Vital scientific advice on the status of and future prospects for the marine fisheries resource in Irish waters in 2008, as well as recommendations for sustainable management in 2009 were recently presented to Mr. Tony Killeen T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food by Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute in the form of the Institute’s annual “Stock Book”.
Compiled from information gained on scientific surveys, port landings and observations by industry, the Stock Book contains management advice on over 80 fish stocks, many of which are managed by the EU under the Common Fisheries Policy.
This information and advice will be an important reference source for the December Fisheries Council negotiations that sets the Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for each stock each year, which in turn are divided into national quotas, based on a number of factors, including national fishing capacity and historic catch.
Marine Institute CEO Dr. Peter Heffernan, Minister Killeen and Marine Institute Chairman Mr. Jim Fennell at the Stock Book launch.
“The role of science in supporting a sustainable fishing industry is to answer the fundamental question - ‘How many fish can we safely remove from any particular stock today while leaving enough fish in the sea to reproduce and support the fishery into tomorrow?’” said Dr Heffernan. “This is the bedrock on which all subsequent fisheries management plans are built and that is why our Fisheries Science Services team take so much care to make sure that fisheries managers in our parent Department, in industry and in the EU have information they can trust.”
To provide a forum where fishermen, fisheries scientists and fisheries managers can work together towards as sustainable fishing industry, Minister Killeen has established the Irish Fisheries Science Research Partnership (IFSRP). Dr Heffernan, who also chairs this group said, “I am very pleased with the progress we have made over the last number of months. I hope to develop this strong working relationship even further in 2009 to meet the challenges we all face in the sector.”
Dr Paul Connolly, Director of the Marine Institute’s Fisheries Science Services team said, “the key to the future is science working closely with Industry to come up with plans that will lead to rebuilding of all stocks. The Celtic Sea Herring Management Plan is a good example of industry working with science and making tough decisions on the way forward.”
While fishing quotas are allocated on a national basis, the fish stocks themselves know no boundaries and are truly international. Cod in the Celtic Sea area also live in Irish, UK and French waters and are caught by UK, French and Irish fishermen. It is therefore important to have international co-operation in carrying out the science needed to formulate advice on quotas. The main forum for this co-operation is the collaborative scientific organisation ICES (the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas) based in Copenhagen, Denmark.
“Scientists meet at ICES throughout the year to share their data sets and conduct assessments on the various fish stocks,” said Dr Paul Connolly. “This year a lot of the scientific advice for the waters around Ireland was available in July, and so we were able to release it earlier than in previous years to allow a longer time period for consultation with Industry ahead of the full Stock Book in November.”
Regarding the information itself, the Stock Book shows both good and bad news for fish populations around the Irish coast. Cod, whiting and haddock stocks are all severely depleted in fishing grounds west of Scotland, while cod stocks have virtually collapsed in the Irish Sea, where there are little signs of recovery. Cod stocks in the Celtic Sea also remain below sustainable levels.
The good news however is that stocks of mackerel are up by 33% due to good recruitment of young fish to the stock.
The Stock Book 2008 is available on CD from the Marine Institute, Rinville, Oranmore, Co. Galway and sections will shortly be available for direct download via the Institute’s website at www.marine.ie .