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«The Economic and Social Aspects of Biodiversity Benefits and Costs of Biodiversity in Ireland REPORT PREPARED BY: CRAIG BULLOCK, OPTIMIZE CONSULTANTS ...»

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Clearly a direct relationship exists between marine biodiversity in that, unlike any other sector described in this report, fish are caught and consumed by large numbers of people. Comparable activities such as hunting, berry picking or mushroom collection are insignificant in comparison. These catches are the outcome of much greater underpinning primary and secondary productivity, as well as the essential contribution of biodiversity to nutrient cycling and population stability.

Biodiversity increases the efficiency with which resources are distributed, including the channelling of biological productivity up the food chain towards economically important species. However, the complexity of inter-dependencies between species is only beginning to be understood as the discussion of Ireland’s coral reefs (below) demonstrates. It is only now, at a time when the world’s fishery resource is under such threat, that the vulnerability of the marine ecosystem is being revealed. The sustainability of the resource depends on the survival of relatively undisturbed fisheries and on nursery habitats such as oyster beds and wetlands, as well as the filtering and detoxification services provided by filter feeders and vegetation. The destabilising of these systems is blocking productivity at lower levels leading to population explosions of simple species such as jellyfish and the regular occurrence of algal blooms while commercial species nearer the top of the food chain appear to have embarked on an inexorable decline.

M ari n e F i s h e ri e s Ireland’s Marine Fishing Industry is an important and valuable source of economic activity both nationally and, particularly, to the coastal communities where it is based. Approximately 1,415 vessels are registered as part of the Irish fishing fleet, grouped into four segments that broadly reflect their normal fishing patterns or the gear used (BIM, 2005). The fish catching sector alone provides at least 6,000 direct jobs while an additional 10,000 jobs onshore are dependent on catches from Irish vessels.

Although Irish landings have fallen in response to declining fish populations, the fall has not been as considerable as might be expected from the preceding description of the status of stocks. Indeed, in 2004 (the latest year for which figures are available), total catches amounted to 309,332 tonnes, which compares with a total catch of 288,924 tonnes in 1994. The years selected for comparison are important as the catch represents a modest fall if comparison is made with a year such as 1998.

Landings reached their height in this year at a time when both policy makers and industry had already been aware of the threat of over-fishing for over ten years.

Of more significance has been the change in the composition of landings and of the structure of the industry. Many vessels have responded to quotas by transferring to non-quota or newly commercial species, particularly of pelagic (open water) fish. Notably, this has included blue whiting, a fairly unpalatable fish which is mainly used for fish meal and whose catch in 2004 totalled 61,470 tonnes.

The species was not even separately identified in the 1994 statistics, but the rise in catch has been such that new controls are now being recommended. By comparison, catches of herring, a species whose former abundance supported thousands of jobs around the coast, have fallen to 33,178 tonnes from 51,006 tonnes in 1994.

The Common Fisheries Policy has attempted to restrict the landings of species whose populations have fallen below “safe biological limits” through a mixture of total allowable catch (TAC) for various species, fishing effort restrictions (e.g. days-at-sea), technical conservation mechanisms (i.e.

gear restrictions), and closures of spawning areas. These measures have been supported by naval patrols and enforcement by locally based or on-vessel fisheries officers. The CFP was reformed in 2002 in response to widespread acceptance of the failure of European fisheries policy due to a combination of factors, including poor enforcement, inadequate research, the setting of catch limits whatever scientific advice existed, and the undermining of TACs by illegal practice and the discard of small fish or disallowed species.

The Reform has involved greater industry consultation, more socio-economic analysis and the replacement of extreme changes in TAC by graduated annual changes up to 15% that are more acceptable to fishermen. Nevertheless, formidable problems of enforcement and political conviction remain. The multi-state access permitted to off-shore fisheries makes monitoring and enforcement especially challenging. Ireland, for instance, is responsible for the vast North-Western Regional Advisory Committee (RAC) area extending from the North of Scotland south into the Celtic Sea.

Added to the practical challenges, is the process of continual negotiation over national fishing rights fought out largely by Member State politicians in response to domestic economic considerations of the fishing sector. It is only recently that the politicians in the Council of Member States have begun to concede to the increasing weight of scientific evidence put forward by the Commission that demonstrates the critical condition of many fish stocks.

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* Source: CSO. Farmed shellfish not included By comparison, the catch of familiar demersal species, often termed white fish, has decreased significantly in response to cuts in quota. In 2004, landings of cod were just 1,246 tonnes compared with 4,984 tonnes in 1994 and 8,001 tonnes in 1996. Catches of haddock and whiting have also fallen significantly. The spawning population of cod in the Irish Sea is now believed to be one fifth of what it was in the early seventies. Of wild shellfish, catches of blue mussel have also declined considerably. However, the overall shellfish catch is up slightly on ten years earlier due to significant investment in Dublin Bay prawns. The total prawn catch has increased to 6,790 tonnes in 2004 from 2,970 tonnes in 1994.

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source: Marine Institute Fisheries and the National Spatial Stra t e gy Ireland’s National Spatial Strategy recognises the value of coastal and inland fisheries to the country’s economic development, and their significant potential for providing sustainable alternative sources of employment in rural areas. The strategy states that the economic revitalisation of many parts of the west of Ireland has been driven by a diversification in the regional economy that has been largely supported by the exploitation of natural resources (food production, tourism and related ventures).

The NSS determines that the managed utilisation of these resources can facilitate further diversification in rural economies and revitalise other areas along the western seaboard. It recognizes that this enterprise potential cannot proceed without “high environmental quality”.

In other words, the flow of ecosystem services such as primary production, regulation of water and soil quality, cultural and recreational values, and provision of food resources and other commodities, is insufficient in some areas to enable a significant rejuvenation of the local economy. For fisheries, the NSS identifies a need for effective catchment management and planning, “embracing all key factors and with effective integration of inland fisheries and land use planning”. In coastal areas, it calls for holistic approaches and cross-sectoral co-operation within the framework of Integrated Coastal Zone Management systems that recognise the importance of the coastal environment to the stability of marine fisheries and the sustainability of associated economic activities.

By comparison the inshore fishery has not been subject to any traditional resource management.

The fishery is very much open access, is fully exploited and, as a result, has experienced severe declines in the local populations of several shellfish species such as cockle and scallop. Potentially the fishery could benefit by virtue of falling entirely within Irish jurisdiction. Although they have been long coming, reforms are being made. For example, stock assessments are now being undertaken by BIM for the principal commercial species. In addition, around 755 inshore vessels have recently been added to the fleet register, a significant advance on a situation where previously the capacity had been unknown. Nevertheless, there have been persistent problems with the pollution of shellfish waters (Irish Times, 2007a).

BIM hopes that the sector can be encouraged to accept new management requirements currently being drafted with the support of Species Advisory Groups within the Shellfish Management Framework. The Review Group hopes that a dedicated strategy will be led by the DCMNR in this regard. Indeed, locally, new requirements are inevitable as a consequence of the forthcoming implementation of marine SACs intended to protect fish and shellfish species, but also marine flora and birdlife. As such designations provide the future pro-active intervention of non-fisheries interest, notably through DG Environment, the hope is that the sector will be encouraged to first take the opportunity for self-regulation.

A q u a c u l t u re Aquaculture is an activity that dates back at least 4,000 years (Rabanal 1988). However, it has only been of significance in terms of global food production in the past 50 years (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005). In many regions, aquaculture could help to reduce the pressures on stocks of wild fish while meeting consumer demand (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005). Nevertheless, while the industry expanded substantially in the 1990s, recent output has since shown little or no growth throughout the EU (EC 2007).

Aquaculture has, to some degree, provided alternative employment in areas that once employed people in in-shore fishing. However, it is still dependent on the quality of the supporting ecosystems and its sustainability is ultimately tied to that of wild capture fisheries. The productivity of the marine environment, its capacity to assimilate pollutants and to regulate natural patterns and cycles of disease, is highly dependent on biodiversity and associated ecosystem services (e.g. NRC.

1995, 1999; Humbert 2003;Worm & Duffy 2003; Covich et al 2004; Levy 2004, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005). Aquaculture cannot be sustained in polluted, degraded, lowbiodiversity environments, and a reduction in the health and stability of ecosystems within the wider aquatic environment can undermine the quality and viability of aquaculture output. Therefore, it is in the best interests of the sector to ensure that any environmental impacts are minimised (BIM.

2003, Davenport et al 2003). From the perspective of biodiversity, it is also important to note that, in general, the diversity of species supply from aquaculture is well below that of capture fisheries (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005).

Nevertheless, aquaculture is a valuable source of employment, with particular potential in disadvantaged areas, or areas which were once supported by active fishing industries (FAO, 1999;

MacAlister Elliot & Partners, 1999). It also makes a cultural contribution in Ireland through a supporting influence on the Irish language in certain Gaeltacht communities (White & Costello 1999). The value of aquaculture output has grown from 37.2 million (26,500 tonnes) in 1990 to around 124.6 million (57,422 tonnes) in 2006. In 2006, the sector employed over 2,000 people on a full and part time basis. (see Browne et al 2007).

The dependence of aquaculture on healthy ecosystems, and the potential impacts that it can have on biodiversity, present challenges for the industry. The risks that aquaculture can present to marine or freshwater ecosystems have been well documented. As noted above, aquaculture appropriates a range of services provided by the supporting ecosystem (e.g. Bunting 2001;

Beveridge, Phillips & Macintosh 1997). It also interacts with this ecosystem through physical, biological and chemical impacts (e.g Davenport et al 2003, Millennium ecosystem Assessment 2005).

In addition to localised direct impacts, there is increasing concern that the wider management and development activities of the sector can also have other wider-ranging impacts. For example, capture fisheries supply fish-meal to much of the aquaculture in northwest Europe. This is reported to have had negative impacts on certain wild fish stocks, and upon the stability of ecosystems which support wild bird colonies and other species (RSPB, 2004; RCEP 2004, Roycroft et al 2007).

In 1989/1990, wild stocks of sea trout collapsed in Ireland’s Mid-Western Region (Poole and Whelan 1996, Gargan et al 2002, 2007). The Connemara district rod catch, which had represented a large part of the Mid-Western regional fishery, fell from an annual average of 9,570 sea trout between 1974 and 1988, to just 240 in 1990. This collapse has had significant impacts on angling tourism and related economic activities in the region. Serious declines of wild salmon and sea trout have also occurred in salmon farming areas on the west coast of Scotland in the early 1990's (Walker 1994).

Studies by the Central Fisheries Board (Gargan et al, 2002, 2007) and others have determined that sea lice from marine salmon farms were a major contributory factor in the sea trout stock collapses.

In summary, it is agreed that aquaculture activities can have negative impacts where coastal zone management is inadequate and where ecosystems are already under stress (Ackefors & Enell 1990;

Gowen et al. 1990; Braaten 1991; Black 2001; European Commission 2002; Scottish Executive 2002;

Davenport et al, 2003; BIM 2003; RCEP 2004). In order to support the long term viability of the sector, Bord Iascaigh Mara (BIM) initiated the Coordinated Local Aquaculture Management Systems (CLAMS) in 1998 to coordinate development of the industry guided by Single Bay Management Plans that take into account competing interests and environmental criteria.

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Sources: Davenport et al 2003. See also Beveridge et al 1997, Garrett et al 1997, Bunting 2001, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005.

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