The Marine Institute has launched a new marine fisheries Atlas containing the most up to date information on commercial activity in the seas around Ireland, which is available to download free as a PDF document from its website.
Figure (left) shows approximate distribution of the cod landings from Irish vessels >15m long over the period 2006-2008. The landings are expressed as liveweight (kg) per square nautical mile. Similar data for mackerel is presented below. (Source: VSM database and Irish logbooks database.)
Geared towards the general public, policy makers, managers, scientists and all stakeholders, the information is presented in a very visual format and uses non-technical language. The focus of the Atlas is on fish stocks that are regulated by Total Allowable Catches (TAC’s) under the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
The Atlas not only gives information for the main fisheries carried out, but also on; the Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for each of these stocks, on landings trends and on fishing activity (effort levels) in the seas around Ireland. In addition, the Atlas provides a brief overview on the state of the each fisheries resource as indicated by the latest scientific assessments.
“The ocean waters around Ireland contain a very productive and biologically diverse marine ecosystem,” said Dr. Paul Connolly of the Marine Institute’s Fisheries Science Services team. “These ocean waters include a large area of shallow continental shelf less than 200m in depth. There are two important offshore banks off the west of Ireland; the Porcupine Bank and the Rockall Bank. The ocean area also includes a steep continental shelf that extends into the Atlantic Ocean to depths of over 2,500 meters. The Atlas presents maps on these areas and illustrates the various boundaries that have been developed for management and regulation of the seas. “
Over the last number of centuries commercial fisheries developed and expanded from coastal waters and into the shelf area over the last century. In the last few decades commercial fisheries have extended out into the deep waters of the Atlantic. In 2007, an estimated 1.9 million tonnes of fish were taken by the fishing fleets operating in the seas around Ireland, of which 185,000 tonnes of these fish or 10% of the international landings was brought ashore by the Irish industry. The Atlas provides maps of the fishing activity of the various countries in the seas around Ireland.
“The seas around Ireland are critically important to the life cycle of many fish species,” said Dr. Connolly. “The largest and most valuable migratory pelagic stocks in the north east Atlantic (mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting) all spawn off the west coast of Ireland, while stocks of hake, anglerfish, and megrim spawn along the continental slope to the west and south.”
The Atlas also shows the important herring, cod, haddock, whiting, plaice and sole spawning areas in the Irish Sea and the Celtic Sea. The coastal waters are important nursery areas for young fish. Shellfish stocks such as prawn, crab, lobster, shrimp, scallop whelk and cockles are also abundant in local inshore areas.
The Atlas is available for download free of charge from the Marine Institute’s website as a PDF document: Atlas of the Commercial Fisheries Around Ireland