The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) has called for a ban on the fishing practice of pair trawling in coastal areas. The practice involves two boats dragging between them a single large net with small meshing.
Pair trawling Catching little fish in big numbers
They report that this activity has lately been going on in sheltered inshore bays and estuaries along the west coast – many of which are protected for nature conservation like Kenmare Bay.
The concern is over the number of sprat being caught by this activity. Sprat is a small fish and a keystone of the marine ecosystem, vital for larger fish as well as seabirds. Pair trawlers catch these fish in large volumes which goes on to be processed into fish meal. Another issue is that these nets have potential to catch seals, dolphins or anything else in its path such as migrating salmon or spawning sea bass.
IWT campaign officer Pádraic Fogarty says “catching sprat to be ground up for fish meal is insane. It’s a wanton destruction of the whole marine ecosystem, frequency in areas which are supposed to be protected for wildlife.”
Food chain effects Less food for marine animals
The IWT have called for the ban on this practice to preserve coastal areas for marine life and other users who depend on the resource. Large fishmeal plants (both constructed and planned) operate in the expectation that boarfish (a small fish unexploited until recently) would provide the raw materials. However boarfish catches have declined sharply in recent years so there is significant pressure to find replacement feed.