Harvesting in the Biosphere


Humans of the Biosphere by Derek Skehan

For centuries now people have been digging for bait on the mudflats off the Bull Island. No machinery, chemicals, or fancy utensils are used, just rudimentary shovels. 

John Hughes is a second generation bait digger, his father supplied fish & tackle shops across Dublin. “I feel I’ve been part of the biosphere all my life. Digging bait is part of fishing, it’s the beginning, the start of the whole process. I avoid buying bait that’s caught in a much more invasive way”

Edwin Huang from China travels from Donnybrook to dig bait. His sentiments are the same as Johns. “I enjoy digging for bait, it’s part of angling, I did it in China and I do it here. It’s nice out here and there’s so much going on on what looks like empty mud flats, I enjoy being part of the Biosphere"


The Official Line on Bait Digging

“Bait digging has been flagged as an issue in the biosphere, particularly where it disturbs particular habitats/species.”

Where disturbance is avoided then it’s possible to harvest on a non-commercial basis.

However, the commercial harvesting of shellfish is a matter for the Dept. Agriculture, Forestry and the Marine – DAFM – who administer the licencing of such activities.

As the consenting authority, it would be a matter for DAFM, while assessing such activities, to consider the impacts on the Qualifying Interests/Special Conservation Interests of relevant Natura 2000 sites. Sutton Creek falls within the following Natura 2000 protected sites: the North Bull Island Special Protection Area for Birds (SPA) https://www.npws.ie/protected-sites/spa/004006 and the North Dublin Bay Special Area of Conservation (SAC) https://www.npws.ie/protected-sites/sac/000206

Where unlicenced activity occurs, DAFM has the responsibility for investigation and enforcement.


Under the Sea-Fisheries Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006, the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) is the independent statutory body responsible for the State’s sea-fisheries law enforcement functions. The SFPA’s contact details are available on the Authority’s website, https://www.sfpa.ie/.