Mussel Dredging Cork Harbour

Thu Dec 10, 2015 11:26 pm

The arrival of Mussel Dredgers to Cork Harbour early in December does not sit well with me. The boats hauled out masses of seed mussels. It strikes me as an environmentally destructive process and I'm not sure what controls are in place to protect the harbour.

I think I am not alone in having questions about this.

I have spoken with the SFPA who were as helpful as they could be. I have been in touch with the Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine. The contact I had has kicked me towards their Press Office. I have emailed them and am awaitng a reply.

I am asking:
*Is there a seed mussel dredging season?
*Was there an assessment of the quantity of mussels in place in the area that was dredged? (East/SE of Spike Island)
*Is there control/regulation/a limit to the amount of mussels that can be extracted from the area being dredged?
*Is there any impediment for boats to dredge in other areas of the harbour (other than normal shipping channel rules etc.)?

I'm not really clued in to this sort of thing, maybe I'm wrong and the whole thing is expertly managed and controlled. If people have better knowledge of dredging and the regs involved they might let me know.

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Re: Mussel Dredging Cork Harbour

Fri Dec 11, 2015 12:29 am

Once the word dredging is involved should send out the warning signals. As I stated elsewhere all trawling and dredging or any type of moving gear should not be permitted on inshore nursery areas. Madness

Re: Mussel Dredging Cork Harbour

Fri Dec 11, 2015 12:47 am

JimC wrote:It strikes me as an environmentally destructive process and I'm not sure what controls are in place to protect the harbour

Hi Jim. Nice to see someone taking action rather than sitting back and procrastinating, watching as the damage continues to be caused right in front of them (out of sight).
I reckon dredging and beam trawling are the most destructive sorts of fishing there is, it ranks up there with the super trawlers. It completely devastates the benthic habitat and all associated with it, undoubtably.
They have been dredging in Belfast and carlingford loughs for some years and those places are now barren wastelands under the water. They aren't allowed to do it in Strangford lough as it is a marine nature reserve, thankfully.
Cork harbour has (had?) a unique and healthy marine environment, it would be a shame to see it destroyed.
I think the main question to them would be to ask if an EIA has been carried out to gauge the damage that might be caused. You can be assured there hasn't, nor that they know what damage they are doing, or care. There has to be an EIA carried out. Mussels are better grown on ropes.

Sorry I can't advise on the legalities of it all, I wouldn't know. I only know of the potential damage that it causes - it destroys the local ecosystem and this damage reverberates throughout the rest of the marine environment (the rest of the harbour).

Keep it up. Good luck with it

Re: Mussel Dredging Cork Harbour

Fri Dec 11, 2015 9:59 am

I wouldn't call it taking action Charlie, more just checking out the situation! Sometimes I reckon I'll have to get a wooly jumper and a beard :)
Seriously though, the destruction of habitat is bad enough. If it is being done without any consideration for the environment or the stakeholders then it is downright wrong and we need to speak up.

You echo thoughts that are being expressed to me by many: that the Northern Loughs are only a patch on what they once were. The East Coast seems to be similar. It may not all be down to seed-mussel dredging, dredging for other species (Scallops, razor etc) and beam trawling would have a terrible effect on the bottom as you say.

I'll report back as I get more feedback from DAFM etc.

Re: Mussel Dredging Cork Harbour

Fri Dec 11, 2015 11:28 am

Hi Jim,

Was that on Sunday? I was out in my boat til after dark and there was two boats seemed to be dredging all over the spit bank and east of spike. They were at it all day from what I saw and I'm sure they must be doing it plenty more than just the day I was there. Seems that it's a very damaging way to make a few quid. I'm going to do a little research myself and see what the craic is. Maybe the epa might know something too.

Tight lines

Re: Mussel Dredging Cork Harbour

Fri Dec 11, 2015 5:34 pm

Ashley hayden has covered how the Wicklow coast has been destroyed by these methods of fishing

Re: Mussel Dredging Cork Harbour

Fri Dec 11, 2015 6:10 pm

Yes they were at it last Sunday. It was going on for a few days in the past almost two weeks. It looked like the "season" ended on the 9th.

I have no doubt that the East Coast has suffered more than most - Not only Mussel Dredging (Very site specific) but dredging for scallops, razor clams etc. Beam trawling is very destructive to the sea bed too. I get a shiver when I see the beamers tied up in Waterford. We have little if any of this type of fishing in and around the harbour.

Re: Mussel Dredging Cork Harbour

Sat Dec 12, 2015 12:41 am

Indeed,

I can't find much online about it- Cork harbour wasn't mentioned much as a mussel seed gathering place, but many others were. I read part of a research paper (the part with environmental impact in mind) to do with mussel seed gathering and redistributing in Ireland, and apart from "more research needed" to assess the actual impact, there wasn't much to go on. But I know from the state of a few marks on the east coast that it seems to devastate nursery areas, which is where this type of fishing tends to be carried out. What might actually be done to minimize or stop it though I have no idea. There's a lot of money tied up in it so that tends to sway things.

Re: Mussel Dredging Cork Harbour

Tue Jan 26, 2016 10:40 am

Just a quick update:
I would appear to be in a battle of attrition with the Dept. Of Agriculture, Food & the Marine Press office.
I continue to email each week (Creating a trail) enquiring about the progress of my questions. At the start they "would check with the relevant Dept. and come back to me". Now I'm getting a lot of "out of office" replies.

I will persevere for another bit and if I fail to get a response I'll have to take a different route. I'm not sure what that route has to be :)

It is a shocking level of customer service.

Re: Mussel Dredging Cork Harbour

Tue Jan 26, 2016 11:57 am

There are two recent reports specific to Ireland's Bottom Mussel Industry.

The first is an industry led report entitled "The Rising Tide"(2007/2008).

The second was produced for the "Marine Environment & Health series" with contributions from staff employed in agencies/dept's such as the Marine Institute, BIM, UCC, UCD, GMIT and private sector interests such as the "South East Shellfish Coop based in Duncannon, Co. Wexford".

The second document is entitled: "Management Recommendations for the Sustainable Exploitation of Mussel Seed in the Irish Sea" (2007).

The second document is a worthwhile piece of work with positive and real insight, the industry document does a disservice to the industry.

In short the industry is running out of "mussel seed" because over time (on average thirty plus years in its present form) its modus operandi has been to survey, find then access/exploit pristine mussel beds until they become uneconomic before moving on to the next bed.

The industry, especially in Holland (where similar historic exploitative practices to Ireland have been utilised) has been steadily switching to collecting drifting mussel seed (spat) from the "water columns" which is the way forward, but hey, old habits and practices die hard in Ireland and ironically reductions in adult mussel populations and the habitats where mussel spat "fix" due to exploitation has reduced the amount of drifting mussel spat available and also areas where they can settle and grow.

In short the Irish Bottom Mussel Seed Industry is running out of "mussel seed".

Again another case of a viable and necessary marine commercial seafood industry sector shooting itself in the foot for short term gain, instead of adapting to consolidate its future.

A further irony is that a deviation in practice away from mussel bed exploitation to "water column" mussel spat collection allied to a rehabilitation program aimed at restoring historic inshore/offshore mussel beds and allowing them to reach maturity will not only protect the Bottom Mussel Seed Industry into the future, it will also revive sea angling where it has been lost (North Co. Wicklow for example) and the associated tourism benefits.

Re: Mussel Dredging Cork Harbour

Mon Feb 15, 2016 9:27 pm

I eventually got a reply from the Department (A blistering four week turnaround).
The answers are oblique enough but clear enough in their own way too.
Rather than put it here on its own I have put together a complete set of notes etc.... here: http://www.topfisher.eu/cork-harbour-mu ... he-bottom/