Ireland sets new rules for fishing in Dundalk Bay

Published on
August 8, 2023
A child looking through binoculars on a sailboat.

Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture, Food, and Marine Charlie McConalogue has signed new rules for fishing within the Dundalk Bay SAC (special area of conservation), a move welcomed by coalition group Fair Seas.

The new rules come via multiple Fisheries Natura Declaration, the first and second of 2023. The new declarations add permitting requirements for cockle fishing, and includes restrictions on types of gear, eliminating the use of dredges, beam trawls, and other bottom trawls. It also bans all intertidal hand-gathering of cockles within Dundalk Bay.

Marine Policy Officer with Fair Seas Donal Griffin said the move to add fisheries management measures will help the country advance its goal of increasing the number of protected areas, allowing Ireland to meet the European Union commitment of designating 30 percent of the sea as a marine protected area (MPA) by 2030.

“This area is designated to protect estuaries, mudflats and sandflats not covered by seawater at low tide, perennial vegetation of stony banks, Salicornia and other annuals colonizing mud and sand, Atlantic salt meadows, and Mediterranean salt meadows,” Griffin said. “Ireland currently has approximately 9 percent of its seas designated as an MPA, predominantly consisting of the Natura 2000 network made up of SACs and SPAs [Special Protection Areas] derived under E.U. law. However, the management of our current MPA network is lacking.” 

The move, Griffin said, comes as the country has to deal with a recent E.U. court decision that found the country had “systematically failed to introduce satisfactory conservation measures” in its Natura 2000 network. The network is, according to the European Commission, a series of core breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species made up of both SACs and SPAs.

“The more Fisheries Natura Declarations and conservation measures such as this one in Dundalk Bay implemented in our Natura 2000 network, the better and more quickly marine biodiversity in those areas will begin to survive and thrive,” Griffin said.

The new designation in Dundalk comes less than a month after Ireland designated a large section of the Northwest Irish Sea an SPA. Ireland can currently designate two types of MPA – SCAs and SPAs – and Fair Seas is calling for more commitments by the Irish Government to meet the E.U.’s push to protect 30 percent of its ocean areas under MPAs.

“The group has also made it clear that as well as new national MPA legislation, Ireland must fully implement existing E.U. law and introduce robust and effective management, as well as monitoring and enforcement into Ireland’s existing MPA network of Natura 2000 sites,” Fair Seas said.  

Photo courtesy of Fair Seas

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