market has seen a fall in value and volume, according to figures for 2019 issued by BIM.

Fish was once a penitential food, eaten for religious reasons every Friday. BIM has worked hard over several decades to develop its appeal. Ireland is not like Spain – our land is too good to transform us into a nation of fish eaters, but the obvious health benefits are seeing a growth in demand. Seafood retail sales rose by one per cent in 2019 to 300 million euro. Salmon and cod remain the most popular species, while BIM reports an increase in sales of haddock, trout and the pangasius or freshwater catfish which is cultivated primarily in Vietnam and Cambodia and imported by supermarkets here.

The EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983, pooled marine resources – with Ireland having some of the richest grounds and one of the largest sea areas at the time, but only receiving four per cent of allocated catch by a quota system. A system known as the "Hague Preferences" did recognise the need to safeguard the particular needs of regions where local populations are especially dependent on fisheries and related activities. The State's Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, based in Clonakilty, Co Cork, works with the Naval Service on administering the EU CFP. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine and Department of Transport regulate licensing and training requirements, while the Marine Survey Office is responsible for the implementation of all national and international legislation in relation to safety of shipping and the prevention of pollution.

Yes, a range of certificates of competency are required for skippers and crew. Training is the remit of BIM, which runs two national fisheries colleges at Greencastle, Co Donegal and Castletownbere, Co Cork. There have been calls for the colleges to be incorporated into the third-level structure of education, with qualifications recognised as such.

Safety is always an issue, in spite of technological improvements, as fishing is a hazardous occupation and climate change is having its impact on the severity of storms at sea. Fishing skippers and crews are required to hold a number of certificates of competency, including safety and navigation, and wearing of personal flotation devices is a legal requirement. Accidents come under the remit of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, and the Health and Safety Authority. The MCIB does not find fault or blame, but will make recommendations to the Minister for Transport to avoid a recurrence of incidents.

Fish are part of a marine ecosystem and an integral part of the marine food web. Changing climate is having a negative impact on the health of the oceans, and there have been more frequent reports of warmer water species being caught further and further north in Irish waters.

Brexit, Covid 19, EU policies and safety – Britain is a key market for Irish seafood, and 38 per cent of the Irish catch is taken from the waters around its coast. Ireland's top two species – mackerel and prawns - are 60 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, dependent on British waters. Also, there are serious fears within the Irish industry about the impact of EU vessels, should they be expelled from British waters, opting to focus even more efforts on Ireland's rich marine resource. Covid-19 has forced closure of international seafood markets, with high value fish sold to restaurants taking a large hit. A temporary tie-up support scheme for whitefish vessels introduced for the summer of 2020 was condemned by industry organisations as "designed to fail".

Sources: Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Marine Institute, Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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