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LETTER: Ireland must manage its wild places better

July 6th, 2019 5:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

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SIR – I am a serial visitor to the Beara Peninsula, West Cork since I discovered the amazing sea angling on offer back in 2005. Those initial trips were eye-opening in terms of the biodiversity displayed in what was then a pristine marine environment particularly in the area between Crow Head, Dursey Head, Cod's Head and around to the village of Eyeries. 

Having just returned from a trip down to Dursey, accompanied by three friends, Roger Ball, Dave Hoskins and Rob Howe, from the United Kingdom who are also serial tourism sea angling visitors to the area, in the case of Roger Ball from Guildford in Surrey, his experience of Beara Peninsula sea fishing stretches back to 1997, we are collectively appalled by what we have witnessed over the previous few days.

The reason we travel is to immerse ourselves in a pristine environment that delivers a marine biodiversity experience unimaginable in this day and age of marine over fishing and pollution. The area in and around Dursey Bay and Allihies Bay was when we first started coming down a marine Garden of Eden, like being part of an episode of ‘The Blue Planet’ rather than just watching it. As an example of what Ireland can offer in terms of wild places David Attenborough would have been proud.

Today David Attenborough would be horrified as instead Ireland has taken its eye off the ball and allowed the violation and tarnishing of a marine biodiversity jewel to occur under its watch. After we arrived at our holiday cottage near Dursey Sound on Saturday 22nd June 2019, my friends and I have witnessed and experienced first-hand the wanton destruction of an amazing natural resource, all legally allowed by the Irish State . 

What we had suspected for a number of years, since 2014 to be precise, was presented full on in front of our eyes, industrial scale fishing using monofilament gill nets up to five hundred meters long set along productive marks that sadly are now shadows of what they were five years ago. 

Monofilament gill nets are totally indiscriminate in what they catch and seriously damaging to marine biodiversity, wiping out local fish stocks very fast while lost nets continue to trap fish and as they eventually break down are a major source of micro plastic to the marine environment.

Since 2014 the once prolific Grey Mullet shoals in the bays around Dursey Island and Allihies have been wiped out with species such as pollack, wrasse, conger and flatfish greatly diminished both in quantity and size. 

Between 1997 and 2014 the marine biodiversity which presented between Crow Head, Dursey Head and Cod's Head never changed in our experience, a consistent wonder of which I highlighted and promoted through my website www.anirishanglersworld.com and various published magazine articles. 

However post-2014 this once wonderful local example of a pristine marine environment has changed radically, the result of fishing practices that did not exist pre 2014 and we can state that categorically due to our collective 22 years experience of the place.

Tourism angling is worth €100million-plus to the Irish state and a pristine marine environment is priceless. Ireland needs to manage its wild places better for all of its citizens as these resources belong to all citizens of the state and not just a few individuals.

Local interests should immediately be advocating the setting up of a community-managed marine protected area between Crow Head, Dursey Head and Cod's Head, West Cork, to protect and help restore the local marine biodiversity before it is too late and immediately move to ban the use of monofilament gill nets, full stop, in their coastal waters.

Managed marine protected areas actually enhance the returns and benefits accruing from marine resources for all citizens, including fishermen / women, and do not, as is subjectively argued, impinge on traditional rights 

Yours sincerely,

Ashley Hayden, BA, MSc,

Carrig,

Ballythomas,

Gorey,

Co Wexford.

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