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Importance of the marine environment 9 December 2005

    The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Hon Phil Gawne MHK, has emphasised the importance of the marine environment.

    “As an Island nation, the sea plays an important part in our heritage,” said the Minister. “We have to balance the opportunities it gives us for fishing and leisure, for example, with responsible management and conservation of the marine environment.”

    The Minister chaired a meeting on Wednesday evening (7th December) at the Villa Marina, when members of the fishing industry and scientific advisers met to discuss commercial sea fisheries. Last week, the Chief Executive of the Manx Fish Producers’ Organisation, Mr Tom Bryan-Brown, gave a talk at Port Erin Marine Laboratory.

    “The industry has good, practical knowledge of the sea, and recognises that its own well-being depends on the well-being of the marine environment,” said Mr Gawne. “Scientific research can suggest ways for the fishing industry to move forward, while still keeping a good balance.”

    Bonn Convention on Migratory Species

    The Minister welcomed recent developments in respect of protection of basking sharks, which have now been included under the Bonn Convention on Migratory Species.

    “The Isle of Man has led the way in giving legal protection to basking sharks,” said Mr Gawne. “It is now 15 years since fishing and trade in basking sharks were outlawed in Manx waters under the Wildlife Act 1990.”

    Basking sharks were not protected in UK waters until 1998, and are not yet protected in the waters of Ireland.

    “The Isle of Man is a hotspot for basking sharks in the British Isles,” explained the Minister, “so we have a special responsibility to protect this species in Manx waters, and promote its protection throughout its whole range.”

    Manx Wildlife Trust

    Sightings of basking sharks reported to the Manx Wildlife Trust are now forwarded to the Marine Conservation Society database for sightings throughout the British Isles. The Manx Wildlife Trust has also set up a website where people can keep up to date with the latest sightings and also learn all about these plankton-eating fish and their biology.

    “Through sending in sightings to the Manx Wildlife Trust, the Manx public can make a valuable contribution to the conservation of an internationally important species,” said Mr Gawne.

    Marine lecture

    The Minister also invited the public to attend another in the series of lectures on the marine environment which has been organised by the Wildlife and Conservation Division.

    The lecture is to be held at 8.00pm on Tuesday 13th December in the Erin Arts Centre. The speaker will be Dr Peter Evans of the Seawatch Foundation. Dr Evans will be talking about Whales and dolphins in the Irish Sea.

    This talk will provide an insight into the surprising number of whale and dolphin species that frequent the Irish Sea, from harbour porpoises to killer whales. It will also explain how everyone can get involved in improving our knowledge of these species.

    “Whales, dolphins and porpoises are protected under our own Wildlife Act,” said Mr Gawne, “and they again are also protected under the Bonn Convention.”

    Everyone is welcome to attend Dr Evans’ lecture. There is no charge, and there will be refreshments.

    9th December 2005

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