Mak­ing a case for marine con­ser­va­tion

Bray People - - SPORT -

AROUND 1950 man set about ex­ploit­ing on a grand scale the world's sea fish stocks af­ter a ten-year lull in com­mer­cial fish­ing ac­tiv­ity, a di­rect re­sult of the Sec­ond World War.

Ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy such as sonar were adopted by the resur­gent fish­ing fleets, and rich pick­ings were made from the now abun­dant seas. The in­dus­try blos­somed cre­at­ing steady jobs, both on and off the wa­ter, with con­sumers ben­e­fit­ing from the ar­ray of tasty fresh fish and value-added seafood prod­ucts hit­ting the mar­ket.

By 1989 sea fish stocks world­wide went into di­min­ish­ing re­turns. To­day fish and shell­fish stocks are in se­ri­ous trou­ble, with marine sci­en­tists not only warn­ing about the loss of a huge pro­tein re­source nec­es­sary for hu­man sur­vival, but also ma­jor en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pli­ca­tions brought about by the loss in marine bio­di­ver­sity that ex­tend even to cli­mate change.

The Slaney River Trust seminar held re­cently in the Mill Race Ho­tel, Bun­clody, pro­vided clear ev­i­dence of the domino ef­fect that marine over fish­ing is hav­ing on a va­ri­ety of species rang­ing from seals and cor­morants, to salmon and sea trout pop­u­la­tions.

To­day up­wards of 200 seals re­side on sand banks off the Raven Point at the mouth of Wex­ford Har­bour, and cor­morants, a div­ing fish-eat­ing sea bird now roost many miles in­land, both ad­just­ing their diet and feed­ing lo­ca­tion one sus­pects to prey on mi­gra­tory sea trout and salmon. With in­shore waters de­void of fish com­pared to even 20 years ago, both species have adapted and who could blame them.

The seminar though did give hope, es­pe­cially the mod­ule that se­nior fish­eries sci­en­tist Wil­lie Roche of In­land Fish­eries Ire­land gave on ‘The Celtic Sea Trout Pro­ject’. A multi-agency part­ner­ship be­tween Ire­land and Wales set up to gen­er­ate real un­der­stand­ing of this much-loved species.

The River Slaney and its trib­u­taries such as the Boro and Ur­rin en­joy a good run of sea trout dur­ing mid-sum­mer, so any new se­crets un­earthed in its life cy­cle will be wel­come as re­gards fu­ture man­age­ment of stocks.

That said, it be­came very clear that real progress on fu­ture runs of Slaney salmon and sea trout will only be made within the over­all con­text of a joined up, EU driven, eco sys­tem-based marine con­ser­va­tion pol­icy. Don't hold your breath….

The Raven Point seal colony.

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