By Dominic McGrath, PA
Climate activists gathered outside the Dáil on Monday afternoon to call for the Government to take action against over-fishing.
Activists dragged a mocked-up fishing trawler through the capital, with protesters dressed in black and wearing skeletal masks walking in a procession behind the vessel.
The climate action group, backed by several other organisations, is calling for the Government to increase the proportion of Irish waters where conservation is prioritised, so-called “marine-protected areas”.
On Monday, protesters said that they also wanted an immediate end in Irish waters to bottom trawling, where heavy nets are dragged along the ocean floor.
Extinction Rebellion led the demonstration, marching from the Garden of Remembrance to Kildare Street and on to the Department of Agriculture, to demand urgent action from the Government to protect the country’s waters.
As the crowd moved through the city, many passers-by stopped to stare as the climate activists warned that bottom-trawling and overfishing would have disastrous effects on the world’s climate.
Outside the Department of Agriculture, demonstrators also called for the Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue to invest more in efforts to tackle illegal fishing and to support the transition to a more sustainable fishing industry.
“There’s a sickness in these oceans and there’s a sickness in Government Buildings,” said Ceara Carney, an Extinction Rebellion volunteer.
She said that people need to care about what happens to the fish in the world’s oceans.
“If they were all Fungis, the whole country would be so angry. But we need to think about them all with the individual personalities, every single fish.”
“We’re protesting today to highlight the Government’s inaction for basically creating marine-protected areas.
“We want the Irish Government to allocate 30 per cent of the Irish seabed to be marine-protected.
“Currently, we only have 1-2 per cent, which is really bad especially amidst a biodiversity crisis,” Ms Carney told PA news agency.
She said that such practices damage smaller fishing businesses in Ireland.
“The industry is being damaged by these super-trawlers. There is no enforcement of regulations and that’s another thing we’re asking to happen.
“This huge-scale fishing, where 40 per cent is thrown back anyway, is damaging the ocean life, and we can’t live sustainably on that.”
Conservation charity Birdwatch Ireland backed the demonstration.
Fintan Kelly, the charity’s policy officer, joined the crowd protesting in Dublin.
“I’m here to show solidarity and ask the Government to take action,” he told PA news agency.
He said that the efforts of the Government over marine conservation had been “totally inadequate”.
“We need to do much more to designate protected areas. We need to do much more to engage with fishers and help them transition to sustainable fisheries management, which will ultimately be a benefit to them,” Mr Kelly said.
Padraic Fogarty, the campaigns officer at the Irish Wildlife Trust, said that the problem of over-fishing had been obvious for decades.
He said that the sea is in an “enormous amount of trouble”.
“We’re hoarse, coming to this building, talking to the Minister [for Agriculture] inside this building and saying ‘you have to listen to the scientists'”, he said.
“We know that fish are wildlife. They are essential beings in the ocean.”
“We’re destroying it all for the sake of a significant amount of money for very very few people. That has to stop.”