Friends are supporting an URGENT CALL to revoke the new Waterford Estuary Regulations which permits any licensed boat with suitable gear to dredge in the Estuary, an EU protected nature designation site.
Both Dundalk and Waterford estuary were opened this summer to suction dredging without any consultation with other stakeholders and no 'appropriate ecological impact assessment' - even though this is required under the EU Habitat Directive.
The Regulations were signed on 21st July 2007 but they can be set aside by either house within 28 sitting Dail days.
And contact your TD - LoCall phone the Dail switchboard
on 1890 337 889 and ask for your TD - NOW!
Press Release from Coastwatch Ireland
Coastwatch calling for immediate halt to cockle dredging, as damage in Waterford estuary Natura 2000 site is mounting.
Boats are out every day now systematically sucking up and sieving sand and mud of inner Waterford estuary to extract cockles. The area is designated under EU law as Natura 2000 site for international protection - yet it is being destroyed under our eyes - warned Coastwatch.
Coastwatch has been trying to halt the dredging without success.
Now the environmental group is calling on elected representatives to use a last window of opportunity and revoke t he 'Cockle Fisheries Management and Conservation (Waterford Estuary) Regulations SI 531 of 2007 as a flawed piece of legislation which permits any licensed boat with suitable gear to dredge in the protected area. This law signed behind closed doors with no public consultation came into effect on 21st July 2007 and can be set aside by either house, within 28 sitting Dail days, that is until Fri 19th Oct . Coastwatch is also calling for an enquiry to be set up why this law was passed when it was clearly in breach of both EU Habitat Directive (Art. 6) and the EU Directive on public participation.
To address the wider coastal fisheries problems Coastwatch is calling for
1. A ban on dredging for live organisms from the seabed in all our waters as too indiscriminate and damaging for both Nature and other fisheries.
2. A focus on fish recovery with establishment of Marine Protected Areas - using the opportunity of new EU Fisheries co-finance options in the current CFP. Well chosen and genuinely well managed Marine Protected Areas will help bring our fisheries back from the brink. Local fishermen should be involved in choice of sites and offered training, so they can use their current detailed local knowledge, skill and boats in well paid research and monitoring. Within a few years, recovered nursery areas and spill over of fish,
3. This Dail to draft and pass a law for the sustainable use and protection of wild natural resources While today we worry about cockles tomorrow it can be another valuable resource for which we will have difficulty controlling exploitation.
4. Coherent coastal zone management . Rights, responsibilities and actions need to be transparent, properly controlled with full public participation.
Maps and photos are on the :National parks and Wildlife Service NPWS data base *npws.ie* with detail on protected sites. .Boat photos showing names and numbers can be sent on. Please contact James McCartan at 086 265 63 08 for these.
Background note for editors
Sand and mudflats are essential habitat for many species from tiny algae to worms and shellfish. Flatfish and the juvenile stages of a range of other fish come in to feed and hide here. Waterford estuary is known as particularly rich fish nursery including most valuable species like sea bass. A powerful modern dredger sucks all this up and passes it over sieves. The process destroys mudflat structure with most life on and within it. Just one very hard shelled species - the cockle - is extracted; the rest is thrown back as ' Waterford estuary stew'. At high tide dredge barges can come right up the shore., so when the tide goes out one can see some of the serious damage to this theoretically internationally protected mudflat area. (Good view from the road between Passage East and Woodstown)
There are enough scientific studies carried out since the 1980s to know beyond reasonable doubt that suction and box dredging is a high impact destructive fisheries. How high in this case is not known due to the inexcusable lack of scientific and enforcement monitoring. Opening a fragile protected inner estuary site to unlimited number of boats is facilitating a few fishermen short term while jeopardising the future of others using less damaging practise. Even the Netherlands with the largest European cockle industry outlawed this method nearly 3 years ago. It is growing business in Ireland as cockle prices hit all time highs.
Cockles are common white-yellowish orange ridged bivalve molluscs in our estuarine ecosystems. Small cockles are important fish and bird food (Knot for example). While rarely eaten in Ireland cockles are valued highly in France and Southern Europe.
Ireland has good cockle stocks in some estuaries. The areas are also important as fish nurseries and valuable for wildlife. In many cases the most valuable part of a Natura 2000 site protected under EU Habitat Directive is the area with highest cockle stocks.
Cockles are found in the intertidal or shallow water. So a cottage industry of picking c at low tide from the mudflat surface or extracting with hand held rakes is as old found in some localities. This is normally a low impact activity. While large scale harvesting using mechanical extraction as seen now has highest impact. They tend to work in an area until the target stocks have been reduced to a level that is no longer economically viable for exploitation.
Outline of recent Waterford history Some dredging has taken place especially in Dundalk bay and occasionally in Waterford Harbour in the past. With modern boats and powerful suction dredgers you can take a tonne of cockles in an hour and with a price of ~ 1600 euro per tonne the incentive to look for short term gain is growing. Under our sad old laws, any licensed boat can fish for non quota species (like cockles and mussels) anywhere - unless the area is closed and anyone can go out to pick by hand. In theory you would need permission from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (DoE) if you went into a protected area. However as most people do not know where these are and the DoE has no monitoring or control in place for these sites, this remains theory.
The Waterford estuary dredging was closed for the first time last autumn to cockle fishing after local fishermen upset when a large number of boats arrived from Dundalk. Before opening it again this summer, the National Parks and Wildlife Service was asked to comment. As body designating protected sites it could have ensured that an ecological impact assessment was provided. However NPWS ( Dr Elizabeth Sides civil servant responsible) gave the OK that the dredging could go ahead without it. Government (Eamon Ryan TD signed the SI) passed two cockle fisheries orders in July 07 to reopen both the Dundalk and the Waterford estuary to dredging. There was no consultation with other stakeholders and no 'appropriate ecological impact assessment' to inform whether dredging should go ahead at all and if so under what conditions - even though this is mandatory under the EU Habitat Directive. (Weeks of bluffing had Coastwatch believe that the assessment had been prepared and was just being withheld). This Monday morning 9.15 am Minister John Brown TD took an interview on SE Radio on the cockle dredging and said government would look at it again.
Monitoring : Lack of independent monitoring and control is simply appalling in the Waterford case! July and most of August went by with no monitoring. Coastwatch was told that this was not necessary as there was a 'gentlemen's agreement ' between government and a few boats on how much they would take. Later a Notice was passed limiting the take. No more than 1 tonne of cockles of allowed size were to be on a boat at a given time. Boats are to report on their own behaviour and in theory there is control by the one Sea fisheries officer who has to patrol the coast from Carlingford to Waterford. Boat checks at sea are challenging as he does not have a boat and the Navy cannot get into the shallow inner estuary. T here is no cap on the number of boats and cockles can be landed anywhere. You have simultaneous dredging in Dundalk bay and Waterford. When a fleet of 6 or more boats dredges in the Waterford estuary, they all make for harbour at the same time - some landing in Duncannon on the Wexford side, some in Passage East on the Waterford side. They unload into waiting lorries. The Sea fisheries officer would have to clone himself to patrol it.
Business Highly lucrative. It is worth it for 5 Dundalk boats to come down, have crew in in a Wexford hotel and dredge. Local main operator is EIRFISH , DUNMORE CO WATERFORD. Eirfish also has mussel and handling and export business. The Eirfish boat is not large but has latest technology and powerful suction dredging He fishes with another large flat bottom dredge barge which can go right up into the intertidal - both are out again this morning together with 5 other boats since first light and probably ready to land before noon. The Dundalk boats moor in Duncannon. All cockles are exported. Whether they appear as Irish or what cockles on menus later we don't know. Waterford inner estuary is not safe for eating shellfish untreated. Despite of that the price is v high unconfirmed 1600 per tonne.
Responsibilities Responsibility within the Departments of the Marine, of Agriculture and the Environment keeps on changing. Extracting information is very difficult and repeated requests by Coastwatch to be included in discussions and case reviews - have been blocked. The latest as of Tue 16th Oct is that Eamon Ryan TD in Fisheries is responsible this week, but John Brown TD in Agriculture will be next week.
Damage On Friday 12 th October the damage could be seen from the coast road approaching Passage East. 'at 1.30 pm you could see Intertidal mudflats were covered in dredge
marks' said Karin Dubsky Coastwatch national coordinator who had been called out by local Coastwatchers. The inner estuary area around Woodstown known to be most productive is focused upon. Scoops of fine sediment laden with everything baby fish, molluscs and other sea creatures are sieved to just select out cockles. The rest is returned again - only now as marine stew in a cloud of silt. The silt clogs up other creatures gills and settles out downstream from where disposed off, covering and smothering other sea creatures. A group of powerful boats working beside each other in most productive waters is severely damaging.
Legal? While the SI 531 national law allows this practise, Coastwatch maintains that based on their legal advice it is in clear breach of EU Habitat Directive, as no ecological assessment was carried out before allowing dredging to commence and it is totally inadequately controlled. The area now dredged is in a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) designated under the Habitat Directive and Important Bird Area (IBA)
For over a year now the new EU Directive on Public Participation in Environmental Matters is in force. Cockle dredging regulations allows our commonly owned natural resources and natural environment to be interfered with to profit a few. There is no overriding public interest why this should be decided behind closed doors. There is also no appeal mechanism - in contrast to say aquaculture.
This non selective practise is either prohibited, or tightly controlled in other EU countries, especially after the famous Wadden Sea case lost by the Netherlands in the European court. In the Waddenzee dredging for cockles has been outlawed since January 05 and this is strictly enforced.
FIE is welcoming today's announcement today that Cascade Wood on the site of the proposed Cork - Killarney road is to be saved. Alerted by local residents, FIE prepared a Report on the Cascade, sent to the National Roads Authority and the National Parks and Wildlife Service in February of this year. Read the report.
The Minister has now agreed to the designation of the site as a European Special Area of Conservation. Read the Minister's Press Release:
The site is a public amenity as an 18th century cobblestone path which once formed part of the Colthurst Estate runs above the gorge on the northern side through Cascade Woods. The designation will also reunite the remnant woodland with St. Gobnait's Wood, a Special Area of Conservation on the other side of the existing road.
The case highlights the great variety of biodiversity still extant in Ireland and our poor current state of knowledge. See the new Site Synopsis.The case also sadly highlights the omissions from the last Cork Development Plan of the List of ‘Areas or Features of Scientific (High Amenity) Importance' previously included in Development Plans. This omission contributed in this case to the late recognition of the woodland's value. The refusal to continue to list important sites in the 2003 Development Plan has now led to delays and extra cost on a major road project and should not be repeated. Read our 2002 letter to Cork County Council about the ‘inevitable erosion of the country's natural assets though the loss of the knowledge contained in these important lists'.