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A Species of Delusion : The Inspectors of Irish Fisheries, 1819–2019

A Species of Delusion : The Inspectors of Irish Fisheries, 1819–2019

Noël P. Wilkins

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A Species of Delusion? The Inspectors of Irish Fisheries, 1819–2019 tells the story of how the Inspectors of Irish Fisheries were established, who they were, how they functioned, and their contribution to the present-day management and regulation of Irish fisheries.

The fishery laws of Ireland in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were acknowledged to be among the most complex in the statute book. The task of implementing them, and of monitoring the fisheries, fell to a body called the Inspectors of Irish Fisheries, first established in 1819. There were six distinct Inspectorates in series from then until today. Their tasks were so demanding that an early inspector claimed that the body was ‘a species of delusion’. Far from a delusion, they were influential as models for the emergence of similar bodies in England and Scotland.

As early as 1855, they were feted at the Paris International Exhibition. Later they were involved in the acclimatisation of salmon in Australia. The fourth Inspectorate, commencing in 1900, was acclaimed as one of the foremost marine biology centres in the world. Having declined almost to extinction during the early days of national independence, a new Inspectorate, the sixth, grew in strength from the middle of the twentieth century to become a foundation pillar of today’s Marine Institute, Inland Fisheries Ireland and the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority.

Written for a general readership and based on extensive research on public records and documents, this new volume on fisheries administration is a worthy addition to the list of books on Irish fisheries, notably by the author. These include Ponds, Passes and Parcs: Aquaculture in Victorian Ireland (1989), Alexander Nimmo: Master Engineer (2009) and Humble Works for Humble People (2017). Noël P. Wilkins is a retired professor of the National University of Ireland, Galway. A graduate in science and law, he entered the field of fisheries as a student in the sixth Inspectorate. He subsequently became a senior scientific officer in the Marine Laboratory (Aberdeen) of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland. On returning to Ireland, he was appointed lecturer, later professor, in zoology at Galway, specialising in the genetics of fish and shellfish. The author of almost one hundred research papers and several books, he has worked and lectured widely in Europe, North America, Japan and Greenland.



  1. Introduction and Overview
  2. First Fisheries Commission and Fishery Inspectorate, 1819–1830
  3. Interregnum, 1830–1842
  4. Second Fishery Inspectorate, 1842–1869
  5. A Decade of Turbulence and Change, 1860–1869
  6. Evolution of the Fishery Administration in Britain, 1860–1880: The Irish Influence
  7. Science and Fisheries Regulation: Enter the Naturalists, 1860–1902
  8. Third Fishery Inspectorate, 1870–1899
  9. Prelude to Fourth Fishery Inspectorate: Ireland and Marine Science, 1860–1891
  10. 10 Science to the Fore: Fourth Fishery Inspectorate, 1900–1922
  11. Scientific Personnel of Fourth Fishery Inspectorate
  12. A Slow Demise: Fishery Inspectors in Saorstat Eireann, 1922–1946
  13. A New Republic and Changed Inspectorate: Resurrection, Transformation, Culmination, 1946–2019

Additional Information

Author Noël P. Wilkins
Publisher Institute of Public Administration
Publication date 1 Oct 2020
Format Paperback
ISBN/EAN 9781910393307

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