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Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue, today attended the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels.

The main item of discussion in relation to fisheries matters was the recent ‘package’ of fisheries policy communications on the Common Fisheries Policy from the European Commission.

The ’package’ consists of a Communication on the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP); a report on the Common Market Organisation for fisheries and aquaculture; a Communication on the energy transition of the fisheries and aquaculture sector, and an Action Plan to protect and restore marine ecosystems for sustainable and resilient fisheries.

Restore marine ecosystems

Minister McConalogue said after today’s Council: “I welcome the important progress which has been made under the current Common Fisheries Policy over the past decade in improving the sustainability of fish stocks. The Commission’s Communication recognises the fundamental role played by stakeholders in driving these positive changes. However, I am very concerned that the Commissions Review of the CFP has failed to analyse and address the impacts of Brexit, which has been the most significant and enduring challenge faced by the fisheries sector for generations.” 

“Last year, I established a national Common Fisheries Policy Review Group to identify the key issues for Ireland in any revision of the policy. The Report of that Group, which I formally submitted to the Commission, included key recommendations that the full impact of Brexit on the functioning of CFP must be addressed. I made clear today that those issues need to be addressed at EU level.”

The Minister said, “Looking to the future, I called for the development of a comprehensive EU strategy to set clear objectives that will protect and enhance Irish and EU interests. We need to plan for future fishery negotiations with countries such as Norway and the UK, to strengthen the EU’s hand. For example, we need to use all available EU tools, including market access to deal a fair and equitable outcome for our seafood industry.” 

Bottom trawling

Minister McConalogue also expressed his concerns at the Commission’s proposals for a blanket ban on bottom trawling, saying, “I support the introduction of management measures to achieve the conservation objectives set for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). I do not accept that achieving those objectives requires a blanket ban on using mobile fishing gear in all MPAs. There has been no impact assessment by the Commission on this aspect of the proposal nor have they provided any objective basis for this type of approach.”

This Council discussion was an initial exchange of views on the package, and further discussions will take place in the coming months. Minister McConalogue said, “This is a complex package and I will be taking time to consider and discuss in detail with all stakeholders in the coming weeks and months.”

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Two fishermen have won an appeal over a ban on trawling inside the Irish six-mile limit.

A judgment issued by the Court of Appeal has ruled that the Government policy directive introducing a ban on trawling inside the six nautical-mile limit is invalid and of no legal effect.

The judgment by Mr Justice Murray relates to an appeal taken by Dingle-based fisherman Tom Kennedy and Castletownbere-based fisherman Neil Minihane over a policy directive introduced by the then Minister for Marine Michael Creed on March 5th, 2019.

The Irish Wildlife Trust has described the judgment as “dreadful news for marine life in coastal waters as the courts once again overturn a ban on trawling due to a technicality”.

“This was to have come into effect three years ago, but pair trawling and other destruction continues,” the IWT said in a post on social media.

The Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (IS&WFPO) has welcomed the judgment.

The policy directive initiated by Mr Creed had ruled that all vessels over 18 metres in overall length would be banned from using trawl or seine nets inside six nautical miles, including inside the Irish coast baselines, from January 1st 2020.

A derogation was issued for certain vessels (in the polyvalent and refrigerated sea water pelagic segments) targeting sprat, up to and including December 31st, 2021.

The Court of Appeals found that the failure of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine and the department to notify Britain and the EU of conservation and management measures that would affect non-Irish vessels rendered the policy directive as invalid.

The failure to notify Britain related to the impact on Northern Irish vessels covered by reciprocal access, known as “voisinage”.

The “voisinage” arrangements between Ireland and Northern Ireland provide for reciprocal fishing access, allowing Irish registered vessels to fish within the six-nautical mile zone in Northern Ireland and Northern Irish vessels to fish within six nautical miles of Ireland.

These arrangements stand under the Brexit Trade and Co-operation Agreement, where the EU (on behalf of Ireland) is required to notify a measure -like the new policy directive - to Britain.

Both the EU and Britain have the right to make observations before measures are applied.

After the six-mile ban was introduced, both Kennedy and Minihane had taken a judicial review, and the High Court found in their favour in October 2020.

However, an appeal was lodged in November 2020 by Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue.

The ban was temporarily reinstated in 2021 by the Court of Appeal, resulting in another round of legal action by the fishermen.

The IS&WFPO has offered to assist the Minister for Marine and his department officials to “properly introduce measures that will not discriminate against fishermen on the basis of their size and their ability to catch larger or smaller quantities of non-quota fish such as sprat”.

It has also called for a scientific evaluation of all commercial fish stocks within the six-nautical mile zone, and has said no policy directives should be set for these important fisheries until this assessment is complete.

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The country’s major fishing organisations have called on the Oireachtas Committee dealing with the development of Marine Protected Areas to listen to them as it has to environmental organisations.

The country’s major fishing representative organisations have claimed that the Committee’s review process of the Marine Protected Areas Bill is “flawed” because it invited and heard submissions from environment groups but did not invite the fishing industry.

The Irish South and East Fish Producers, the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Organisation, the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation, the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation, the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation and the Aquaculture Committee of the Irish Farmers’ Association have lodged their “strongest objection at the failure to include us in consultation.”

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage is dealing with the MPAs Bill because it has been given Government responsibility for them and the Maritime Regulatory Authority (MARA).

TDs and Senators are members and met with environmental organisations - Fair Seas, BirdWatch Ireland, Irish Wildlife Trust, and Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.

The fishing organisations say they “wish to work constructively with the Committee but need to be afforded equality and respect to represent the views of their sector.”

They have sent a six-page document to the Committee, outlining their views on the MPAs Bill “on the basis we will be called before to give evidence in the same manner which was afforded to all other interested parties.”

“First and foremost, the first and aquaculture industries are not opposed to MPAs,” the document says. “We recognise and understand the need for and the value of MPAs both in the wider environmental and conservation context and in the specific value they can add to existing fisheries and food security by improving sustainability, if implemented effectively and based on scientific evidence. However, there is a need to acknowledge that Ireland’s marine area is also part of a food production system, and fisheries and aquaculture provide a vital source of protein. Balance is needed to ensure food security, economic activities, sustainable and resilient fisheries, protection of diversity, and support the fight against climate change.”

Published in Marine Planning

BIM’s new chief executive Caroline Bocquel has warned the offshore renewable energy (ORE) sector that it must improve its communication with the Irish fishing industry.

She has also told offshore wind developers that there should be “minimal impact” on the commercial fishing sector, which is already experiencing significant challenges, including the impact of Brexit.

Addressing the second national seafarers’ conference in Limerick late last month, Bocquel said that communication is a “key piece”, and such communication must be “early” and “authentic” and “not just for the sake of it”.

Communication has to be a “key part of the discussion”, she said.

She noted that Ireland’s seafood/ORE working group chaired by Capt Robert McCabe had done “huge work” on this and would be producing a set of communication protocols.

These communication protocols need to be “embedded” in the consenting regime to the extent that they “cannot be sidelined”, she said.

A second lesson which Ireland could learn from other jurisdictions is the need to work together, with discussions that could lead to better understanding.

She said that the current “developer-led” approach was “very problematic” as there were already “lines on maps”.

“We really need to be engaging on impact before drawing lines on maps,” she said.

She cited exclusion zones around wind farms, and the impact of such infrastructure on marine species, along with the appeals process, as concerns for the fishing industry.

She said BIM was working with the Marine Institute on gathering data.

While some developers were engaging directly with the industry or through representative organisations, others were not engaging at all, she said.

She said BIM was looking at technical support in relation to opportunities and approaches to co-location and developing training opportunities for fishers in the ORE sector.

Irish South and East Fish Producers’ Organisation chief executive John Lynch said that he had warned the ORE and fishing industry sectors were on a “collision course” last year, and this was still the case.

The fishing industry was “united” in its concerns about spatial squeeze, and food security was an important human requirement as energy.

He said the industry was working on its own marine spatial plan from a fishing industry point of view, as the Irish state had failed to produce one.

Several speakers were critical of the lack of a marine spatial plan, while consultant Michael Keatinge called for coastal communities/the fishing industry to have an actual equity stake in ORE projects – not just compensation.

He said there was a “klondyke” for ORE in Irish waters, and dialogue with the fishing industry had not developed at all.

The project off the Donegal coast involving Hexagon and the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) showed there could be a new approach, he said, and the fishing industry was not against offshore wind but “just wants to be part of it”.

Marine scientist Damien Haberlin of University College Cork’s MaREI research centre for energy, climate and marine spoke of the gaps in knowledge on the impact of offshore wind.

Whereas there were tens of thousands of scientific papers on the biomedical sector, there were less than 200 papers relating to ORE, he said.

Haberlin said that if he had a “pot of money”, he would wish to spend it on research into the cumulative effects of offshore wind farms, both spatial and temporal.

Though there would be a price for not developing ORE in the context of climate change, “let’s do it, but let’s do it right”, Haberlin said.

Published in BIM
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Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue has refused to be drawn on calls for the State to take specific measures to ensure a route for young entrants into the fishing industry to buy vessels in the future.

Interviewed by journalists at The Skipper Expo in the University of Limerick (UL) this weekend, Mr McConalogue also said he still believed commercial fishing was a “dynamic sector” in spite of the latest challenges posed by Brexit, which resulted in considerable loss of national fish quota.

The Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO) has called on the State to reserve some tonnage from vessels which are accepted for the national decommissioning scheme – introduced in response to the loss of quota due to Brexit.

Keeping a “bank” of tonnage in State hands would allow for new entrants to build vessels in the future, the IFPO has said.

Asked about this, Mr McConalogue would not comment specifically beyond reiterating that the decommissioning scheme was a seafood taskforce recommendation supported by the fishing industry organisations.

Scrapping up to 60 boats would allow for more quota for those remaining, after loss of quota due to Brexit, he said.

Speaking earlier to Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show, Mr McConalogue said that though he came from a farming background, he was at school with people from the fishing community and he would do everything he possibly could to support the sector.

“We have seen stocks become depleted because of overfishing generally...so we have been moving to a situation where we apply sustainability at all levels to how we fish,”he said.

He said he was also working to ensure the best outcome in relation to Norway’s bid to secure more blue whiting off the Irish coast.

He said there were opportunities in offshore energy, and there would be “jobs for those who have expertise at sea”.

Mr McConalogue said that a new sustainable fisheries scheme would ensure that use of sustainable catching gear and fuel efficiency measures would be eligible for capital grants.

Listen to the full interview with Mr McConalogue on The Pat Kenny Show here

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EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius say the EU wants to establish a “pact for fisheries and oceans” to ensure sustainable fisheries, protect and restore marine ecosystems and strengthen long-term food security.

The Commissioner was commenting as the European Commission published four action plans relating to biodiversity and climate breakdown in the marine environment.

Phasing out bottom trawling, extending marine protected areas and reducing reliance on fossil fuel are main themes of the four plans, arising from the European “Green Deal”.

The four plans are: 

Communication on the Energy Transition of the EU Fisheries and Aquaculture sector

an Action Plan to protect and restore marine ecosystems for sustainable and resilient fisheries

Communication on the common fisheries policy today and tomorrow and 

Report on the Common Market Organisation for fishery and aquaculture products.

The EU said the main objectives of the measures are “to promote the use of cleaner energy sources and reduce dependency on fossil fuels as well as reduce the sector’s impact on marine ecosystems”.

“The proposed actions will be carried out gradually to help the sector adapt,”it said.

“ A “Pact for Fisheries and Oceans” will also support the full implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in coordination with member states and fisheries stakeholders, including fishers, producer organisations, regional advisory councils, civil society and scientists,”the Commission said.

“The proposals also have at its heart making the sector an attractive job place for the younger generations,”it said.

The proposed “pact” aims “to ensure sustainable and resilient fisheries, protect and restore our marine ecosystems, make the sector profitable and strengthen our food security in the long-term”, the Commissioner said.

“We are proposing concrete actions to restore marine ecosystems and to reduce the impact of fishing activities on the marine environment, thus responding also to the commitments the EU made in the historic agreement reached at COP15 in Montreal on a new global biodiversity framework,”he said.

“ We are also promoting an energy transition to help the sector adapt its vessels and equipment, improve working conditions and move towards renewable, low-carbon energy sources,”he said.

“ We know this is a challenging task. For this reason, the transformation will be gradual and we will promote dialogue between all communities to lay the foundation for a resilient fisheries and aquaculture sector,” he said.

The Commissioner gave a press conference which can be viewed here https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-237641.

More information is also provided by the European Commission on the following links:

Q&A on the Communication on the functioning of the common fisheries policy

Q&A on the Action Plan to protect and restore marine ecosystems for sustainable and resilient fisheries

Q&A on the energy transition in the EU fisheries and aquaculture sector

Q&A on the Report on the results of Common Market Organisation for fishery and aquaculture products

Factsheet

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Two non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have dubbed the European Commission’s action plans for biodiversity and climate change in ocean and fisheries as “inaction plans”.

NGOs Birdwatch Ireland and Our Fish were responding to the European Commission’s publication of four EU action plans related to the marine, born out of the European Green Deal.

Our Fish programme director Rebecca Hubbard said they “fail to jump the chasm from lofty rhetoric to a roadmap for meaningful action that would both transform European fisheries and address the planetary crisis”.

“While we welcome the European Commission’s Marine Action Plan’s proposal to map seabed carbon and the impact of bottom trawling in EU waters, the proposal is too little, too slow and fails to address extraction of fish and CO2 emissions”, said Hubbard.

“The EU must end the ploughing up of seabed carbon stores, the excessive removal of the ocean’s carbon engineers such as fish, and the CO2 emissions from vessels burning subsidised fossil fuel. These practices are neither good fisheries management nor good carbon management and the Commission’s Marine Action Plan fails to put this right within the urgent timeframes we need,” she said.

“More positively, in its report on the Evaluation of the functioning of the Common Fisheries Policy, the European Commission has taken important steps forward in committing to develop an economic tool that properly values natural marine ecosystem services to society and developing a guide for EU member states to utilise environmental, social and economic criteria for the allocation of fishing quota,” she said.

“By allocating access to fish based on environmental or social performance criteria, the EU can drive the transition to a low-carbon, low-impact fishing fleet that restores the ocean and delivers thriving fisheries,” she said.

“However, the proposed EU Action Plan: Energy transition of EU fisheries and aquaculture appears to be more of a discussion paper than an ‘action plan’,” she continued.

“ An economic incentive is clearly needed to drive the decarbonisation of the EU fishing sector, along with a financial penalty for failing to implement it,” Hubbard said.

“ In addition, the Energy Taxation Directive must eliminate all fuel subsidies, while the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) must be updated to require that at least 35% of any support goes to transitioning to low impact and low carbon fishing - anything less is gross hypocrisy,”she said.


“This Commission and European Parliament have just over a year left in their mandates, yet the climate and biodiversity emergency does not stand for election or wait for endorsement,” she said.

“Our Fish is calling on the European Commission and EU member state governments to ditch the rhetoric and take definitive action by immediately beginning to implement and strengthen the measures described in these proposals and for members of the European Parliament to support them in doing so,” Hubbard said.

Earlier this month, the Low Impact Fishers of Europe (LIFE), of which the Irish Islands Marine Resources Organisation is a member, renewed its call for the implementation of Article 17.

Article 17 of the Basic Regulation (EU Regulation 1380/2013) requires that member states allocate fishing opportunities using “objective and transparent criteria, including those of an environmental, social and economic nature”.

It also calls on member states “to endeavour to provide incentives to fishing vessels deploying selective fishing gear or using fishing techniques with reduced environmental impact”.”

LIFE is calling for a comprehensive and all-round response to implementing Article 17, calling on member state governments, the European Commission, and members of the European Parliament to step up to their role in addressing the lack of action on Article 17.

Birdwatch Ireland marine policy and advocacy officer Sinead Loughran said, “there is just over a year left in the current Commission and European Parliament term, but the climate and biodiversity emergencies demand immediate action and continue unabated regardless of our political cycles”.

“We need immediate action from our Government and the Commission in beginning to implement and strengthen the measures described in the package of proposals published today, and members of the European Parliament need to support them in doing so,”she said.

“ These legal obligations already exist, and the implementation cannot wait any longer if we are to ensure a healthy ocean for biodiversity, for climate and for healthy, sustainable fisheries,” Loughran said.

In May 2021, sixteen European NGOs published a detailed shadow action plan * to provide key recommendations for the European Commission’s Action plan to conserve fisheries resources and protect marine ecosystems.

* Joint NGO Shadow Action Plan: Realising the Ambition of the EU Biodiversity Strategy in the Ocean: Key recommendations for the European Commission’s Action plan to conserve fisheries resources and protect marine ecosystems

Published in Fishing

Three national marine events take place in Limerick next week, involving offshore wind energy, aquaculture and the fishing industry.

On the eve of the Irish Skipper Expo at the University of Limerick (UL), IFA Aquaculture is hosting its annual conference and annual general meeting at the Kilmurry Lodge Hotel in Castletroy on February 23rd.

Separately, Simply Blue offshore wind developers are hosting the second annual Seafarers’ Conference with the National Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI) at the Castletroy Park, Hotel, also on February 23rd.

The Irish Skipper Expo runs over two days at UL from Friday, February 24th-25th.

Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue and newly appointed BIM chief executive Caroline Bocquel are keynote speakers at the IFA Aquaculture conference, which will hear about BIM support for the industry, the carbon footprint of the Irish aquaculture sector, licensing and marine protected areas (MPAs).

Ms Bocquel is also participating in the Seafarers’ Conference, on the theme “Thriving Fishing, Thriving Offshore Wind, Thriving Ports and Coastal Communities – Can We Do It?”

The in-person and online conference will hear from Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research and Innovation Simon Harris by video-link.

Scientists, fishing industry representatives, offshore wind developers and consultants and Government officials will participate in the one-day event, which will focus on how the fishing industry and offshore wind can co-exist.

Over 140 companies and Government agencies will be participating in The Irish Skipper Expo, with the latest fishing vessel designs on display along with exhibits by the Irish Coast Guard, BIM and others.

Full details of all three events are on the links below

https://www.ifa.ie/agmaqua/

https://simplybluegroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/NMCI-Seafarers-Conference-2023-Programme.pdf

https://theskipper.ie/doors-open-one-week-today-irish-skipper-expo-2023/

Published in Fishing

A European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) surveillance aircraft was involved in the recent detention of a German-registered Spanish vessel in the Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

In a joint statement, the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) and Naval Service said that the apprehension was the result of a joint operation under the EFCA western waters joint deployment plan.

The vessel, named Ortega Tres, was the fourth detention to have been recorded by the Naval Service this year.

The patrol ship LÉ Samuel Beckett detained it on February 7th, and it was escorted into Castletownbere where it was handed over to the Garda authorities on February 13th.

At a subsequent court hearing in Bandon, the skipper of the German-registered gillnetter, Ramon Novo Martinez, was charged with a total of 25 fishing offences on various dates between a date unknown in December 2022 and February 3rd 2023 while fishing within the exclusive fishing limits of the Irish State.

The SFPA and Naval Service said it followed “extensive analysis of the vessel’s Electronic Logbook (ERS) and Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) positions over a number of weeks”.

“An intelligence-led operation with multi-agency cooperation led to the detention,” the statement said.

An “intel report” from a confidential source on January 6th was received by both bodies on January 6th last, and the fisheries monitoring centre (FMC) then tracked the vessel once it entered the Irish EEZ in late January, the statement said.

The Naval Service then requested aerial surveillance by an aircraft chartered by the EFCA, which had a flight plan for the Irish EEZ at that time under the joint deployment plan.

“The flight plan was amended to monitor this vessel, and the video footage gathered verified the intel received as well as additional evidence gathered,” the statement said.

“The Naval Service had a sea-fisheries protection officer on-site at the EFCA Coordination Centre ... analysing this aerial footage as it was live steamed back to both the SFPA and the FMC,” it said.

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Fishing industry representative Patrick Murphy intends to contest the next European elections in the Ireland South constituency.

Murphy who is chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO), may also stand for the local elections next year.

Murphy says he has been selected by political party Aontú, which is estimated to have 4% national support in a recent opinion poll.

Aontú is lead by Peadar Tóibín, a former member of both Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin.

Tóibín resigned from Sinn Féin in 2018 over his anti-abortion stance, and formed Aontú in January 2019.

Toíbín has said his party aims to win an Ireland South seat in the five-seater Ireland South constituency, which is currently represented by MEPs from three government parties and Independent Mick Wallace

As The Southern Star reports, Murphy gained national attention last year after he “took on the Russian navy and secured a deal for them to move their controversial manoeuvres further away from West Cork fishers’ grounds”.

Murphy (52), who is married to Rose, with four children, is a Heir island native, and is from a well known fishing family. He has been involved in mussel production in Roaringwater Bay for the past 25 years.

He told the newspaper it was time to “put his money where his mouth is” and fight for the rights of the fishing community.

“I see what is coming down the tracks from Europe, especially with regards to fishing, and getting a fairer deal for what’s left of our fishers is my main objective now,” he said.

“ I’ve spent my whole life intimately involved in the life of our coastal community,” he said.

“I’ve coached the Gabriel Rangers Gaelic football team and set up the Ballydehob Youth Centre,” he said.

He is also a member of the local community First Responders and a qualified instructor and also holds a qualification in childcare from Rossa College in Skibbereen.

“Through my work with the IS&WFPO, I’m acutely aware that the Irish people and specifically, our coastal communities are so dependent on fishing for their livelihood and survival, and that they are being failed at a European Union level,” he said.

“ We need politicians to represent us in the European Union who have the strength and courage to stand up to vested interests working in and around the European Council, Commission and Parliament in Brussels while protecting our Irish interests and specifically the interests of our fishing and farming communities,”he said.

“We need people who understand how the legislative and lobbying systems operating in Brussels affect the daily lives of ordinary people here in Ireland,” Murphy said.

Read more in The Southern Star here

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