UPDATED- IWDG very concerned about pair trawling in the Shannon Estuary16th Nov 2017
16 November 2017
The IWDG received a letter from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine following receipt of our email expressing our concerns. In it they state that "A risk assessment was undertaken by the Marine Institute of fisheries interactions in Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) included the risk posed by fishing for sprat in the Shannon Estuary to the resident bottlenose dolphin population. The assessment concluded that the infrequent sprat fishery along the Clare and Kerry coasts is unlikely to significantly affect Shannon Estuary bottlenose dolphin population. Local resident populations of this species do not rely on the food subsidy provided by immigration of pelagic fish. Also, they do not specialise in feeding on shoaling fish and take individual prey that are larger than sprat (16cm)".
Bottlenose dolphin feeding on pelagic prey in the Shannon Estuary. Photo Isabel Baker/SDWF
The IWDG have a number of issues with the content in this letter and have requested a copy of the risk assessment was undertaken by the Marine Institute of fisheries interactions in Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) to review the supprting evidence behind these statements. The IWDG also look forward to working with the Regional Inshore Fishermens Forum both in the west and southwest to explore options for sustainable fisheries management that is the interests of all stakeholders.
9th November 2017
Despite a week of intense social media, interviews on local radio and copy in local papers, we have had no response from either the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine or the National Parks and Wildlife Service, to our legitimate concerns over sprat fishing in the estuary. The pair trawlers have now left the Lower River Shannon SAC and are now fishing off West Cork.
How many fish did they remove from the Shannon Estuary ?
Will this removal of highly valuable prey have an impact on the dolphins condition over the winter ?
Will the dolphins have to travel further now in search of food ?
We don't know and neither do the National Parks and Wildlife Service, who are charged with ensuring this small (numbers recently estimated by the SDWF at only 121 individuals), genetically discrete population is maintained at Favourable Conservation Status. It is the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine who are responsible for managing our fish resources. We have requested information on how many tonnes of sprat were removed, destined for grinding into fish meal, in just a few days fishing.
A piece was broadcast on TV3 news this Monday (13th November) to highlight the issue and continue to pressure our managers to respond to real, legitimate concerns.
30 October 2017
The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group through it's Shannon Dolphin Project have writen to the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, expressing concern about current pair trawling in the Lower River Shannon SAC. At least two trawlers are fishing in the estuary and have been photographed as far upriver as Moneypoint Power Station.
While we fully recognise that the fishermen are not doing anything illegal and sprat are currently a non-quota species, we would have serious concerns about the impact removal of forage fish such as sprat, could have on the food supply of the qualifying interests within the SAC, especially bottlenose dolphins. We consider this activity can compromise the Conservation Objectives of the SAC and therefore should be subject to a full Appropriate Assessment prior to any extraction of prey resources. While the IWDG understands the Marine Institute were tasked with this process, it is our understanding that this has not been carried out to date.
The IWDG have requested that under the precautionary principle these vessels should cease fishing immediately within the SAC until a full assessment, including consultation has been carried out. It is the responsibility of the government to task the relevant government agencies/departments, to work together to manage this potentially damaging activity.
Photos courtesy of Cllr. Ian Lynch