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The Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation has called for co-operation and collaboration collaboration to tackle “the current and growing imbalance between EU and non-EU Members fishing rights.

The Chief Executive of the IFPO, Aodh O’Donnell, who is in London today for a Coastal States meeting, says that EU coastal states are losing out to non-EU members because the European Commission’s scientifically informed approach to quotas is subject to abuse by rogue Nordic players. The result of this approach is that the EU is losing its share of mackerel and blue whiting.”

Last week this issue was raised at meetings in Brussels and is being made a central issue to what the Irish industry considers as “not just a matter of inequity, this practice poses a serious threat to the sustainability of European fish stocks.”

“The Minister for the Marine has taken on board our concerns, but much still needs to be done. Government and industry representatives need to collaborate to level the playing field.”

Mr O’Donnell said the EU had indicated it would take a strong attitude on the issue but must do more than that and “must deliver,” he told me.

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The European Commission has given a “red card” to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago over illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

The “red card” relates to an EU regulation on IUU which provides for a co-operation framework. This aims to ensure only legally caught fishery products can be sold in the EU market.

In a statement, the European Commission said the listing of the country follows from “lack of progress in addressing the serious shortcomings outlined in the pre-identification decision of Trinidad and Tobago as a non-cooperating country, adopted in April 2016”.

“Despite the support of the EU to Trinidad and Tobago under the IUU dialogue, both in relation to the revision of the legal framework and in monitoring, control and surveillance, the country did not make sufficient progress to satisfy the requirements under the IUU legislation,” the Commission said.

“Notably, Trinidad and Tobago did not enact an adequate legal framework regulating the activities of the national fishing fleet in and beyond waters under national jurisdiction, nor the activities of third countries' fishing vessels in national ports,” it said.

“Other persistent shortcomings relate to the lack of adequate control over the national fishing fleet and the foreign fishing fleets calling to port in the country as well as the lack of necessary measures for the cessation and prevention of IUU fishing activities,” it said.

The Commission said it will “continue its dialogue with the authorities of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to help the country address the identified shortcomings”.

The EU is the world's biggest importer of fisheries products. Fighting IUU fishing is part of the EU's actions under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The global value of IUU fishing is estimated at 10-20 billion euros per year. Between 11 and 26 million tonnes of fish are caught illegally every year, corresponding to at least 15% of world catches, according to the Commission.

“The zero-tolerance approach to IUU fishing pursued by the Commission is an integral part of the European Green Deal and the EU Biodiversity Strategy,” it said.

“The Commission cooperates with partner countries in view of improving fisheries governance and ensuring that all States comply with their international obligations,” it said.

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A recent incident on Lough Foyle saw a commercial net fisherman’s licence suspended for one year after being caught illegally fishing in the waters near Redcastle, Co. Donegal.

The incident occurred on 30th June 2022, when Fishery protection officers on patrol witnessed a small white boat near the shore. The officers investigated further and saw two men aboard pulling in an illegal net and subsequently attempting to re-launch the boat.

The officers quickly intervened, identifying themselves and requesting the fishermen come ashore.

The two men were advised of their rights, and upon further inspection, a net of approximately 100 metres in length was confiscated.

On 18th April 2023 at Letterkenny Court, the elder of the two men pleaded guilty to three counts of illegal netting, and one of using a boat as an aid to the commission of an offence.

The Judge imposed a probation order against the man but ordered him to pay Loughs Agency costs of over €700, and to make a charitable donation of €350 to the RNLI.

The accused also held a commercial salmon fishing licence, and the Agency sought a one-year suspension. The Judge granted this request, suspending the licence for the entirety of 2024.

Loughs Agency enforces illegal fishing activity control on both sides of the border, protecting fish populations and their habitats.

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Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue highlighted priorities for Ireland at the EU Fisheries Council on Monday, September 14, ahead of 2024 Fishing Opportunity negotiations.

McConalogue set out Ireland’s priorities during the exchange of views ahead of the upcoming EU-UK, EU-Norway and Coastal States annual consultations on fishing opportunities for 2024. 

"Most of the commercial fish stocks on which Ireland’s fleet relies are shared with the UK"

“Most of the commercial fish stocks on which Ireland’s fleet relies are shared with the UK. Therefore, it is important that we reach a timely, balanced agreement which will support the sustainable management of our shared stocks and provide stability for EU fishers. On the EU-Norway negotiations, I reiterated Ireland’s longstanding position that those who benefit most from this agreement must pay for it”

The Minister also underlined the need for action to prevent the unsustainable actions of other Coastal States, outside of the EU, diluting the EU’s Mackerel quota share.

The Fisheries Council also discussed the Long Term Vision for the European Union’s rural areas and exchanged views on simplifying and improving European Union regulations.

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There can be no let-up in highlighting the importance of a review of the Common Fisheries Policy of the EU as vital to the future of the Irish fishing industry.

That is the view expressed by the Chief Executive of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, Sean O’Donoghue.

“The Government must take a firm stand in support of the industry,” he told me in an interview. “Support must be in action, not just words. The industry needs that from the Government. It has accepted the industry’s Review Report, which it sought and which it has got, so it must follow through. We need absolute commitment on this so that changes can be made to improve Ireland’s situation.

Sean O’Donoghue, Chief Executive of the Killybegs Fishermen’s OrganisationSean O’Donoghue, Chief Executive of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation

“ have pointed time and again to this. We need absolute commitment on this so that changes can be made. Brexit fundamentally changed the CFP. The opportunity is now and, with the EU returning to full operation again this month, this must be grasped. If Ireland doesn’t do so, there will not be another opportunity for ten years which is not acceptable.”

However, the EU Commission is trying to present such a review, and this, it seems, could be because of pressure from the other EU Member States, which have been allocated much bigger quotas to catch fish in Irish waters than the Irish fleet has been given.

“We fundamentally disagree with the Commission,” Sean O’Donoghue told me. “There must be changes, and the Government must insist on them. There can be no question of a let-up on this. It is vital that changes to benefit Ireland are achieved.

“The Common Fisheries Policy must be changed. There can be no let-up on the pressure by Ireland to achieve this.”

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Banning demersal trawling would lead to higher CO2 emissions as consumers switch to more protein produced on land, according to a new scientific paper.

Writing in the ICES Journal of Marine Science, researchers agree that demersal trawling can be highly destructive when not managed well, but when stocks are overfished, this is usually due to poor management.

The scientists led by Prof Ray Hilborn at the University of Washington and involving researchers at Heriot-Watt and Bangor universities used relative benthic status to measure the impact of trawling on the seabed.

Demersal trawls generally have higher levels of bycatch and discarding, but there have been improvements in the selectivity of gear over the past two decades.

A global assessment of relative benthic status showed very different levels of impact of trawling around the world, with severe levels in parts of the Mediterranean while the Irish Sea and west of Scotland are not quite so damaged.

Australia, Southern Chile and the Gulf of Alaska were the least depleted.

The authors agreed that areas with sensitive habitats like deep water coral should be closed to trawling, as these species can take decades or centuries to recover.

In a review of data from “whole lifecycle” assessments of different foods, they found that an average kilo of bottom-trawled fish produces 4.65 kg of CO2. While this is double the carbon footprint of chicken (2.28kg), it is one quarter the footprint of beef (19.2kg).

They point out that well-managed fisheries have lower fuel use, citing Alaskan pollock, the world’s largest whitefish fishery, as one example. It produces just 0.83kg of CO2 for every kilo of food, and the authors attribute this to enlightened fisheries management.

The authors note that catching fish in the ocean “uses no pesticides or fertilizer, almost no fresh water, and no antibiotics”.

“The global impacts from these would be increased if bottom trawling was banned and/or agriculture or aquaculture increased to compensate, although there are significant differences in these impacts among cropping systems,” it says.

The authors conclude that banning all demersal trawling would not be good for the planet if it drives consumers to another animal protein with a higher carbon footprint. They recommend improving management rather than introducing widespread bans.

The full paper is here

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Advice and data on fishing opportunities is the theme of a new app designed for the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).

The adviceXplorer provides direct links to fishing opportunity advice sheets published in the ICES library, which contain the official ICES advice.

ICES says the app is fully integrated with it databases and services and “designed to allow the user to quickly visualize and access the data used for the advice”.

Users can search for advice on over 200 fish stocks by using an interactive map of ICES eco-regions.

It also has s additional filtering options such as assessment year, stock code, and species.

Once a fish stock is selected, the trends over time, advice values, and catch scenarios are displayed through interactive plots and tables.

The data displayed in each graph can be downloaded with a button located in the top-right corner of each graph.

ICES expert groups contribute directly to adviceXplorer by uploading their stock information to its databases.

ICES says that the adviceXplorer app only displays published fishing opportunity advice.

More information is on here

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The Irish Marine Minister, Charlie McConalogue, has announced changes to the 2012 Herring Management Policy in relation to the Herring 6a South quota for non-ringfenced vessels. The Minister has set a minimum allocation of Herring 6a South quota for non-ringfenced vessels under 20 metres in length overall when Ireland's quota for the stock falls below a certain threshold. This decision was made following a full public consultation earlier this year, which attracted almost 90 submissions. The Minister examined the issues raised during the public consultation process and decided that a set quantity of the Herring 6A South quota should be allocated for non-ringfenced vessels when Ireland's quota for the stock is low.

The scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) was that both Herring stocks in the North-West (6a South and 6a North) could be managed as commercial stocks in 2023, following a scientific fishery only from 2016-2022. The public consultation carried out by the Minister related to the southern North-West Herring stock (Herring 6a South and 7bc) only. Ireland's quota for this stock for 2023 is set at 1,720 tonnes.

Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue says the Herring policy change will improve fishing opportunities for the inshore fishing families that are the linchpin of rural coastal communitiesMarine Minister Charlie McConalogue says the Herring policy change will improve fishing opportunities for rural coastal communities

The Minister's Herring Management Policy of 2012 sets aside 5% of the 6a South quota for vessels under 20 metres in length overall that did not have a qualifying track record for the fishery. However, Minister McConalogue has now decided that where Ireland's North-West Herring quota (6a South & 7bc) in the annual Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and Quota Regulation is less than 7,000 tonnes, for 2023 and future years, the 2012 Herring Policy will be modified, and a set quantity of herring will be made available for non-ringfenced vessels (vessels less than 20 metres in length overall), at a level of 350 tonnes.

The Minister has stated that this change will improve fishing opportunities for the inshore fishing families that are the linchpin of rural coastal communities. The new policy will allocate 95% of the set quantity of herring to vessels less than 15 metres in length overall, and 5% to vessels equal to or greater than 15 metres in length overall but less than 20 metres in length overall. Any adjustments (swaps, carry-over/deductions as provided by EU Regulation) will not be taken into account for establishing this threshold.

Minister McConalogue concluded that he appreciates fully the strong support given by fishers for these conservation measures and for the advice received from the North-West Herring Stakeholder Group during the scientific fishery. This new policy provides certainty to non-ringfenced inshore vessels regarding their Herring quota in Area 6A South.

There are two separate herring stocks off the North-West coast of Ireland. Ireland has a quota for both stocks. The first herring stock is found in Zone 6aS 1, 7b, 7c (Divisions 6.a South of 56°00’N and West of 07°00’W and 7.b–c (North-West and West of Ireland)) (‘6A South’ quota). The second herring stock is found in Zone 6b and 6aN; United Kingdom, and international waters of 5b2 (Division 6.a (North), autumn spawners (West of Scotland)) (‘6A North’ quota). 

The Herring stock in 6A South is of more importance and interest to Ireland, given that Ireland has the majority share of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of herring in 6A South. Furthermore, from a geographical perspective, the area 6A South has contact with the Irish coastline in the North-West of Ireland, whereas the area 6A North does not. The main stock of interest for the inshore fishers is the 6A South herring stock. Under the 2012 Herring Management Policy, vessels under 10 metres do not have access to an allocation of quota for the herring stock in 6A North.

In accordance with the 2012 Herring Management Policy, the North-West Herring fishery has a ringfenced group for vessels of 10 metres and over, who have established the necessary track record in the years 2006-2010.

The full detail of the Minister’s decision is here

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A European Parliament fisheries committee member has warned of further attempts by Nordic countries to seek greater access to Ireland’s fish stocks.

Fine Gael MEP Colm Markey made the comments following a recent meeting with the Taoiseach and representatives of the Irish fishing sector.

Markey said Ireland must “stand its ground” during negotiations on 2024 fishing opportunists, which get underway shortly.

“The main EU fishing currency is access, and there are indications that some member states are leaning towards negotiating with Iceland and the Faroe Islands regarding access to EU waters,” he said.

“The Nordic countries are interested in valuable mackerel in Irish waters while the EU would seek cod and capelin in return. Ireland must stand firm and ensure we don’t lose out,” he said.

Markey recalled how Norway had “unsuccessfully sought unfettered access to Irelands’ blue whiting grounds”.

‘Hands off our fish’ - MEP issues warning to Nordic countries

“Earlier this year, Norway behaved like a rogue state by demanding Ireland’s blue whiting while doing deals with Russia,” he said.

“The reality is these countries are not members of the EU, and Ireland is, which makes it even more imperative for our voice to be heard,” he said.

Ireland has borne the brunt of quota cuts after Brexit, and any further losses would be catastrophic, he said.

“With recent deals between Norway and Britain, the issue of access to Irish waters is very much back on the table. We need to be vigilant and tell the Nordic countries to keep their hands off our fish,” he said.

At the meeting between the Taoiseach and fishing industry representatives, Markey said he had also called for an extension to the Brexit Adjustment Reserve to allow more Irish projects to receive funding.

“It would be disastrous to send a cheque back to Brussels simply because of tight deadlines. The Taoiseach has committed to look into the matter, and I’m grateful for his support,” he said.

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A West Cork seafood business says it is scaling up salmon processing and reducing its environmental footprint with help from a Brexit support scheme.

Keohane Seafoods in Bantry, Co Cork, is one of 44 projects to share in a €26.8 million investment from the Seafood Processing Capital Support Scheme administered by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

The scheme, which has earmarked up to €45 million in funding to the seafood processing sector, is funded by the EU under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, designed to minimise the impact of Brexit.

The company’s managing director Colman Keohane said the grant aid is allowing the business to make a €1.2 million investment in new equipment, which is helping it to overcome the challenges posed by Brexit.

“Brexit had a huge impact on our business in several ways, such as the delivery of salmon and transport of finished goods,” he said.

“But by far the biggest impact was the loss of the fresh fish business in Britain, due to logistical delays that reduced the shelf life of our products,” Keohane explained.

“The grant aid we received from the Brexit Seafood Processing Capital Support Scheme has allowed us to invest in innovative processing and packaging technologies, making our business more competitive and environmentally sustainable,” he said.

New machines, including an ingredient mixer, pouch thermoformer packaging machine, salmon portioning machine, and smart grader have “transformed salmon production, helping minimise waste and increase yields”, the company says.

An upgraded enterprise resource planning software is also “giving the business greater control and visibility of its operations”, it says.

“For example, the new pouch thermoformer means we can increase the number of frozen salmon products being processed by around 50 per cent, allowing us to be competitive in the US and German frozen markets,” Keohane continued.

“Our most popular export product in the last 18 months is our infused product range and this innovative technology ensures consistency across that product line.

“The thermoformer unit is also reducing our electricity consumption while the new fillet portioner will help us minimise food waste.”

Keohane Seafoods is a family business run by Michael Keohane and his sons, Colman and Brian.

The family established the business in 2010, and employs 230 people with processing plants in Bantry and Cork city. The company supplies fresh and frozen seafood to the retail and food service markets in Ireland and overseas.

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