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A BIM scientist has welcomed two recent reports in the scientific journal Nature recording how fisheries management and marine conservation have helped to reduce overfishing.

A recent Nature paper entitled “Rebuilding marine life” says that “substantial recovery of the abundance, structure and function of marine life could be achieved by 2050, if major pressures—including climate change—are mitigated”.

Writing in the current issue of The Skipper, Dr Ronán Cosgrove, BIM Fisheries Conservation Manager, says measures on management and conservation since the 1980s have boosted recovery to the point where two-thirds of large-scale commercial stocks are exploited at sustainable rates.

Cosgrove says that the number of marine species at risk of extinction has decreased while populations of marine mammals such as humpback whales and several seal species have significantly increased.

"The number of marine species at risk of extinction has decreased"

While it’s a case of much done and much more to do on the latter, climate change is the “critical backdrop against which all future rebuilding efforts will play out”, he says.

Drawing of the modified 100mm T90 codend by Dr Matthew McHughDrawing of the modified 100mm T90 codend by Dr Matthew McHugh

“Threats such as increased ocean warming, acidification, sea level rises, and ancillary impacts will need to be dealt with through effective mitigation of greenhouse gases and development of carbon capture and removal technologies,”he says.

Cosgrove says the latest edition of the Marine Institute Stock book includes a positive assessment of Irish fisheries.

The number of sustainably fished stocks rose from 33 in 2020 to 35 in 2021 with gradual progress towards long-term sustainable utilisation of the resource base since 2012, he says.

He attributes this to a variety of management measures and increasingly high-quality scientific advice from the institute.

Gear selectivity also helps develop sustainable fisheries, he says, such as increases in mesh sizes and introduction of large square mesh panels to reduce mortality in some fisheries.

Cosgrove records how BIM’s latest gear collaboration with industry has further boosted the performance of the highly selective T90 codend, a key gear measure in the Celtic and Irish Seas. The work was supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

“Due to increased mesh openings, T90 consistently reduces catches of small fish. Thanks to increased water flow through the open meshes, greater quantities of larger market sized fish are swept into and retained in the codend,” he explains.

Testing of a new four-panel 100 mm T90 cod end design was led by BIM’s Daragh Browne, working with an Irish seiner and Cathal Boyle and colleagues at Swan Net Gundry.

The gear modification has been trialled in Canadian and Icelandic fisheries and was successfully tailored to the Irish seine net fishery with extensive design input from Swan Net Gundry, he says.

“Haddock is a key target species for seiners with additional monthly quotas allocated to this fleet,” he notes.

“Conducted on a self-sampling basis due to Covid restrictions, a comparison of the new T90 codend compared with a standard two-panel T90 codend demonstrated a 70% reduction in small grade haddock, and 157% and 133% increases in medium and large-grade haddock. Very few undersize fish occurred in either gear as expected with 100 mm T90 codends,”Cosgove says.

“While price data have yet to be analysed, large haddock are worth substantially more than small haddock meaning the new gear greatly assists in maximising the value of available quota,”he says.

Major reductions in small fish also reduces fishing mortality - leading to improved sustainability of the haddock stock.

The Nature papers are here

The MI stock book is available at

Cosgrove’s full report in The Skipper is here

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At a sitting of Ballina District Court on 26th January 2016, Judge Conal Gibbons convicted a Ballina man of illegal fishing. Freddie Harmon, with an address at 29 The Hawthorns, Killala Road, Ballina, was found guilty of possession of a net at Cloonslaun on the River Moy on 9th June 2015.

Judge Gibbons heard that Fishery Officer Eddie Doherty was on patrol with Officer Brian Flannery when he observed a person swimming in the water. The judge was told that when approached, the man escaped into a nearby field, while a second man ran off and was not found. The defendant was found hiding in a bush, wearing a wetsuit, and a buoyancy aid was also found nearby. The court heard that Mr. Harmon admitted to possession of the net in the river, which was retrieved, as well as a bag containing a second net on the bank.

Judge Gibbons heard from the defending solicitor, pleading for leniency, that poaching had been ongoing for years and had a minor impact on fish stocks compared to other factors such as seals, and that the defendant was of limited means. However, the judge rejected this argument. After examining the nets seized, and observing that the defendant had worn a wetsuit to carry out the offence, he said that the defendant was well prepared and the poaching was obviously planned. The judge outlined the importance of protecting fish stocks, and convicted Mr. Harmon of illegal possession of a net, fining him €1,000 with €500 costs. Both nets were also ordered to be forfeited.

Commenting on the case, Dr. John Conneely of Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) commended the Fishery Officers involved. He said: “Protection of fish stocks is vital to maintaining an extremely valuable natural resource for the benefit of local and tourist anglers. Recreational angling in Ireland is worth over €750 million to the economy and supports over 10,000 jobs. IFI staff are committed to protecting that resource, working in difficult conditions and bad weather to do so, and their vigilance and dedication is highly valued.”

Dr Ciaran Byrne, CEO of IFI, noted: “Environmental crime such as this is unacceptable. I cannot stress enough to those who may be tempted to take fish illegally, including buying a wild salmon from a dubious source, that such activity is impacting jobs and the ability of rural areas to be sustainable and support communities. IFI urgently needs the assistance of the public who can support fisheries staff, and their own communities, by reporting all instances of illegal fishing or pollution on the IFI confidential hotline number at 1890 347424.”

Published in Fishing
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About the Endurance II Replica Project

An Irish project has been launched on the 150th anniversary of explorer Ernest Shackleton's birth, to build a replica of his ship, Endurance II, in County Kildare.

The project has high-profile patrons such as the Prince Albert II of Monaco, Alexandra Shackleton (Shackleton's granddaughter), and Richard Garriott, the President of the Explorer's Club.

The project is still at the concept stage, so the estimated cost of construction, which is expected to be around €14m, and the annual operational budget of €1.5m are not yet confirmed.

The project organisers are seeking $600,000 (€556,350) from 12 "founders," who will each contribute $50,000. The chairman of private investment firm Kilcullen Kapital Partners, Galway-born O’Coineen, bought the Business Post newspaper in 2018.