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Anchovies, Blue Tuna, Sardines & Marine Tourism; Do State Agencies Talk to Each Other?

21st January 2021
Kevin Flannery of Dingle Kevin Flannery of Dingle Credit: Courtesy RTE

"Someone needs to bang the table and bang heads together. Do State agencies talk to each other?"

That blunt statement caused me to think a lot this week when I am still disappointed at official attitudes towards the marine sector.

I was talking to a man who has forty years' maritime experience and is the 'go-to' marine scientist and biologist often quoted and interviewed in the media about climate change, warming seas and the effects on waters around the coast.

Kevin Flannery of Dingle knows the State system from the inside. He was a fisheries inspector, and he was in an angry mood when we spoke.

There are times when I am astonished by what I am told about State organisations and their attitude towards the maritime sector. What he said was a shocking example, raising the question – Do State agencies talk to each other?

Anchovies & Sardines

Afloat highlighted recently the discovery of a potential new fishery on the South/West Coast, anchovies and sardines, an indication that species not before in Irish waters in big numbers are moving here, as other species may be moving away because of the effects of climate change on water temperatures. Anchovies are a little silver fish mostly found in the Mediterranean, Pacific and Atlantic, noted for their salty flavour and used, amongst other food consumption purposes, on pizzas, salads, sandwiches, sauces, dressings and dips.

Irish fishermen catching Bluefin Tuna

"My worry is that other nations will claim rights to them like they did to stop Irish fishermen catching Bluefin tuna in our own waters and another fishery will be lost because of neglect. This fishery is sustainable, so why are our agencies not organising to ensure it remains ours? There is an urgent need and potential for development and diversification. The fishery is sustainable, so why are our agencies not organising to ensure it remains ours?" Kevin Flannery told me. "There are also stocks of sardines showing, bream, octopus, and we are getting reports of all these. Are the agencies talking to each other at all, or is it 'never the 'twain shall meet between them? Somebody needs to bang heads together and say these resources are ours".

Listen to the Podcast to below how upset Kevin Flannery is about the attitude of State agencies.

Marine tourism projects involving boats

And, following up on my report last week about the Department of Finance refusing pandemic financial assistance to Killary Fjord Boat Company because its boats move, I remain astonished that this attitude persists amongst the officials of that Department. I had a few 'interactions' with the Department when seeking an explanation. Their Press Office told me they were referring my questions to 'the Revenue', then came back with a long statement, the core point of which was that a "qualifying business premises is a building or other similar fixed physical structure in which a business activity is ordinarily carried on.' The statement had a Departmental pun. In preparing the support scheme, "it was necessary to provide appropriate anchor points." Maybe the civil servants responsible think boats are best anchored!

It doesn't show a particularly positive attitude towards marine tourism projects involving boats. "Significant additional resources were allocated by Government in the Budget to provide help to different sectors including tourism," the Department said. But does this include boats which move?

A loss to Irish fishermen

A final point about official attitudes, where I saw the Department of the Marine contradict its own Minster. It issued a "preliminary analysis" of the transfer of fishing quota shares from Ireland/EU to the UK under the Brexit deal where it estimated the loss to Irish fishermen at €43 Million. This contradicted the lower figure of €34 million given by its own boss, Marine Minister Charlie Monologue and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney after the deal was agreed on Christmas Eve.

From the past week, I am left wondering if the reality of Ireland being an island nation is fully understood.

Published in Tom MacSweeney
Tom MacSweeney

About The Author

Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney writes a weekly column for Afloat.ie. He also presents the radio programme Maritime Ireland on radio stations around Ireland.

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