«The Economic and Social Aspects of Biodiversity Benefits and Costs of Biodiversity in Ireland REPORT PREPARED BY: CRAIG BULLOCK, OPTIMIZE CONSULTANTS ...»
State-funded modernization of the demersal sector, combined with the privately resourced expansion of the pelagic fleet, has occurred without any corresponding increase in quota. The observed result has been a situation where “too many vessels are chasing too few fish”. An especially worrying trend in recent years has been the diversion of fishing effort to non-quota species, although quotas frequently follow the resulting over-fishing. For example, in the late 1990s, some vessels switched to deep water species living below 400m, notably orange roughy. Most of these species are unfamiliar to consumers and so end up as fishmeal. Most of them also reproduce extremely slowly (see box). New controls have now been applied, but these may be having a corresponding adverse impact as vessels switch back to traditional species whose populations are already under pressure.
The inshore fishing fleet has suffered considerable decline, but has been making something of a recovery in recent years. Problems have arisen due to the netting of fish near shore which has affected the population of available fish in that many spawning grounds are located near the coast.
The smallest boats do not possess the harvesting technology that is available to larger ocean-going vessels. However, in contrast to some whitefish species, prices have improved, allowing shellfish, crab and shrimp boats to weather the storm.
5.5 CO S T S O F P R OT E C T I ON The Ora n g e Ro u g hy (Hoplostethus atlanticus) Four marine SACs are in the process of designation covering 2,542km2. Although additional survey work will be needed over time,the orange roughy, has been targeted by fishing will be ensuring that Like many deep-sea species, the principal management cost of these SACs industries fishing are not typically in response to gear within the area. traditional species. will fall to called worldwide, using bottom-dragging quota cut-backs for This responsibility Formerly the Naval Service which is by US fishermen and invariably discarded, the orange roughy (now “Emperor “slime head” charged with patrolling 338,000km2 of sea. Allowing for some more active patrolling in the vicinity of the SACs,manypossible that the protectionand not an especially Fish” in France) is, in contrast to it is deep-sea species, palatable cost will come to between 1 and 2 million ugly-looking fish. basis. Given that marine SACs are only now being established, this peculiar or per year on this However, like many deep-sea species, the roughy breeds is aextremely slowly, not maturing until it is 25 years old. Indeed, it is thought that the species responsibility and cost that has yet to be realised.
can survive for as much as 150 years which, according to Krista Baker of the Memorial For the present,the US, would be “like eating aprotection is that provided withinwas president”.
University in the main form of biodiversity fish that was born when Lincoln the Common Fisheries Policy, albeit a tendency tolevel ofaround elevated areas of onlysea commercial species. The As the species has an imperfect shoal protection that extends the to bed, it is easily caught CFP includes a usingof measures including resource allocation (Total Allowable Catch and quotas), by trawlers mix modern sonar devices. Consequently, its population quickly plummets in restrictions on numbers of vessels/fleet it receives from the fishing industry. thoseenough as this response to any increased attention size, and technical controls such as Bad on the use of certain fishing gear. The objective is to the sea bed has been implicated in theLimits. However, there is, the dragging of fishing gear along bring stocks to within Safe Biological destruction of is acorals of acceptance that the CFP is failing to resolve the problemsgear is believedFor belong general the west of Ireland. In fact, “ghost fishing” by abandoned in the sector. to a a time, politicians have failed to face up to the habitats are declining stocks despitehighly important continuing threat. As noted above, these problem of now understood to be the obvious impact that will have biodiversity, including the survival of catch of most species has not decreased to marine on the industry’s raw material. The many commercial species.
significantly despite the reduction in the number of vessels and the concentration of the fishing industry within two or three ports. In essence, this is the root of the problem. Many fishermen face falling margins and fishing communities continue to feel frustrated by the impact of quotas. At the same time, the owners of a reduced number of highly efficient vessels have continued to catch similar amounts of fish with the encouragement of influential industry groups and, sometimes, with the support of state investment. This state of affairs makes it difficult for any group to argue for further controls.
Over the past eight or nine years, nearly 60 million has been spent by the State or EU on investment in the restructuring of the whitefish fleet. The objective of this investment has been to increase efficiency and improve safety. Only a minor element of the funding can be attributed to concerns of reduced fish populations and, thereby to biodiversity. Similarly, considerable state investment has been made in the aquaculture sector. While the substitution for wild stocks has only been a minor incentive for this investment, it is to be hoped that growth in the sector will ultimately relieve the pressure on wild populations (as it has done, to some extent, for salmon and shellfish). For now, farm production of species such as hake, halibut and cod is still in its infancy.
The European Common Fisheries Policy has accepted the need for sharp cuts in quota in response to scientific advice. These projected cuts still fall short of those demanded by best scientific advice, but there does appear to be a gathering acceptance of the need for action to avoid a collapse of stocks. The need for action is acknowledged by policy makers and the industry in Ireland. For instance, the Seafood Industry Strategy Review Group (2006) has repeated the call for new sustainable fishing practices. A combination of whitefish fleet decommissioning and a restructuring of the pelagic fleet are recommended, although the Board has been mindful to argue that this should be industry-led. To date, state investment has been made available for the modernization of pelagic vessels and for the decommissioning of larger whitefish vessels. Many of the former are increasingly landing in foreign ports where there have been some instances of misreporting.
Decommissioning of whitefish boats has targeted larger vessels over 18 metres, but not the medium sized boats that are believed to have a continuing impact on whitefish stocks. Consequently, the Review Group has recommended a new round of decommissioning for the whitefish fleet together with better enforcement, improvements to fishing gear and temporary closures of some fishing grounds. The Group also recommends that vessels use improved gear so as to minimise the problems of by-catch and damage to reefs by fishing gear.
The Review Group’s report bases much of its recommendations on those contained in the White report on decommissioning (White, 2005). This study makes the case for the immediate decommissioning of one quarter of the whitefish fleet at a cost of 45 million, or an increase over planning spending for 2007 of 36 million. This time, the principal rationale is stock protection.
Although the proposed incentives are generous, the total is a modest sum compared with the total annual value of the industry at nearly 400 million. As potentially the industry could have a value well in excess of this amount, there is a large positive net present value from decommissioning.
The more uncertain factor is whether this benefit will be eroded by better harvesting technology, illegal catches or, indeed, by indecisive EU politicians. Better long-term stock management is beginning to pay dividends as demonstrated by a recovery in the Northern hake population. Fishing effort is also reported to have fallen in the principal fishing grounds, for example by 35% in the Irish Sea since 2000 (CEC 2007). Nevertheless, the Commission accepts that a high risk situation is emerging due to the continued over-exploitation of stocks. A future Ecosystem Approach to the management of the marine environment has been recommended by the European Commission (EC, 2002). Such an approach is now being pursued to manage fisheries in a manner that takes into account maximum sustainable yield and the impact on other components of the marine ecosystem, including the effects of by-catch. The problem is the Ecosystem Approach is highly data intensive. This presents a particular difficulty where reduced fishing effort also provides less data for resource modelling.
However, a precautionary approach is already being promoted in the absence of firm scientific data.
Instead, BIM hopes that improved management of fishing effort backed by new technology will provide a more immediate dividend. This could include real-time location and identification of fishing vessels to ensure that closed areas or quotas are not being compromised. New gear to reduce the substantial amount of discards is also being developed. Currently, these Technical Conservation Measures are being enforced through command and control mechanism. BIM would like to see more pro-active incentives to encourage uptake. Such a move appears overdue given unwelcome trends to the use of smaller net mesh sizes in response to the falling size of fish caught.
Over time, it is hoped that improved monitoring and data will transform fishermen’s attitudes from ones of exploitation cultured under open access regimes, to an acceptance of the importance of conservation and stock management. One route to this end would be the replacement of extreme changes in Total Allowable Catches by more graduated annual changes decided upon though the direct interaction of fishermen with scientists and policy makers. Such changes require more sophisticated management, more data on fish stocks, and also the political will to follow up on scientific advice.
The Atlantic Daw n
In 2000, the privately financed 70 million Atlantic Dawn became both Ireland’s, and the world’s, largest ‘supertrawler’. At 14,000 tonnes, it dwarfed all other vessels in the fleet.
Capable of catching 300 tonnes of fish per day, the ship would have caused Ireland to far exceed its pelagic capacity ceiling. Consequently, the vessel needed to obtain one of a limited number of licenses that the EU has negotiated to fish for stocks of sardinella, mackerel and horse mackerel off the coast of West Africa. The risk that failure to obtain such a license could have a knock-on impact on the parent business in Donegal, led to intensive lobbying by the government on behalf of the owner, the late Kevin McHugh, a self-made man from Achill.
The Atlantic Dawn was ultimately successful in obtaining a license. Its catch is landed in Morocco and the Canary Islands where it is believed to employ 500 people. The vessel has run into occasional problems with the Mauritanian government over alleged infringements of its license. In 2007 it was sold to the Dutch firm Katwijkse Shipping.
Sources: Sunday Business Post 22/6/03, 19/02/2006. RTE 5/3/2007 Irish Times (b) 24/2/2007
I n t e gra t e d C o a s t a l Z o n e M an ag e m e n t Aside from over-fishing, Ireland’s marine and coastal biodiversity faces many pressures, including pollution, oil and mineral exploration, recreation, marina development and general overdevelopment. In the 1990s the European Commission implemented a Demonstration Project on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (Cummins et al. 2004). A draft policy on ICZM (Brady, Shipman & Martin, 1997) was prepared at the time. However, despite widespread enthusiasm for ICZM, policy continues to be characterised by a sectoral approach. There is no official policy of ICZM and there continues to be poor coordination between bodies responsible for the marine (Heritage Council, 2006). Of policies to date, CLAMS represents one of the better examples of an integrated approach that includes environmental objectives. However, it is evidently a sectoral policy that prioritises the interests of aquaculture.
The absence of an overall policy of coastal zone management leads to frequent conflict, not least because of the lack of public participation and the absence of coordination. The costs of ICZM have not been estimated, but are likely to be modest in comparison with the costs of dispute resolution or environmental degradation. Ireland is currently at risk of being fined by the European Court for its persistent failure to eliminate pollution from shellfish waters (Irish Times, 2007a).
Strategic Environmental Assessment has been recommended for major offshore developments such as windfarms, tidal barrages and extractive developments (Heritage Council, 2006). The controversy over the proposed Shell oil pipeline in Mayo demonstrates the financial implications of planning which fails to take into account wider environmental and social factors. The dispute would not have been avoided by ICZM and has little to do with biodiversity, but it does underscore the need for an agency to manage Ireland’s coastal zone. Any such agency should have the organizational and financial means to ensure that coastal activity and development occurs in a manner that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. Without this integrated management, the protection of the marine and coastal environment, including its biodiversity, will continue to be at risk.
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