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The Brexit Off-register Capacity scheme has opened for applications.

Off-register or latent capacity is fishing capacity licensed for use but not currently in operation for various reasons, such as vessels being lost at sea, damaged or needing repair/upgrade and up for sale.

The scheme complements the Brexit Voluntary Permanent Cessation Scheme and aims to reduce the risk posed by re-entry to the fleet through activating off-register capacity. This would potentially jeopardise any benefits in terms of profitability for those vessels remaining in the fleet following from the removal of fishing capacity through decommissioning.

The Off-register Capacity scheme was one of the key recommendations of the Seafood Taskforce Report, established by the Minister for Agriculture, Food, and the Marine Charlie McConalogue TD.  The Task Force was set up to consider measures to mitigate the impacts of the fish quota share reductions arising from the EU/UK Trade & Cooperation Agreement (TCA), on the Irish Fishing industry and the coastal communities that depend on fisheries.

Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue TDMarine Minister Charlie McConalogue TD

At the time of the Seafood Task Force, the level of off-register capacity was estimated at 15,500 GT, 15,800 kW. The scheme is targeted at polyvalent tonnage and aims to remove 10% of over 18m polyvalent capacity and half of the under 18m polyvalent capacity at market value, up to a maximum payment of €250,000.

Details about the scheme, including eligibility criteria and how to apply, can be found by visiting BIM.ie

The deadline for applications is 30 June, 2023.

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Ireland's sea fish landings were down, but prices were up last year, according to Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

BIM’s annual business of seafood report for 2022 estimates that the seafood sector was worth 1.3 billion euros last year.

In spite of a “volatile year”, there was a 4% annual growth due to a combination of higher prices, the reopening of restaurants after Covid-19 and an increase in the consumption of seafood in Ireland.

BIM chief executive Caroline Bocquel says the figures reflect the “enduring strength of those working in the seafood industry” and the vital role which the sector plays in coastal communities in Ireland.

“BIM remains steadfast in its commitment to support industry to navigate the fast-changing global landscape,” she said.

Sea fish landings at Irish Ports Sea fish landings at Irish ports in 2022

The report notes that while the volume of seafood produced by the Irish sector didn’t match previous years , there was very strong price growth, particularly in the sea-caught fish sector, which saw prices increase by 38%.

The value of the overall Irish seafood sector increased by 13% to €703 million, while the overall value of Irish aquaculture products increased by 10% to €196 million, it said.

Dublin Bay prawns surpassed mackerel as the most valuable wild caught species for the industry, having more than doubled in price (+53%) in 2022.

Irish rock oysters (+8%) and rope grown mussels (+7%) also reflected strong price growth last year within the aquaculture sector, the report notes.

The top-selling species on the Irish market during the year were salmon (€119 million) and cod (€44 million), the BIM Business of Seafood report says.

It says organic salmon was the top species produced by the aquaculture sector – accounting for 13,500 tonnes worth €124 million – while Dublin Bay prawns were the top species landed by the Irish fleet, accounting for 6,200 tonnes with a value of €82 million.

During 2022, a total of €507 million worth of seafood was landed at Irish ports, which was a 14% increase on 2021 in value terms, the report says.

Killybegs in Co Donegal was the State’s largest fishing port in 2022 by value, with landings worth €135 million, closely followed by Castletownbere in Co Cork, with €129 million worth of catch landed.

The report notes that the value of landings – particularly in whitefish and prawns- also increased significantly in the ports of Ros an Mhíl, Co Galway, where landings are in long-term decline, along with Clogherhead, Co Louth, and Greencastle, Co Donegal.

The report records a significant increase in Government investment in 2022 as funding under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) began to come onstream.

The report, which was published by Minister for Marine, Charlie McConalogue, shows a 10% increase in Government investment (€255 million) in 2022.

This included the opening of several BAR schemes to cushion the impact of Brexit.

Mr McConalogue referred to the significant challenges facing the industry in 2022, including the conflict in Ukraine, which led to rising energy costs as well as reduced quotas and difficult trading conditions with the UK in the aftermath of Brexit.

“However, the industry has once again shown its resilience to such shocks and continues to be a key socio-economic driver in coastal communities, employing more than 15,000 people,” he said.

The sector employed about 15,300 people in 2022, with 1,993 registered vessels, over ten seafood processors and just under 300 aquaculture sites, BIM says.

It says that more than 8,200 people are directly employed in the sector, with a further 7,100 jobs supporting the sector indirectly.

Evolution of the Irish seafood quota from 1982 to 2023Evolution of the Irish seafood quota from 1982 to 2023

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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.

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A new study by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) - the State agency that supports development of the seafood sector in Ireland - has found that Irish-produced seafood is among the lowest carbon food produced in Ireland. This study provides the Irish seafood sector with access to reliable data for the first time. It identifies areas for targeted strategies to help minimise the carbon emissions associated with seafood production.

The Carbon Footprint Report of the Irish Seafood Sector found that carbon emissions for the sector are just under 400,000 tonnes of CO2 – less than 2% of those produced in other key food sectors. This number includes the emissions for both farmed and wild-caught seafood. Farmed mussels (rope-grown), oysters and wild-caught mackerel in particular, have been shown to have very low carbon emissions.

Caroline Bocquel, BIM Chief Executive Officer, welcomed the newly published report saying it provided scientific evidence that the sector has significantly low levels of greenhouse gas emissions:

“Access to reliable data is crucial to understand which steps of seafood production create the most emissions. Being able to feed people in a healthy, nutritious, and equitable way, without adding to global warming, is key.

This comprehensive study has taken almost two years to complete. Delivering the data required input from industry and other stakeholders. The findings of the report demonstrate how the sector is producing a beneficial , nutritious, and safe food with low environmental impacts.”

Caroline Bocquel, BIM Chief Executive OfficerCaroline Bocquel, BIM Chief Executive Officer says Irish seafood has among the lowest emissions of all food production in Ireland 

“In fishing, fuel accounts for more than 90% ofcarbon emissions, while processing and transportation accounts for 10% of the emissions. Already, we are seeing transitions away from exclusively diesel-powered engines to hybrid vessels and alternative fuels are also being explored. Later this year BIM will produce a report under the Climate Action Plan 2023 on the role these alternative fuels may play in the future of the Irish seafood sector. We now have a great opportunity to reduce emissions even further.”

The seafood sector and Brexit adjustment

The Irish fishing sector has faced significant challenges in recent years, including the closure of markets due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing impact of Brexit. The Government’s Seafood Taskforce – which included seafood representative organisations – produced a set of recommendations in its final report. These include business supports, funding for capital projects and development of skills to allow seafood businesses to build or adapt their operating models. It also extends to other businesses in coastal communities, to help ensure these are sustainable.

BIM is currently administering schemes with a total value of €265m under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) delivering on the recommendations of the Seafood Taskforce. The aim of all schemes is to develop and restructure the sector, ensuring a profitable and sustainable seafood industry providing jobs and economic activity in coastal communities dependent on fishing.

A decommissioning scheme for whitefish vessels – similar to one initiated in 2008 – was one of the central recommendations of the taskforce to mitigate the impact of quota transfers from the EU to the UK, which resulted from Brexit, and ensure a viable industry could remain in place. The closing date for the scheme’s acceptance of offers is next month, March 2. 57 letters of the offer have been issued with total funding of €75 million. To date, 20 owners have accepted.

A €45M Seafood Processors Scheme - for improvements and innovation in seafood processing - has received a good response. To date, 21 projects of significant size have been approved, totalling some €22M.

The €25M Brexit Blue Economy Enterprise Scheme seeks to rejuvenate businesses in coastal communities around Ireland, helping them to adapt, restructure and reskill in the post-Brexit landscape. BIM has received hundreds of applications to date. Everything ranging from mobile seafood trucks to sea salt businesses has successfully applied for funding, and more than €3.5M in grant funding has been approved to date.

“The seafood sector has shown immense resilience and strength in its ability to adapt to changing marketplaces and socio-political impacts. BIM is working closely with industry and other stakeholders to develop supports that allow businesses to be agile and take advantage of new market opportunities,” said Caroline Bocquel.

“Coupled with the fact that seafood has one of the lowest carbon footprints of any food produced in Ireland, this paves the way for a sustainable future for the sector.”

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Caroline Bocquel has been named CEO of Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland's Seafood Development Agency.

Marine Minister McConalogue welcomed the selection of the new CEO and said, "I am delighted to announce that Caroline Bocquel has been named as BIM's new Chief Executive Officer.

McConalogue said Bocquel's significant experience would ensure that BIM has the requisite leadership to secure a sustainable future for Ireland's seafood industry during a time of unprecedented difficulties.

The new CEO will direct the growth of Ireland's €1.26 billion seafood industry while managing a team of 140 employees spread over six major coastal regions.

The Minister continued, "Caroline takes on the role of CEO at a time when BIM is charged with the implementation of a range of schemes for the industry with a total value of €265m under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) scheme, delivering on the recommendations of the recent Seafood Taskforce. The aim of these schemes is to develop and restructure the sector, ensuring it is profitable and sustainable into the future and to identify opportunities for jobs and economic activity in coastal communities dependent on the sector. 2023 will also see the launch of the new European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFF) schemes, with a value of €258m, further supporting the sector's ability for sustainable growth and development".

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BIM today 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.

As Afloat reported earlier, the scheme is a crucial recommendation of the Seafood Taskforce, established by the Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue TD, to mitigate the impacts of the fish quota share reductions arising from the EU/UK Trade Cooperation Agreements. It aims to help restore the balance between fleet capacity and available fishing quotas following these reductions.

Approved applicants have until 8 February 2023 to accept the offer. Once an offer is taken up, vessel owners must surrender their fishing licences within eight weeks and decommission their vessels, in an environmentally compliant manner, by 31 October 2023.

The Seafood Taskforce agreed to a decommissioning target of approximately 60 whitefish and beam trawl vessels with a total capacity of 8,000 gross tonnes to ensure the future profitability of the Irish whitefish fleet, with approximately 170 vessels remaining in the fleet. Over 9,000 tonnes of quota fish valued at €35 million annually will be available for remaining whitefish vessels to catch, ensuring the remaining fleet's economic viability into the future.

Interim CEO of BIM, Caroline Bocquel, said, “ Minister McConalogue has to date secured funding for a series of schemes, arising from Seafood Taskforce recommendations, to a value of €265 million. These have been designed to support the industry to adjust and restructure in the post-Brexit marketplace and sustain the coastal communities in which they are based. Decommissioning will strengthen the viability of the remaining fleet providing a significant boost to the economics of those boats by making €34 million of fish quotas available annually to the remaining 170 whitefish vessels. This scheme will ultimately help to put the sector on sounder financial footing, delivering a sustainable future for Ireland’s fishers, and restoring the profitability of a fishing sector that supports the economies of coastal communities.”

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This week independent NGO Transparency International Ireland (TII) published its National Integrity Index ranking.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland's seafood development agency, scored highest among 40 public bodies.

The national index is measured against the existence and ready availability of policies and disclosures of a given public body that specifically addresses anti-corruption risks.

A BIM spokesperson said: "BIM is pleased to have received this ranking and will continue its efforts to ensure a culture of integrity and honesty across the organisation and with the Irish seafood industry and other stakeholders it serves".

A link to the report can be found by clicking here

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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, has appointed Caroline Bocquel as its interim CEO.

Caroline Bocquel currently holds the role of BIM, Director of Corporate Services, having joined the organisation in 2021. She previously held the role of Chief Financial Officer at Goal and Director of Corporate Services at the Marine Institute.

BIM Chair, Aidan Cotter, who made the announcement, referenced the drive and experience that Caroline Bocquel would bring to this key role.

“On behalf of the BIM board, I would like to congratulate Caroline on her appointment as interim CEO at BIM. Caroline brings a wealth of experience to this role, including significant experience working within the marine sector.”

Caroline takes up her role on 1 November, 2022 when the current BIM CEO, Jim O’Toole takes up his new position as CEO at Bord Bia. Jim has held the role of BIM CEO for the last five years. A competitive process to appoint a permanent new BIM CEO is already underway.

To date in her role at BIM, Caroline has been heavily involved in the development of the organisation’s new corporate strategy. She has also led the development of an innovative new grants process to provide a high-quality service to clients within the Irish seafood industry and other BIM stakeholders.

Caroline has been integral to the development of new streamlined processes at BIM, further enhancing the seafood state agency’s ability to be an effective support for industry at a critical time. These include leading new digital initiatives, the development of internal capability and a strong focus on governance.

Following the announcement, Caroline Bocquel said she was looking forward to working with colleagues in BIM and with industry in her new role over the coming months.

“I am delighted to accept this interim appointment and I look forward to working with my colleagues on the senior leadership team, across the wider BIM team, and in industry for the coming months, as we work to support and develop the seafood sector during this critical period.”

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Bord Iascaigh Mhara has confirmed the serious economic situation for the Irish fishing industry. In its annual report, the State fisheries board says there will be a decrease in landings, revenue and profitability.

It says, "In the long-term, decommissioning will help bring fleet capacity back in balance with available quotas and improve the profitability for vessels remaining in the Irish fleet.”

This, however, is disputed by the fishing industry representative organisations, which contradicts the BIM conclusion. They say that hundreds of jobs will be lost, damaging the industry, making it unattractive to new entrants and ultimately creating serious economic and social problems in the country’s coastal communities.

Acknowledging the problems for the fishing fleet due to fuel prices, where the Marine Minister has refused requests for a subsidy, which would be similar to other EU countries, BIM says: “Based on feedback from industry, the impact of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine on inflation and rising fuel costs was the main driving force influencing the economic performance of the Irish fleet in 2022. In 2020, average fuel costs per litre were €0.42 whereas average fuels costs per litre in mid-2022 stood at €0.90, representing a 114% increase in cost and the current reported costs of €1.20 per litre represents a 18% increase since 2020.”

An illustration from the 2022 BIM Annual Fisheries Report 2022An illustration from the 2022 BIM Annual Fisheries Report 2022

The report, for 2021, says that the data indicates an increase in landings by weight from 2020 (+6%) and a decrease in value of landings (-7.5%) due to decreasing fish prices and changes in quota allocation. Gross profit for 2021 is projected to decrease significantly (-58%) to €27.6 million combined with a decreasing net profit (-75%) to €8.1 million.

“In terms of the outlook for economic performance for 2021-2022, preliminary data point to a decrease in revenue and profitability for the Irish fleet. It also records less time spent at sea by the country’s fishing boats: “The Irish fishing fleet spent 77,460 days at sea, of which 84% were fishing days representing a decrease of 16% and 17% respectively from 2019.

“For 2021, the data indicates an increase in landings by weight from 2020 (+6%) and a decrease in value of landings (-7.5%) due to decreasing fish prices and changes in quota allocation. Gross profit for 2021 is projected to decrease significantly (-58%) to €27.6 million combined with a decreasing net profit (-75%) to €8.1 million.

“Profitability of the Irish fleet has increased since 2019, however, it says. Revenue increased by 2%, amounting to €312 million; gross value added (GVA) €161 million (+6%), gross profit €65 million (+24%) and net profit decreased to €32 million (-20%) due in part to Covid-19. The fleet landed over 218,600 tonnes valued at €312 million, an increase of 5% from 2019 in live weight and an increase of 2% in landed value (€306.5 million). In 2021, the fleet landed 233,000 tonnes, an increase of 7% from 2020.

Overall, the cost structure of the fleet has remained stable with a slight increase in all costs except non-variable costs (e.g., insurance, loan interest). Operating costs totalled €255 million, a slight increase of 1% from 2019 with energy costs increased by approximately 10%. When capital costs are included, the total cost of operating the national fleet rose by 4% since 2019 to €278.5 million.

Direct employment generated by the sector was estimated at 2,928 jobs corresponding to 2,684 full-time equivalents (FTEs).

Published in Fishing

BIM’s National Seafood Survey provides insights into the status of Ireland’s catching sector on an annual basis. It is an integral part of fisheries’ performance data reporting to the EU. Based on the most recent survey returns the Annual Fisheries Report 2022: A Snapshot of Ireland’s Fisheries Sector examines the economic performance of the national fleet and its multiple segments. It also details the social demographics of people employed in the sector and the current challenges impacting the industry.

The report provides insights and trends for the financial and operational performance of the Irish fishing fleet based on the economic data of 2020 operations. It also provides an overview of key forces impacting the economic performance of the Irish fleet from 2020- 2022 based on industry feedback. Some of the impacts referenced in the report include Covid-19, Brexit, inflation, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Future projections for economic performance are included in the closing section.

Creating an accurate picture of the industry relies on a strong response rate and consistent support and goodwill from skippers and vessel owners to provide economic and operational data on an annual basis. The survey results help industry and policymakers understand the challenges and opportunities they face and the impact of fisheries management measures such as Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and quota allocation.

Map illustrating the main fishing grounds of the Irish fleet (Source: Marine Institute)Map illustrating the main fishing grounds of the Irish fleet (Source: Marine Institute)

The survey returns also form the basis for the justification of national and EU grant aid programmes focused on supporting the industry and coastal communities. The next survey for 2021 will open in October 2022 and end on 31 January 2023.

The report is available here.

BIM will be hosting National Seafood Survey information meetings with vessel owners at various ports from October onwards to discuss the finding of the Annual Fisheries report 2022, the importance of returning the annual survey and how to register and complete the online National Seafood Survey for 2022.

If you would like to register to attend one of the meetings listed below, please email Dr. Sarah Perry, National Seafood Survey Coordinator, for further details: [email protected]

Additional meetings are scheduled with the NIFF and RIFFs and further meetings may be organised at more locations at a later date.

  • Killybegs
  • KFO Board Room, October 11th, 2022, at 2 pm
    Greencastle
  • BIM National Fisheries College, October 12th, 2022, at 6.30 pm
    Castletownbere
  • BIM National Fisheries College, October 18th, 2022, at 6.00 pm
    Dingle
  • Harbour Masters Office, October 19th, 2022, at 2.30 pm

The Annual Fisheries report has the following key findings for 2020:

Profitability of the Irish fleet has increased since 2019. Revenue increased by 2%, amounting to €312 million; gross value added (GVA) €161 million (+6%), gross profit €65 million (+24%) and net profit decreased to €32 million (-20%) due in part to Covid-19.

The Irish fishing fleet spent 77,460 days at sea, of which 84% were fishing days representing a decrease of 16% and 17%, respectively from 2019.

Energy consumption decreased by 35% over the same period reflecting this decrease in effort.

The fleet landed over 218,600 tonnes valued at €312 million, an increase of 5% from 2019 in live weight and an increase of 2% in landed value (€306.5 million). In 2021, the fleet landed 233,000 tonnes, an increase of 7% from 2020.

Overall, the cost structure of the fleet has remained stable, with a slight increase in all costs except non-variable costs (e.g., insurance, loan interest). Operating costs totalled €255 million, a slight increase of 1% from 2019 with energy costs increased by approximately 10%. When capital costs are included, the total cost of operating the national fleet rose by 4% since 2019 to €278.5 million.

Direct employment generated by the sector was estimated at 2,928 jobs corresponding to 2,684 full-time equivalents (FTEs).

Based on feedback from industry, the impact of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine on inflation and rising fuel costs was the main driving force influencing the economic performance of the Irish fleet in 2022. In 2020, average fuel costs per litre were €0.42 whereas average fuels costs per litre in mid-2022 stood at €0.90, representing a 114% increase in cost and the current reported costs of €1.20 per litre represents an 18% increase since 2020.

Future Projections

In terms of the outlook for economic performance for 2021-2022, preliminary data point to a decrease in revenue and profitability for the Irish fleet. For 2021, the data indicates an increase in landings by weight from 2020 (+6%) and a decrease in value of landings (-7.5%) due to decreasing fish prices and changes in quota allocation. Gross profit for 2021 is projected to decrease significantly (-58%) to €27.6 million combined with a decreasing net profit (-75%) to €8.1 million.
Preliminary data for 2022 compared to 2021 indicate a decrease in landings by weight (-17%), an increase in value of landings (+5%) and a decrease in gross profit (-12%) to €24.5 million. It is anticipated that the Brexit tie-up schemes will mitigate these projected outcomes and allow the industry to absorb the impacts of rising fuel costs for some segments of the fleet and the reduced access to fishing quota as a result of Brexit. In the long-term, decommissioning will help to bring fleet capacity back in balance with available quotas and improve the profitability for vessels remaining in the Irish fleet.

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