Press Release – Hydraulic dredging stopped

In the High Court Dublin Ireland on Wednesday 18th September Mr Justice Richard Humphreys granted an interim injunction, with immediate effect, preventing razor shell dredging in the Waterford estuary until such time as the court has decided a Coastwatch challenge of the Sea Fishery Protection Authority’s consent process for opening the fisheries.

Coastwatch is an environmental NGO concerned with the protection of marine biodiversity and the sustainable use of marine resources. The organisation is challenging a decision to open a fishery for razor clams in Waterford estuary without first carrying out the necessary assessments under EU law.

“We are so relieved with this decision” said Karin Dubsky, co-ordinator and co-founder of Coastwatch. “The hydraulic dredging method used in the harvesting of razor clams penetrates about 25 cm into the seafloor, taking up not just the targeted razor clams – where many get broken – but also any other sea life and archaeological artefacts which are in the dredge path.

The Waterford estuary is a European site Special Area of Conservation (SAC) with many ship wrecks. If the dredging had been allowed to continue until the court proceedings were decided, untold damage could have been done in the interim.”

Mr Justice Humphreys found that the greatest risk of injustice lay in refusing the interim injunction and that to allow the dredging to continue, even for a few days longer, was not appropriate.

Coastwatch was represented by James Devlin SC and Margaret Heavey BL, instructed by Harrington and Company Solicitors from Bantry with further advice by John Wilde Crosbie BL.

Coastwatch first applied for leave to bring the case to the High Court a week ago. Counsel argued that the decision to allow razor-clam fishing required a screening for an appropriate assessment as the razor shell beds which had been opened to dredging were in and near to a site designated for protection under the EU Habitats Directive. The application for a full judicial review was granted by Judge Humphreys in principle, subject to the Court’s agreement to matters which will come before the Court again next Wednesday.

Note to the Editor

The Waterford estuary is one of the sites which Coastwatch and the Irish Wildlife Trust are focussing on to support best possible Marine Protected Area management as part of an international Bigger and Better MPA project – see

Razor shells used to be collected by hand and skill at low tide using salt. The hydraulic dredge method is very efficient and damages much of what is brought up. It is prohibited in Northern Ireland but has grown rapidly in the Republic of Ireland as the price of razor shells is high. Most are exported live to China with some going to Spain.


Further Information: Karin Dubsky Coastwatch coordinator 086 8111 684

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