Mussel dredgers leave Dublin coastline 'smelling like corpses'
Conservationists have claimed industrial mussel seed dredging will leave Ireland's coastal waters "full of jellyfish and little else".
Four of the industrial trawlers worked in Dublin Bay over three days beginning last Sunday.
The Government permits industrial dredging for young mussels but last Thursday the Supreme Court ruled that the contents of the seabed inside our six-mile territorial limit are State "assets" and should be protected.
Two of the trawlers operating in Dublin Bay last week are understood to have been collecting seed mussel for "finishing" grounds in Welsh waters.
Two others, registered in the Republic, are believed to have been dredging for mussel farms on the west coast of Ireland.
The sea area being dredged, like much of the coastal area of Ireland, has seen major declines in many types of sea life, with anglers and small commercial fishing operations reporting falls in catches year after year.
And this summer, as in other recent years, beaches and bathing places around Irish inshore waters have been closed due to swarms of stinging jellyfish.
The few people still earning a living from inshore fishing said that the dredging was causing huge and long-term damage to our fisheries. "The damage caused by the dredgers is absolutely enormous," said Dalkey lobster fisherwoman and boat-hire operator Dolores Smith.
"There are stretches of seabed just over there that have been obliterated. The Dublin Bay prawn is extinct now. There are none in the bay any more. People may call prawns Dublin Bay but they're from somewhere else because there are none left here."
Ms Smith also said there was a foul smell around Dalkey Sound and the other dredged areas.
"It smelt like rotting corpses; it was horrible out there," she added.
She pointed out that Dalkey Sound is officially designated a "specially protected area", yet this has not prevented the trawling of the seabed.
Padraic Fogarty, of the Irish Wildlife Trust, had also been told about the dredgers and said it was likely that they were mussel seed vessels. "There is no control on it. They are literally scraping the bottom of the sea," he said.
"We believe there should not be any dredging within six miles."
Mr Fogarty wrote on the trust's website: "Despite all the talk, it is business as usual for the Irish Sea and there's to be no political will to restore it to its previous wealth.
"The ecosystem is on course to be so damaged that we could be looking at a sea full of jellyfish and little else in the not-too-distant future."
In their successful Supreme Court action, four mussel fishermen - Paul Barlow, of Dunmore East, Co Waterford; Michael Crowley, of Killinick, Co Wexford; Gerard Kelly, of Greencastle, Co Donegal; and Alex McCarthy, of Kildimo, Co Limerick - claimed "aggressive and unsympathetic" fishing by NI vessels has caused the loss of a sustainable Irish mussel industry which could have employed hundreds of people.
The court heard they invested €16m in four dredging vessels designed to allow sustainable mussel farming.
The Supreme Court found that Article 10 of the Constitution, which provides that all natural resources belong to the State, means regulation of fishing for mussel seed in the State's territorial waters "is the management of a natural resource, and therefore property belonging to the State, which must be provided for by law".