Researchers tracking fish in Irish waters have discovered behavioural patterns which could save the country substantial sums of money.
A collaboration between NUI Galway, UCC and Cork Harbour Angling Hub examining the movements of sea bass in the south of Ireland shows that few fish left the region during the regular season and many returned following their winter migration. These findings could contribute towards halting the declining numbers of sea bass – an industry which is worth £60 million (€70 million) to the Irish economy.
Dr Tom Doyle, from the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, said: “Knowing that sea bass return to the same little patch of coastal water each year is absolutely fascinating. “It asks so many questions about how they navigate and recognise when they are ‘home’, but it also has important implications for the conservation of the species.”
Jim Clohessy, (right) from Cork Harbour Angling Hub and a co-author of the study, added that the research had “the potential to save the State a lot of money in terms of targeting their fisheries protection”.
Sea bass is only found in UK and Irish waters, south into the Mediterranean and along North Africa. It is a commercially important species as it fetches a high price on the market compared to other fish, while anglers also consider it a prize catch.
Despite robust conservation measures in place in Ireland, sea bass populations in northern European waters have been declining since 2010, so much so that the EU has introduced emergency measures to halt this trend. These include catch restrictions on various bass fisheries, a large closed area around Ireland and Celtic seas and a one-fish retention policy for recreational anglers.
Researchers now hope that this new data will help combat the risks of local depletion and secure the future of sea bass in Irish waters.
“It really is amazing that for many of our familiar marine fish we know very little about their movements beyond some very broad generalisations that they are found inshore during the summer months and during the winter they move offshore to reproduce,” said Damien Haberlin from UCC’s MaREI Centre.
“So in this context, our findings are very exciting. It’s really nice to have some detailed movement data on one of our most important marine fish species.
• For the full paper in ‘Scientific Reports’, visit: www.nature.com/articles.