Fish Stocks

Fishing Vessel

Ireland ’s coastal and marine waters continue to provide significant quantities of fish. The big concern, however, is the sustainability of this level of exploitation with many fish species being fished to dangerously low levels. If too many fish are removed there will be insufficient numbers left to renew fish stocks. There is now concern about the levels of sole, whiting and sea bass in open waters while, closer to the seabed, the levels of cod are declining in the West of Ireland and Celtic Sea. 

To compensate for this decline, fishing fleets have been catching fish in deeper waters, but many of these fish, such as ling, halibut and orange roughy, live for long periods and so are slow to reproduce.

Over-exploitation of our fisheries resources remains a significant environmental problem for Ireland. The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority show the current uptake of fishing quotas for Irish areas, which can be viewed on their website.


Employment over the 2009 to 2018 period, has fluctuated between 1,700 and 1,900. In 2018, 1,948 persons, equating to 1,077 Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) were directly employed, over 80% of whom are located on the western seaboard. Only 7% of the workforce is female. 

From 2009 to 2018, the level of overall aquaculture output has followed a cyclical trend varying from 30,000 to 50,000 tonnes over 10 years as the outputs of salmon farms, historically the most economically important aquaculture sector and to a lesser extent, bottom grown mussel, fluctuated over the period. Overall, value has seen a net gain from under 100 million to 180 million, despite limitations to output. Aquaculture remains mainly export-driven, marine based, with a smaller land-based or freshwater aquaculture sector. Apart from the practice in native oyster culture, there is a move away from seasonal employment in the shellfish sector, due to associated rising costs (BIM, 2020).

Overall, production value has seen a net gain from under €100 million in 2009 to €180 million in 2018. 

The risks posed by this industry to the environment relate mainly to waste deposits around fish cages, chemical use, sea lice infestation and escape and interbreeding with wild species. Overall however there is little evidence of damage to sea waters, as many cages are located in areas with good water flushing.

previousPrevious - Pollutant Levels in Fish
Next - Marine Protected Areasnext