Making a case for marine conservation
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.