Up until 2007 whales were regularly sighted in the summer months in the Kenmare River. Large pods of dolphins also were almost daily visitors clearly visible from the many tourist viewing points publicised as part of the Wild Atlantic Way initiative.
In autumn 2007 Pair Trawlers were seen for the first time in the Kenmare River covering all fishable areas of the bay as far east as Dinish Island.
This fishing method, though supposedly targeting sprat, is devastatingly efficient in narrow, shallow inlets such as the Kenmare River trapping and killing all fish in the path of the boats. Since 2007 the pair trawling has continued every year and as a result there have been no publicised whale sightings and only occasional visits by small pods of dolphins. Fish and sea birds that once thrived in the Kenmare River have been drastically diminished.
Abundant wildlife could be a key tourist attraction for Kenmare and South Kerry. The value of such tourism is demonstrated in Dingle. Funghi has contributed millions of euros to the local economy. The people and businesses of South Kerry are denied the opportunity to benefit from such environmental tourism by Pair Trawlers cleansing the Kenmare River for a low value catch. The Pair Trawling also disrupts the activities of the long standing, small scale, local fishing industry.
The Ministry of Marine does not consider the sprat, the target species, to be endangered and has made no effort to date to investigate the impact of pair trawling on the environment or other species of fish, birds and mammals. It continues to ignore local feedback and is therefore minded that no changes to current practices are necessary. Pair Trawling will therefore be allowed to continue and to further damage the local tourism and fishing industries.
Businesses and individuals recognising and concerned at the damage Pair Trawling inflicts on our wildlife and our economy should make representation to the Ministry of Marine through the local TDs, councillors or through any other means at their disposal. An immediate ban is required to halt the serious decline before it is perhaps irreversible.