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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

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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/

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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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A total of 13 fishing vessel owners have accepted decommissioning offers to date under the Government’s whitefish scrappage scheme.

Figures released by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) confirm that a further 20 offers which it has issued to applicants are being appealed.

The final closing date for acceptance is March 2nd, 2023.

The Government is seeking to decommission up to 60 vessels from the whitefish fleet, as a result of the overall loss of 25 per cent quota due to Brexit, and letters of offer to 57 owners were issued in January by BIM.

BIM said this would ensure that over 9,000 tonnes of quota fish valued at €35 million annually would be available for remaining whitefish vessels to catch, ensuring the remaining fleet's economic viability into the future.

However, Irish industry organisations, who have been seeking a meeting with the Taoiseach on the issue, said there is considerable anger among a number of those who received offers.

Some received offers well below the quoted maximum sum of 12,000 euro per gross tonne.

Applicants who received funding for temporary tie-ups as a Brexit impact measure have also been told this money must be paid back under State aid rules.

Irish South and East Fish Producers’ Organisation chief executive John Lynch said this was “particularly petty”, given that these vessels were not catching quota when tied up.

The funding for the decommissioning scheme is being paid from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) awarded by the EU to Ireland. The sum of almost 1 billion euros must be used up within two years or returned.

Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO) chief executive Aodh O’Donnell has said the Irish government should be keeping tonnage within the State to ensure there is a route for young skippers seeking to buy vessels at a later date.

Marine minister Charlie McConalogue increased funding for the scheme from 60 million euros to 75 million euros in January, but the IS&WFPO says a realistic scheme would cost at least 96 million euros.

BIM said, “the requirement to repay the tie-up money is an EU rule”.

“The tie-up money is deducted from the overall grant. Any savings go back into Ireland’s BAR,” it said.

BIM said that selling or donating vessels to be decommissioned to third parties is not allowed under EU law.

“The re-purposing of vessels is allowed for in EU legislation, but it was decided that this created difficulties from a taxation point of view and would in practice be difficult to monitor,” it said.

“Several vessels are in the process of being scrapped,” BIM said.

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A fundraising appeal has been issued for the family of the fisherman who died off the Donegal coast last weekend.

Madis Lētsārs (37), from the Baltic States, lost his life after falling from the deck of a crab vessel north of the Donegal island of Árainn Mhór last Saturday evening (Feb 4).

His crewmates on the Séimí recovered him from the water and made efforts to revive him but he did not survive.

The young crewman was the father of two children, and his cousin Janis Miklasovs has set up a GoFundMe page on behalf of Madis’s wife Liene.

“It is with a heavy heart I write this message, as you may already know we sadly lost our cousin Madis in a tragic accident,” Miklasovs writes.

“ Madis was only 37 years old with his whole life ahead of him. He worked around the clock to provide for his family,” he says.

“Madis leaves behind a loving wife & 2 children & we hope to support them in every way possible,” he says.

“I kindly ask if you could make a donation, no matter how small, as this will greatly help the family financially. Your support is key in relieving some of the stress the family are currently facing,”he says.

“Rest easy Madis, you will never be far from our thoughts and always in our hearts,” he says.

The GoFundMe page is here

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Ireland is facing into the worst year in its fish processing history; it is better to have no deal than to have a bad deal, according to the country’s major fish producer organisations as EU-Norway fisheries talks enter a fifth round.

Norway is demanding unfettered extra access to Irish waters to catch blue whiting but has not offered any concessions or advantages from its own resources in return to the Irish industry.

“If the EU wants to strike a deal for such additional access with a non-EU Third Country, they need to adequately compensate the Irish fishing industry. This is a shared and strongly held sentiment within the entire industry here, which is united on that attitude,” says a statement from the industry.

“The Norwegian proposal comes at a time when the Irish fleet is still reeling from the Brexit legacy because of EU cuts to Ireland,” says Aodh O’Donnell, Chief Executive of the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation.

“Norwegian access to fish blue whiting in the Irish Box is a ‘new element’ in the negotiations. The EU should not concede to this additional access unless it is paid for,” according to Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation CEO, Sean O’Donoghue.

“The truculent Norwegian position confirms that they expect Ireland to roll-over again, as the government has done over the last thirty years. It is time to say stop,” says Patrick Murphy, Castletownbere-based CEO of the Irish South and West FPO, while Brendan Byrne of the CEO  Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association says Ireland “is facing into the worst year in its fish processing history. “The Brexit quota cuts are continuing to bite hard along with, already, some business closures.

The Irish industry is united in our opposition to the Norwegian demands.”

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The fisherman who lost his life off the Donegal coast last weekend has been named.

Madis Letsars (37), a father of two, went overboard the crab vessel, Séimí, while crab fishing about 70 miles north of Arranmore Island, Co Donegal, on February 4th.

It is believed he may have got caught in a rope while the vessel was shooting pots.

Originally from the Baltic States and living in Co Armagh, he was one of five on board the vessel at the time.

Emergency services were alerted to the incident, but an Irish Coast Guard rescue operation was stood down after crew members had managed to recover him from the water.

Efforts to revive the young man were unsuccessful.

The boat subsequently returned to Ballyglass in north Mayo, where it was met by the National Ambulance Service and the Garda.

The body of the crewman was taken by ambulance to Mayo University Hospital for a post mortem. His funeral is expected to take place later this week.

Members of the crew of the Séimí are said to be devastated by the loss of the crewman who had been on four or five trips with the crab vessel.

The Séimí is one of a fleet of vessels owned by West Coast Crab Sales Ltd in north Mayo.

An inquiry into the circumstances of the incident will be conducted by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board.

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