Wednesday 7 December 2016

Scientists issue dire warning over Irish Sea marine life

Dean Kirby

Published 26/08/2015 | 02:30

Cumbria's coast has been approved as a marine conservation zone
Cumbria's coast has been approved as a marine conservation zone

Scientists have attacked overfishing in the Irish Sea and warned that a habitat as diverse as that in the Amazon rainforest will face ecological disaster unless the British Government takes urgent action to restrict access to prime fishing grounds in the Irish Sea, marine conservationists have warned.

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But fishing groups have hit back , saying that prawn fishing is sustainable and that steps have been taken to minimise the amount of cod and other fish caught in their nets.

Scientists say ocean floor habitats are at high risk of deterioration because of "unsustainable" Dublin Bay prawn trawler fishing which is indiscriminately depleting other types of marine life.

Stocks of fish including cod, whiting and sole have fallen because these fish have been caught in prawn nets - with scientists advising there should be no dedicated fisheries for those fish next year. A total of 19 Marine Conservation Zones were proposed for the Irish Sea, but only two, Fylde and Cumbria Coast, have been approved.

Dr Emily Baxter, a Cumbria-based marine conservation officer for the North West Wildlife Trusts, said: "We are extremely concerned that mud sites in the Irish Sea are not being considered for protection. These vulnerable habitats are already damaged from activities such as bottom trawling and they are at high risk of further damage and deterioration. The nethrops stocks are being fished beyond sustainable levels and other stocks are in a severe state of depletion. Decision makers need to take action."

More than 120 conservation zones were proposed in UK waters in 2013. But fewer than 30 zones have been designated, with the Defra now looking at another 23.

Dick James from the Northern Ireland Fish Producers' Organisation said prawns are being fished sustainably in the Irish Sea and prawn fishermen have taken steps to minimise the amount of cod and other fish caught in their nets.

He said: "We don't accept that the Irish Sea is being overfished. We are not against Marine Conservation Zones. It's about where you put them."

Irish Independent

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