Two Reports for a sustaianable future (Cawley Report)

Two Reports for a Sustainable Future; Steering a New Course and Sea Change.

Destructive decommissioning or sustainable mothballing

Please find my interpretation of these two reports. Understanding the implications was certainly not bedtime reading and required full concentration, to understand the main messages and potential outcomes.

Marine Institute, Sea Change as a Context for Steering a New Course.

The context for the Cawley report is that Fish Stocks are declining and increasingly the fishing industry is under threat form over fishing and short term focused management.  It is clear that a strategy is needed to ensure future abundance as a source of sustainable wealth. Steering a new course should be read with another similar report in mind, “A Sea Change” which presents a strategy for developing the Marine resource in Ireland. Fish landings contribute about 10% of the total marine resource in Ireland, significantly higher than average 4% contribution from fishing for other marine based economies throughout the world. (taken from Sea Change Report Fig 3.1). This report calls for increasing the total market share of the Marine resource within Ireland. “Steering A New” course should be considered as Ireland’s strategy a sustainable future for fishing in Ireland and could encourage increased share of Common Fisheries Policy quota if sustainability targets are met.

We are already hearing about the consequences of these reports. A plan for decommissioning is well advanced. Some criticisms are coming to the fore. “Sherkin Comment” a quarterly environmental paper criticised these reports for lack of emphasis on research to develop fish stocks, and questioned the low priority given to fish and research. A letter in the Marine times last month pointed out that the report needs to be re written as it doesn’t consider future fish stocks and was lead by the demands of the processing sector.

Historically these discussions within the fishing Industry have centred on quota negotiations from the common fisheries pool, a declining fisheries pool. The common fisheries policy was designed to ensure all fishing nationalities could only take a fair share of the available stocks in the sea around Ireland. Consequently Ireland negotiates every year in December to acquire its share of the total Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The Principle of Relative Stability within the (CFP) allocates Ireland a generally fixed share of total available quota from waters around Ireland.

Thus whilst Ireland’s quota amount is declining so is everybody else’s, although stable as a percentage allocation.

As fish stocks decline, the fishing industry comes under pressure to reduce its catches and there are calls to further reduce quota and fishing capability and capacity. The danger, frequently expressed by the fishing industry, is a concern that strict conservation and sustainability procedures will reduce the fishing industry to a level where there will be no chance of a return to a viable sustainable industry in the future when all these conservation actions result in abundance. Imagine the situation in years to come when conservation policies deliver plenty of fish, the sea is abundant but the ability to catch fish competitively has diminished. Only those countries that have maintained their ability to fish competitively will be a position to take advantage of any stocks. This is an area that needs to be addressed head on. BIM, the Marine Institute, the Government both locally and in Europe need to address the need for a viable industry mothballed rather than destroyed. Anglers and small business subsistence fishermen who like to catch their own fish would be delighted to see abundance. The inshore sector could benefit from abundance and a mothballed fleet could turn their attentions to tourism, angling, whale watching and generally adding to the aesthetic beauty of traditional fishing harbours. What would destruction of valuable boats achieve?

A key challenge therefore is to develop a leading strategy that provides a practical vision for a way forward that demonstrates Ireland’s vision for sustainability and which has the support of other nations desiring sustainable fish. Any successful strategy will also need the support of local fishermen and there is a real opportunity to provide the appropriate support for communication training and education to achieve a vision for sustainability.

Just to emphasise the significance of sustainability to the future, WWF have just launched a new campaign called “Stinky Fish” which sets out another stall for consumers to buy fish only from known sustainable sources. The demands for sustainability will only increase. 

A great deal of emphasis is placed on the processing industry as the segment calling for a lead in the form of consistent supplies of fish. If fishermen don’t take the lead in this issue it should come as no surprise that the processing industry delivers the agenda.

I am sure the ramifications of these two reports will be felt for many years to come and any future sustainable progress will be warmly welcomed by anglers if abundance is achieved in future years. The concern is that if Ireland neglects its fleet structure by decommissioning rather than moth balling valuable assets then anglers, inshore fishermen and the industry will witness their stocks being taken by some other nation around Irish coasts. Sustainable solutions are therefore welcome.

Yours sincerely 

Brendan Kerr

Natural Living Assets

58 Central Avenue


BT20 3AW

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