Follies and frauds that set science at naught
By 2010, says Fahy, the northwest fishery had collapsed. “BIM had behaved true to form,” he writes, “ the agency allowed policy to be dictated by money. . .” The comment typifies his savage critique of BIM’s role, notably in the late 20th century, and “the frantic rush to construct a grossly disproportionate fleet to devour everything that swam, slithered or crawled through the water column. . .”
The edible crab is just one of the coastal species whose minor fates have gone unnoticed. There was the purple sea urchin, a delicacy for France, given “the illusion of protection” 50 years ago by prohibition of harvesting by scuba divers, but now largely stripped from the rocks of the western coast.
Or the palourde, a large clam prized in Mediterranean cooking but confined in Ireland to western inlets, notably those of Galway Bay and Killybegs Bay. “Within BIM,” Fahy relates, “two officers were deputed to visit newly discovered populations of the species and encourage local people to dig them out.” In the 1970s, hundreds of people took to the shores with spades and forks, and the palourde, naturally long-lived and slow to reproduce, has still to recover from the fishery’s dramatic collapse.
On the east coast, it was whelks, suddenly more abundant as their whitefish predators were fished out. BIM helped develop the fishery for export but failed to enforce control on the size of whelks kept for processing – a crucial measure for conservation.
Among the shameful discards of the Irish fishing industry, it seems, has been the best and wisest scientific advice. Fahy’s disgust must speak for generations of his profession.
Eye on Nature Your notes and queries
I watched a rook in the garden kill a goldfinch, take it up into the trees and start to eat it. I thought birds only eat seeds and worms.
Susan Carrick Camolin, Co Wexford
Rooks are also carnivores and sometimes eat small birds.
While walking on Carrowniskey beach I found a live Manx shearwater which tried to take protection from the wind behind my leg. I moved him behind a dune to see would he recover.
Denis Harte Louisburgh, Co Mayo
In winter Manx shearwaters stay far out in the Atlantic. This one was probably battered by the recent storms and blown on to the shore. They return to burrows on coastal islands to breed in late March and April. As they cannot walk on land they have to drag themselves over the ground to their burrows.
While cycling in the Phoenix Park I saw three buzzards flying quite low over the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin. Could one of them be a juvenile from the last brood?
Colman Carroll Navan Road, Dublin
Michael Viney welcomes observations at Thallabawn, Carrowniskey PO, Westport, Co Mayo, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a postal address