Minister Humphreys refusing to stop bait digging on Bull Island

22 Jun

The Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht is refusing to act to stop bait digging on the “protected” Bull Island nature reserve. Despite warnings from naturalists that the practice causes serious damage to the internationally recognised habitat and negatively impacts local bird life, Minister Heather Humphreys has this week insisted that her department would only take action “if it is considered necessary”.

The problems associated with bait digging (the removal of worms for use as bait in fishing) are clearly outlined in information from the wildlife website – “Bait digging is an activity carried out at low water on a daily basis. The activity involves (a) the physical destruction of EU Annex I habitat (habitats code 1140 – mudflats and sandflats), (b) the removal of invertebrates from the nature reserve which are also important prey items for protected birds and (c) the presence of bait-diggers on the mudflats also prevents birds from feeding in these areas whilst the activity of being carried out.”

It goes on to explain that the digging process “results in a stonier habitat wherever the activity is carried out as the smaller clay and silt particles are washed away with each tide and redistributed elsewhere within the lagoons”.

“The impact of this activity is clearly visible in the vicinity of the wooden bridge where several hectares of Annex I habitat have been seriously damaged,” it states. “It is also a matter of considerable concern that some of this activity is believed to be carried out on a commercial basis.”

In a disturbance section which highlights activities that can harm or damage habitats and species, it is noted that bait digging was most recently observed on Bull Island on May 14th.

Failure by the authorities to stop harmful human activities has already had devastating consequences for the Irish Hare. The species is now considered extinct on the island, with the likely cause believed to be the unleashing of dogs by visitors.

Minister Humphreys and Taoiseach Enda Kenny have so far disregarded calls from ICABS for at least one wildlife ranger and dog warden to be assigned to Bull Island. We have told them that every effort should be made to protect Bull Island and its wildlife, particularly as it is the site with the most designations in the Republic of Ireland. It is a UNESCO-designated biosphere reserve, a National Nature Reserve, part of the Natura 2000 Network, a Special Protection Area under the EU Birds Directive and a Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive.


Contact Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister Heather Humphreys and urge them to provide funding for at least one wildlife ranger and dog warden to be assigned exclusively to Bull Island. Remind them that Bull Island is an important and internationally recognised nature reserve and that it is imperative that the wildlife is protected.

An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny
Department of the Taoiseach,
Government Buildings,
Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2
Telephone: 01-6194020
Fax: 01-6764048
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Tweet to: @EndaKennyTD

Arts/Heritage Minister Heather Humphreys
Tel: (01) 631 3802 or (01) 631 3800
Tel: (01) 631 3802 or (01) 631 3800
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Tweet to @HHumphreysFG

Answered 26 May 2016

Clare Daly (Dublin Fingal, United Left): To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her actions to stop digging for bait on Bull Island in County Dublin, a practice naturalists describe as inconsistent with the nature reserve status of the island which is having a negative impact on birds on the mudflats. [12241/16]

Heather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael): The Bull Island is a hugely important resource for nature and for the people of Dublin and visitors to the city. It is of very high nature value and also has many other traditional uses that can co-exist with nature, if carried out on a sustainable use basis. The Bull Island is surveyed annually as part of the Irish Wetland Birds Survey, which collects data on the number of wintering birds at sites around the country. My Department reviewed the data for the Bull Island from 2001 to 2014 and has concluded that there is no evidence of any decline of the bird groups such as waterfowl and waders that use and feed on the mudflats.

My Department will continue to review data from the Bull Island and can take action if it is considered necessary.


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