Pair trawling is a fishing practice involving two boats dragging between them a single large net with small meshing. It is an activity which has lately been going on in sheltered inshore bays and estuaries along the west coast - many of which are protected for nature conservation (eg Kenmare Bay).
Pair trawling targets sprat which goes on to be processed into fish meal. Sprat is a small fish which forms large shoals and is a keystone of the marine ecosystem being food for larger fish such as cod, as well as sea birds. Not only does pair trawling sieve the water of food for other marine life, it also has the 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."
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.
It is important therefore that this practice is prohibited in order to preserve coastal areas for marine life and other users who depend on the resource. The practice highlights the unsustainable nature of fish farming at sea, which relies on the wasteful use of wild caught fish for feed.
Off The Scales Fishing Magazine said
Yes, this is happening right now in Cork Harbour. Second day of this in the upper harbour, near Little Island. Apparently the official word is they are "fishing for sprat" but of course bass, mullet and salmon (which are running at the moment) will also inevitably be caught as by-catch. This is disgraceful but deplorably not illegal, as Ireland offers basically ZERO PROTECTION to inshore/estuarine nursery areas or waters. This MUST change!
Lobbying must be stepped up, more people need to work together on this cause - or else nothing will change and there will be NOTHING left for future generations. Anglers are one of very few groups who actually care about protecting the seas. It is our responsibility and duty to try our best to save our seas, our fish and our environment.