Ireland ’s coastal and marine waters continue to provide significant quantities of fish. The big concern, however, is the sustainability of this level of exploitation with many fish species being fished to dangerously low levels. If too many fish are removed there will be insufficient numbers left to renew fish stocks. There is now concern about the levels of sole, whiting and sea bass in open waters while, closer to the seabed, the levels of cod are declining in the West of Ireland and Celtic Sea.
To compensate for this decline, fishing fleets have been catching fish in deeper waters, but many of these fish, such as ling, halibut and orange roughy, live for long periods and so are slow to reproduce.
Over-exploitation of our fisheries resources remains a significant environmental problem for Ireland. The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority show the current uptake of fishing quotas for Irish areas, which can be viewed on their website.
Over 1,700 people are employed directly in the primary sector of the aquaculture industry, over 80% of whom are located on the western seaboard. In 2016 the Irish aquaculture industry produced over 16,300 tonnes of salmon, 16,000 tonnes of mussels and 10,000 tonnes of oysters (BIM, 2017). The value of aquaculture at a total first point sale value is €167m in this period, an increase of 13% on the previous year.
Aquaculture provides over 1,900 jobs with the oyster industry providing around 1,300 of these positions. Over 92% of the workforce is male.
Other sectors such as abalone, urchin, scallop, perch, trout and seaweed are at relatively low levels.
The risks posed by this industry to the environment relate mainly to waste deposits around fish cages, chemical use, sea lice infestation and escape and interbreeding with wild species. Overall however there is little evidence of damage to sea waters, as many cages are located in areas with good water flushing.
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