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Marine Conservation Northern Ireland (MCNI) have won the award of Northern Ireland Environmental Campaigner of the year for 2012, organised and sponsored by COCA COLA, Tidy NI and the Belfast Telegraph and presented by the Environment Minister, Alex Attwood.

The lobby group was recently formed in 2010 by marine environmentalists and sea anglers in response to the severe decimation of sea fish on our coast by Commercial over fishing via the Common Fisheries Policy. This policy has been accepted by most as being an EU disaster and has
resulted in the Irish Sea being reduced to a single species fishery, prawns consisting of approximately 97% of the total fishery as the white fish we used to have are no longer commercially viable. Cod, amongst other species, have to be imported to satisfy our traditional demand for fish and chips etc.

Marine Conservation Northern Ireland have also endeavoured to influence the new NI Marine Bill by submission of Consultation responses which can be viewed on their website

www.marineconservationnorthernireland.co.uk.

MCNI are confident that the new NI Marine Bill will provide enough protections to allow stocks to recover to levels where they once were, and way beyond what they say is deemed to be merely sustainable for Commercial exploitation.

The potential for jobs and income from recreational sea angling tourism in Northern Ireland is immense. MCNI believe that all we need are the stocks to be allowed to recover and sea anglers will return in huge numbers from Europe and the UK and even further afield. The commercial sea fishing activity has waned in recent years as fish stocks have disappeared and is likely to be dwarfed in terms of both revenue and jobs generation when measured against the draw of high class recreational sea angling opportunities here. Most importantly, sea angling has been proven to be highly sustainable having very little impact on stocks. The vast majority of sea anglers these days are very conservation minded and do not over exploit the resource. Sea angling of high quality will provide additional opportunities for our increasing tourism footfall. Our world class beautiful coast provides fantastic scenery for sea anglers and their families and friends to enjoy and no doubt to return again and again.

MCNI state that sea angling is not currently being supported by any of our departments in Northern Ireland. The Department of Culture Arts and Leisure has a responsibility under the 1966 NI Fisheries Act to develop protect and promote the public fresh water angling estate. The Loughs Agency has a similar remit under the Act but is limited to the areas around Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough as these sea loughs form the shared borders between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. MCNI believe that the Loughs Agencies area should be extended to cover our entire coastline from 0-12 miles out as a necessity.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development do not have any remit or responsibility to develop recreational sea angling in NI and MCNI say this is why they have not acted upon the recommendations from the Inshore Fisheries Review NI which strangely DARD facilitated or indeed even the Price Waterhouse recommendations for the socio economic development of sea angling in Northern Ireland made in 2007.

MCNI strongly assert the belief that we must ensure the development of sea angling in Northern Ireland if we are to see returning sustained sea angling tourism. The revenue from golf in the republic of Ireland is exceeded by the revenue of angling!

http://www.afbini.gov.uk/index/services/services-specialist-advice/coastal-science/inshore-fisheries/services-inshore-fisheries-sea-angling.htm

The above link has been released by AFBI to carry out a survey on recreational sea angling in Northern Ireland. Despite it being complicated and overly long, MCNI implore all sea anglers to complete this survey.