THE Angling Trust, which represents anglers in England and Wales, has warned it is ‘extremely concerned’ about the future of one of Britain and Ireland’s most popular sea fishes – the wrasse.
Commercial fishing for the species is ‘expanding rapidly’ and has already devastated numbers in some areas. The Trust called for the immediate suspension of fisheries supplying live, wild-caught wrasse to the salmon aquaculture market where they are used to remove parasitic sea lice from farmed salmon.
David Mitchell, head of marine, said,
“Wrasse, once of no commercial value but a highly valuable species to those fishing recreationally, are now being targeted and transported live up to Scotland to help remove sea lice from the environmentally damaging salmon farming industry. The impact on localised wrasse stocks, and on the functioning of the ecosystem, is currently unknown. Precautionary measures must be taken to stop this emerging and unmanaged fishing from wiping out vulnerable wrasse populations before the impact and sustainability of the fishery can be established.”
Several colourful species of wrasse can be caught in the waters around Northern Ireland. They feed close inshore often picking limpets and other shellfish from the rocks with specially developed teeth.
Official government figures from the Marine Management Organisation show that in 2015 around 89 tonnes of wrasse species were caught and used as ‘cleaner fish’ as an alternative to traditional pesticides to manage sea lice numbers among salmon.
Many of the wrasse are being taken from inshore waters in the South West of England but fears are growing that the commercial operation will begin to look elsewhere as stocks have been devastated in Scotland and England.
Meanwhile anglers are being encouraged by the Loughs Agency to log their fishing effort, catches and releases when fishing in Foyle and Carlingford on the new eLicence website. Whenever anyone buys a rod licence to fish for salmon and sea trout in Foyle and Carlingford they are legally obliged to let the Loughs Agency know if they have caught fish and how many times they went fishing. This information can be easily recorded through the eLicence website.
Lionel Knobbs, angling development manager at the Loughs Agency said,
“I would encourage anglers to log their fishing effort, catches and releases on the eLicence website throughout the year, rather than wait until the end of the season. While it is a legal obligation to make returns for salmon and sea trout, we are keen to see fishing logs from coarse and sea anglers as well.”