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The Irish South and West Fish Producer’s Organisation will hold a meeting about the fishing industry Decommissioning Scheme At the Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa, Ennis Road, Limerick, on Wednesday, January 18.

It says this is “in response to requests and to allow people voice their opinions on the Scheme and on the offers that apply to them.”

As Afloat reported on January 11th, BIM issued letters of offer to 57 Irish fishing vessels under the fishing vessel Voluntary Permanent Cessation Scheme, funded under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, with total funding of up to €75 million.

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Irish fishing industry representatives have held what they described as a ‘positive’ meeting with the EU Fisheries Commission in Brussels. In a joint statement issued after the meeting yesterday afternoon, the Irish delegation said they feel there has been “a significant shift, and there is now a better understanding of the Irish position”.

The two-hour meeting was held with senior members of the EU Fisheries Commission negotiating team. It took place as a fourth round of talks between Norway and the EU Fisheries Commission is due to open in Brussels today.

The Irish industry representatives say they had a very clear message for the EU negotiating team. They emphasised that “access for Norway to Irish blue whiting grounds east of the 12 degrees west line, must be paid for by a reciprocal transfer of Norway’s blue whiting quota to Ireland.”

L to R, Sean O’Donoghue, chief executive of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO); Anna O’Sullivan, Dept of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM) negotiator; Colm Ó Súilleabháin, Irish Fisheries Attaché; Brendan Byrne, chief executive of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA); Aodh O Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO); and Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (ISWFPO).L to R, Sean O’Donoghue, chief executive of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO); Anna O’Sullivan, Dept of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM) negotiator; Colm Ó Súilleabháin, Irish Fisheries Attaché; Brendan Byrne, chief executive of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA); Aodh O Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO); and Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (ISWFPO)

The representatives said they felt satisfied that there had been a positive engagement process with the EU today. They included: Aodh O Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO), Brendan Byrne, chief executive of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA), Sean O’Donoghue, chief executive of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) and Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (ISWFPO).

The Irish delegation said their purpose in travelling to Brussels was to deliver the right outcome from the EU-Norway talks for their members in the fishing industry. Earlier yesterday, they also met the Irish Fisheries Attaché, Colm Ó Súilleabháin and Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine negotiator, Anna O’Sullivan.

The delegation says a range of further meetings are expected to take place in Brussels over the coming weeks.

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Irish fishing representatives have called for a wider debate on the potential growth of seafood exports. 

Three organisations have questioned why Ireland is not benefiting more from its own resource, and have appealed for “growth” in seafood to be “put on the agenda”.

The Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO), Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) and Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA) noted that Irish seafood exports delivered less than 1 % growth over the last five years, whereas Norway, a non-EU member with a similar population, delivered seafood export growth of 25 % in the last year alone.

“In 2022, their seafood exports were worth €14bn, compared to just €0.674bn for Irish exports,”IFPO chief executive Aodh O’Donnell said.

“ They have succeeded where we have faltered, as they now export 20 times the value of Irish exports annually, with EU markets accounting for 43% of this,” he said.

“Our economy and coastal communities should benefit from the resource our waters represent. Instead, other EU and non-EU fleets are increasingly permitted to catch more fish in our waters than the Irish fleet,” he said.

“Yet the EU re-opens talks this week to consider Norway’s request to catch 450,000 tonnes of blue whiting. This is over nine times the size of Ireland’s quota. Furthermore, Norway is seeking to catch most of their blue whiting quota from our stocks in Irish waters,” O’Donnell said.

EU-Norway talks resumed this week after breaking down in December over a number of issues, including greater access to Irish waters for blue whiting.

“The EU must ensure fairness is central to any proposal to grant Norway greater access to Irish waters. Ireland cannot be expected to acquiesce to these new and additional requests for access unless we are offered a reciprocal arrangement,” O’Donnell said.

While other EU states seek access to Norway’s waters for cod stocks, it is “unthinkable, unjust and inequitable that everyone else should gain at Ireland’s expense,” he said.

“It’s time the EU acted positively to support the growth of Ireland’s seafood sector instead of constantly allocating us an unfair share of fishing quotas. Our quotas were decimated in 2021, dropping 15 % after the disastrous Brexit agreement,” he said.

“ Under this agreement, 40% of the EU quota transferred to the UK came from Ireland, far more than was taken from any other EU State. The national response to this has been to shrink the whitefish fleet by 30 % through a permanent decommissioning instead of seeking a fairer quota,” he said.

“Most of our stocks are in a healthy state. We need fair treatment and to steer a new course if our seafood sector is to survive and grow, like Norway’s,” he said.

IFPEA chief executive Brendan Byrne said the Government “must maintain the position that any new access for Norway to our fishing grounds must be treated separately from the existing EU-Norway historical agreement”.

“To cede any part of Ireland’s traditional fishing grounds requires a separate arrangement by the EU which compensates us for any displacement,” he said.

IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy said that if Norway is seeking access to any part, however small or large, of Ireland’s fishing grounds south of 56 degrees or east of 12 degrees, then “this is a new request”.

“Ireland must not allow pieces of these fishing grounds to be ceded away in a piecemeal fashion,” he said.

“ A firm position must be taken until a clear arrangement is reached which benefits Ireland as much as Norway. Ireland must no longer attend the table as a perpetual loser; we must be prepared to walk away and refuse to countenance any additional unfair deal with a non-EU member,” Murphy said.

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Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue has said he is increasing the budget for scrapping whitefish fishing vessels from 60 million to 75 million euros.

As Afloat reported earlier, offers will be made to 57 owners, he said, and tax reliefs will increase proportionately as part of the budget increase.

He also pledged to continue conveying “Ireland’s concerns” at EU level over Norway’s bid to gain greater access to fishing grounds off the west coast.

McConalogue made the commitment at a meeting on Tuesday with fishing industry representatives in the Marine Institute in Galway, on the eve of resumed negotiations between the EU and Norway on a fisheries agreement.

“Our interests relate to blue whiting and the level of the transfer of blue whiting quota to Norway to pay for other fishing opportunities that the EU is seeking and the level of access to EU waters which, in practice, involves fishing in Ireland’s 200 miles zone,” he said.

“These negotiations will re-commence on Wednesday. The discussions with Irish industry representatives today were very useful and enabled a full consideration of the issues and the negotiating options,” he said.

He said he was pleased that a number of industry representatives would attend and “assist my team as the negotiations progress”.

“I advised that I am continuing to engage directly with EU Fisheries and Environment Commissioner Sinkevicious to ensure that he understands Irelands’ concerns and its priorities in these negotiations,” he said.

The marine minister said he also used the opportunity to provide an update on the voluntary scheme to decommission fishing vessels as recommended by the Seafood Taskforce.

Updating the industry on voluntary decommissioning, which aims to voluntarily remove 8,000 GT and 21,000 KW to “rebalance” the whitefish fleet and improve the viability of the remaining fleet, he said that an increase in budget was required.

He said this was due to the level of interest from vessel owners and the calculations from BIM on the levels of direct payments required to meet the objective of the scheme.

McConalogue said he has successfully sought additional funds from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and secured an updated EU State Aid approval to increase the budget from 60 million euro to 75 million euro, with “tax reliefs increasing proportionately”.

“Offers for voluntary decommissioning will now be made to 57 vessel owners, and the decommissioning of those vessels will make available an extra €34m in quota for the remainder of the whitefish fleet, improving their profitability and securing the future of the fleet,” he said.

“I am satisfied that I have now enabled all those who have chosen to apply for this scheme to receive the full value of the scheme payment as guided by the Seafood Taskforce recommendation,” he said.

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A new permit scheme giving non-EEA migrant fishers the same rights as EU crew members has been welcomed by the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO).

The Department of Justice confirmed the new arrangements this week, which provide for a “more streamlined process”, the IFPO says.

Under the new scheme, all holders of a current valid permission to work as a non-EEA crew member under the Atypical Working Scheme (AWS) in the Irish Fishing Fleet expiring on or after January 1st 2023 will be granted a Stamp 4 immigration permission.

IFPO chief executive Aodh O Donnell said the award of Stamp 4 permission” is a critical and much embraced change to the status of crew employed in the Irish fishing fleet under the auspices of the problematic Atypical Working Scheme”.

“Our members have worked hard with us, as a representative body, to support the right of all non-EEA migrant fishers to fair treatment and for fit for purpose permitting. This is positive news with the introduction of measures to protect migrant fishers and to grant them the full rights and entitlements under employment legislation,” O’Donnell said.

“This legislative change gives qualifying non-EEA crew the same full entitlements as EU crew and the option to avail of the share-based remuneration. Furthermore, the process of permitting is streamlined for both crew and vessel owners. Costs of administration are also radically reduced to the benefit of all stakeholders,”he said.

The IFPO paid tribute to Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue and Minister of State with responsibility for Employment Affairs Damien English for “spearheading this much needed legislative initiative”.

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Irish fishing industry organisations have welcomed the “breakdown” of attempts by Norway to seek unrestricted access to blue whiting grounds off the Irish coast.

“Now is the time for the Irish Government and the EU to address the massive disparity in Ireland’s share of EU fishing quotas,” three organisations have said in a joint statement.

The statement by the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO), Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) and the Irish Fish Processors’ and Exporters’ Association (IFPEA) said Ireland's fishing industry has “suffered massive negative impacts from EU membership, compared to other sectors of our economy”.

“We welcome the breakdown of Norway’s recent attempts to secure unfettered access to our blue whiting grounds from the EU,” IFPO chief executive Aodh O’Donnell said.

“We also welcome the Minister for the Marine’s commitment to resist the Norwegian overtures. We note that Norway has now secured a deal for blue whiting with Russia,” he said.

“But the whole blue whiting row has underlined an appalling attitude at EU level towards Ireland’s fishing industry. The EU has never delivered an equitable share of fishing rights to Ireland. This has been compounded over the decades by our Government’s failure to secure a fair deal for our fishing industry,” he added.

IFPEA chief executive Brendan Byrne said Ireland is at “a critical point in our fishing industry”.

“Brexit and the disastrous TCA deal for Irish fishing has left an industry that is struggling to survive,”he said.

“ That EU deal created a 40% loss in the value of our permitted catch, compared to just 6% for Spain – who are allowed to catch more fish in our waters then we are,” Byrne said.

“When you consider this context, it is profoundly shocking that the EU would even consider granting Norway unfettered access to Irish waters, without a comparable dividend to Ireland,”he said.

“The Government urgently need to make it abundantly clear, that the historical arrangements between the EU and Norway will be honoured. However, they must also make clear that any new or additional access south of the 56 degree line or east of the 12 degree line must be dealt with separately and with consideration for the Irish,”he said.

“For too long Ireland’s fishing industry has suffered or paid a price to accommodate others, while all the time our own fishing industry declines. This is where we say no more and no further – the very life blood has been long drawn from the Irish fishing industry we need to take a stand here,” Byrne said.

“Ireland will play the part of good Europeans but that is a two-way process. We also need to be respected and treated fairly by our EU colleagues as equal members of this union of states,”he said.

IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy said Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue had “shown determination at EU level to reduce the EU transfer of blue whiting quotas to Norway”.

‘’It is vital that the Minister maintains this position and secures a meaningful transfer of quota to Ireland from this third country, and as a compensatory measure, in lieu of access to our waters,”he said.

“ Blue whiting in Irish waters is valued at an estimated €100-€120m for 2023. Ireland currently has just 3% of the EU allowable quota for blue whiting, while Norway already has 18% and was seeking more from our waters,”he said.

O’Donnell said Irish fishing bodies had “pulled together to fight the Norway blue whiting plans”.

““The EU clearly expected Ireland to just roll over and accept this appalling proposal, and did not expect our vociferous and effective opposition. We must continue to pull together to benefit our members and the nation’s fishing industry,”he said.

“We want to work closely with the Minister for the Marine and the EU in 2023 to secure a better deal for Ireland. There are serious issues involved here. There is the survival of the Irish fishing fleet and the coastal communities who depend on them. There is the issue of food security and Ireland’s supply of fresh fish,” he said.

He said that the “hits” which Ireland’s seafood sector had taken over the past few decades has “reduced its value to the Irish economy”.

“It’s time now to work collaboratively to turn this around so Ireland can more equitably and sustainably benefit from the ocean resource that surrounds our island,” he said.

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Irish fishing industry representatives have commended the European Commission for “standing firm” over a push by Norway for additional access to Irish waters.

Negotiations between the EU and Norway were suspended late last week without approving Norway's request for more access to blue whiting off the Irish coast.

It was anticipated the issue would be referred on to the annual EU agrifish council, which opened on Sunday in Brussels.

Commenting on behalf of the Irish seafood sector, IFPO chief executive Aodh O'Donnell commended the EU for "standing firm in relation to the Norwegian request for additional access to Irish waters", and urged the European Commission and Mr McConalogue to "maintain a firm line".

An overall 81 per cent increase in blue whiting quota had been recommended by scientists for the next year.

Blue WhitingBlue Whiting Photo: Wikipedia

Norway is seeking to catch much of its anticipated increased share off the Irish west coast, without any return in terms of quotas directly to Ireland, according to the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO) chief executive Aodh O’Donnell.

““This not just about blue whiting - there is a principle here, where a non-EU member state should not be given access to areas within our EEZ without some return for Ireland,” O’Donnell said.

Reciprocal Arctic cod quotas would mainly be allocated to other EU member states, including Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal, the IFPO leader said.

“The Norwegians need to be equitable and fair in making a request such as this,” Irish Fish Processors and Exporters’ Association (IFPEA) chief executive Brendan Byrne said.

Fine Gael MEP Colm MarkeyFine Gael MEP Colm Markey

O’Donnell raised the issue with the EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius at a meeting arranged by Fine Gael MEP Colm Markey in Brussels several weeks before the opening of the annual EU fish quota talks.

The IFPO said it believed the Commissioner understood the “access principle” in relation to a non-EU member seeking to fish inside the Irish exclusive economic zone.

Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Fisheries State Secretary Vidar Ulriksen has said allocation of cod to other EU members in return for blue whiting is “internal EU policy, and Norway is not involved in these decisions”.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine said Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue was “seeking to address the challenge” and was maintaining close contact with the Irish industry.

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The National Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI) is to host its second annual seafarers’ conference on the theme of offshore wind and the fishing industry in Limerick next February.

The hybrid event is sponsored by Simply Blue Group, the offshore wind energy developer, on the theme “Thriving Fishing, Thriving Offshore Wind, Thriving Ports”, and will run during the Skipper Expo.

Speakers at the event on February 23rd, 2023 in the Castletroy Park Hotel will include BIM interim chief executive officer Caroline Bocquel, Wind Energy Ireland chief executive Noel Cunniffe, State Chief Surveyor Brian Hogan at the Marine Survey Office, and Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) project co-ordinator Norah Parke.

Topics for discussion will include exploring what the fishing industry needs to thrive; the policy regime for renewable energy; implementation of the Government’s future skills needs report; the ecosystem impacts of offshore wind farms; and the future for Ireland’s fishing ports.

Minister for Agriculture and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue said he was “enthused to see the conference appended to The Skipper Expo as it provides an ideal forum within which seafarers and offshore wind developers can meet and discuss a coexistent future”.

“To ensure a sustainable seafood industry in parallel with Ireland meeting its climate action targets, the protection of biodiversity and the building of the necessary skills to achieve all of this, I encourage delegates to co-create solutions towards a sustainable, safe, and secure future for all,”he said.

Simply Blue Group director of external affairs and stakeholder liaison Captain Brian Fitzgerald said that “if ever Ireland needed its mariners and coastal communities to work together to co-create a sustainable future, it is now”.

“Let this Conference be a place to have an open and frank discussion on the challenges ahead, while enabling our ability to plot our own course and navigate towards a sustainable future for the next generation,”Fitzgerald said.

NMCI head of college Cormac Gebruers said the college was delighted to “get on the road” and host the 2023 Seafarer Conference in Limerick in association with The Skipper Expo.

“Preparing for Ireland’s future maritime skills needs most especially in the offshore wind sector is a central consideration for the NMCI. We very much look forward to discussing this with Ireland’s seafarers,”he said.

Published in Power From the Sea

Fishing vessels have been forced to withdraw from a shore side energy supply, due to a threatened 378 per cent increase in prices.

The shoreside scheme for larger vessels in Irish fishery harbours aimed to reduce harmful emissions from diesel generators, required in the case of freezer trawlers and for heat, light and technical equipment on board while in port.

In a letter sent by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, and seen by Donegal Daily, it says that it has been advised that current contracts for electricity supply from Electric Ireland, available from the Office of Government Procurement (OGP), expired on November 30th.

The department told fishery harbour centre users in the letter that it had been advised electricity prices may rise by as much as 378 per cent from December 1st, based on a 12-month estimate.

The letter said that usually, OGP utilities protected against volatile price changes, but it had been unable to secure a “replacement framework” for electricity contracts.

It said it would update users in due course, and in the meantime it advised users they may be eligible for the “Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme “ operated by the Revenue Commissioners.

One vessel owner quoted by Donegal Daily, said the increase in the electricity price adds up to €400 per day to their bills.

“This is just another slap in the face for Killybegs fishermen,” he said.

“As of December 1st, every one of us is back using the diesel generators, and we are not even getting a fuel subsidy. The electricity was expensive to begin with, this increase is a joke,” he said.

The shoreside project known as “Cold Ironing” was initiated by the department in July 2020 at a cost of €1.7 million.

It aimed to save on 2,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year – equivalent to taking almost 500 cars off the road and improvements in the local environment through reduced noise and air pollution.

Read more in Donegal Daily here

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Levels of mercury in fish landed in Ireland are very low and fish is safe for consumption by the general population, latest available data finds.

This will be “comforting for the Irish seafood industry and consumers alike”, Prof Ronan Gormley of University College Dublin’s (UCD) school of agriculture and food science says.

Writing in UCD’s SeaHealth e-bulletin, Prof Gormley explains that a monitoring programme was put in place for fish landed at major Irish fishing ports in response to the introduction of maximum limits for mercury in fishery products in 1993.

The monitoring by Ireland’s Marine Institute has found that mercury levels of fish and shellfish landed at Irish ports are low and “well within the EU human-consumption tolerance level”.

“However, these catches do not include deepwater species such as shark, swordfish, marlin and tuna,” Prof Gormley notes.

Mercury is a naturally occurring heavy metal found in air, water and soil, but mercury from industrial centres can travel miles before “raining into the ocean in organic form as methyl mercury”, he explains.

“Fish become contaminated, leading to public health concerns about different species and their mercury levels,” he notes.

In 2004 the EU Commission asked the European Food Safety Authority to consider data collected by member states.

It published its opinion, with emphasis on mercury intake from fish by vulnerable groups such as women of childbearing age, breastfeeding women and young children to raise awareness in all national authorities with responsibility for public health.

Prof Gormley notes that large, predatory fish such as shark, tarpon, swordfish and tuna accumulate higher levels of mercury over a long lifetime.

“These species are often migratory, and it is not possible to exclude fish from particular waters where background levels of mercury contamination might be high,” he says.

However, data shows that EU consumers who eat average amounts (300-350g a week) of fishery products are not likely to be exposed to unsafe levels of methylmercury.

Consumers who eat a lot of fish may be at higher risk, but at time of issue of the EC note (2004) there was insufficient data to specify the situation in all member states.

Maximum levels of mercury in fish were amended in 2022, he notes.

Levels were lowered for cephalopods (eg, squid, octopus, cuttlefish, nautilus) and marine gastropods (eg, abalone, conches, periwinkles and whelks) to 0.5 or 0.3mg/kg. Levels in shark, swordfish, pike and tuna were maintained at 1mg/kg.

Consumption of shark, swordfish, marlin and fresh tuna in Ireland is relatively low, apart from canned tuna which is increasing in popularity.

Latest advice is that pregnant or breastfeeding women and young children should not exceed two 226g cans a week.

Other adults and young people should continue to eat tuna and fish products as components of a healthy diet, Prof Gormley says.

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