Minister Simon Coveney TD.
First of all I wish to congratulate you on your recent appointment as Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine.
In recent years the Irish Federation of Fishermen (FIF) have been lobbying the Government to allow the retention and landing of Sea Bass caught in Irish offshore waters. This would be disastrous to the bass population. After twenty years of protection Irish bass are gradually making a recovery. To permit commercial fishing for bass again would undo all the benefits of the last twenty years of protection in a very short space of time.
Sea bass are essentially an inshore species but in the winter they commonly move offshore. There is no evidence to support the presence of large shoals of offshore bass. The following is a quote taken from the Marine Institutes advice to Dail Eireann in 2008:
“The institute advises that the total size of the sea bass stock frequenting waters around Ireland is unknown, but is likely to be quite small, with a maximum estimate of 100 tonnes. It advises that, despite warming seas around our coasts, the species remains at the northern limit of its range. The institute advises that "there is currently no prospect of a sustainable commercial fishery for sea bass”.
Commercial netting of sea bass would without question decimate the population in a very short period of time for very limited short term gain.
Irish bass provide a very valuable recreational resource. Our inshore bass fisheries are the envy of European anglers. The economic benefits of angling tourism, not to mention the spending by Irish anglers, would far out strip the short term limited benefit to the national economy of opening up our waters to commercial bass fishing.
As sea bass stocks throughout Europe become severely depleted due to commercial over-fishing increasing numbers of foreign anglers are visiting our shores for bass fishing. The potential of bass as a tourism resource is far from been fully realized and has the potential to generate revenues for the State far in excess of the limited short term gain for a few commercial fishermen. The vast majority of visiting foreign bass anglers also practice catch and release so they are not harming the bass stocks.
The expenditure by overseas anglers visiting our shores is substantial. They are making a significant contribution to the local economy, staying in local guesthouses or hotels, eating in local restaurants and bars. They will also purchase bait locally and are likely to purchase tackle in local angling shops. They may utilize the services of local bass guides or take charter boat trips.
If more resources are devoted to the prevention of illegal netting and the promotion of bass angling tourism, bass as a sports fish can make a very valuable contribution to our economy as more overseas anglers visit our shores. I urge you to do your utmost to maintain the present ban on commercial bass fishing.
Francis X. Murphy, B.Sc., Ph.D.
I have also sent a copy of this letter to his constituency office:
Since an important aspect of the argument for maintaining the ban on commercial bass fishing is the benefits of angling tourism to the economy the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Leo Varadkar) should also be contacted. I have sent similar letters to him at Leinster House and to his constituency office:
37A Main Street,
I would urge every angler to do the same. In particular, overseas anglers who have visited Ireland for bass fishing should write to the relevant ministers and outline their expenditure during their stay.