Since the 1980s, Ireland’s bass stocks have been managed with a view to long term sustainability of the resource, and recreational angling’s contribution as an income generator through local and long distance tourism. National legislation supports this strategy by banning most commercial netting of bass. As a result, many thousands of anglers, often with their families, travel to Irish shores each year. The Department of the Marine values sea angling tourism at £17 million per annum.
Despite having a much clearer and more successful angling tourism strategy than the UK and the rest of Europe, the Irish Government’s Strategic Plan indicates their view that there are many further development opportunities available (Irish Central Fisheries Board, (1997). Achieving Sustainable Growth – Strategic Development Plan For Inland Fisheries, 1998-2002).
Amongst other issues, they identify availability of increased leisure time, sea angling as a (still) underdeveloped tourist product, potential to develop new niche markets, and sea angling’s contribution to rural tourism development as key features. They go on to state that, Current bass legislation should remain in place as it is important to the survival of this prestigious sport fish.
Dr. Michael Woods, T.D. Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources announced on 5th November 1999 the establishment of a National Inshore Fisheries Advisory Committee which will be up and running early in the new year. Membership will include the National fisheries and sea angling organisations, BIM, the Central Fisheries Board and other relevant semi-State bodies and active inshore fishermen, angling and other interests AND an independent Chairman.
The National Committee will evaluate the performance of these schemes. Local involvement across the broad spectrum of inshore fishing, sea angling and related activity is critical to the success of these pilot schemes, he said. I want to see an all inclusive approach giving a voice to everybody involved in the mix of activities, both commercial and recreational, that exists side by side in our inshore areas, he added.
These development opportunities exist, equally, for many parts of coastal Europe, if the unsustainable over-exploitation we suffer can be curtailed.