February 6th, 2018
Almost 50 marine species living in Irish waters are under threat of extinction, a new report from the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) reveals.
Released this week, the Protecting Our Ocean’s Wealth report indicates that 48 species of fish, crustaceans, shellfish and other invertebrate are under threat, as well as five types of seaweed.
The report calls for the Government to bring legal protection for marine life in line with protections for land-based animals and plants under the Wildlife Act.
The Act ensures special protections such as restrictions on hunting and legal protection of important habitats for many of our native animals such as deer, badgers, and pine martens.
However, the Act excludes marine fish and invertebrates in its list for such protections and require approval from the Minister with responsibility for fisheries to appear on the list. According to the report, however, no marine species has been afforded such protections to date.
The report goes on to find that legal protection would promote the recovery of depleted populations or the designation of key areas for their conservation, especially where species are commercially exploited or the target of recreational angling.
While not opposing the “wise exploitation” of marine resources, the IWT state that a lack of legal protection has led to “chronic over-exploitation” of certain species such as the once common and now critically endangered angel shark.
The report also points to the lack of legal protection in Ireland for the Basking Shark, the world’s second largest fish, and the “dramatic declines” in Turbot numbers in Irish waters.
Marine life is clearly “under threat on many fronts”, according to IWT Campaigns Officer, Pádraic Fogarty, listing overfishing, damaging fishing practices, and plastic pollution as major threats.
Over 170 species of marine megafauna have been recorded to ingest plastics and it is estimated that one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed each year due to ingestion and entanglement.
“Legal protection for our most threatened species will not on its own resolve these issues, but along with marine protected areas, control of super trawlers and other measures, it is a necessary element in the path to recovery,” he added.