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Fish Landings Row: Is Derry on the Island of Ireland?

12th May 2022
IFPO chief executive Aodh O'Donnell
IFPO chief executive Aodh O'Donnell

Is Derry on the island of Ireland? That’s a question being asked by fishing industry representatives in a bitter row over how the State’s sea fisheries regulator has been handling landings of valuable blue whiting.

The Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO) and IFPEA have called on Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue and the Government to “play a vital leadership role”, warning of losses of up to 40 million euro annually for Killybegs if the dispute over how landings are monitored by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) is not resolved.

The row erupted after Danish vessel Ruth headed back to Denmark instead of landing some 1200 tonnes of blue whiting for human consumption into Killybegs, Co Donegal on March 31st.

The SFPA had directed that the catch be landed over a weighbridge instead of a pierside system. A Norwegian vessel then opted to landed into Derry over the border, rather than into Killybegs, while a number of other vessels abandoned attempts to land into the port or sold fish for fishmeal.

IFPO chief executive Brendan Byrne said that the SFPA was “over-interpreting” the common EU regulations, leaving the Irish industry at a substantial competitive and financial disadvantage compared to other EU coastal states.

The SFPA said that a flowscale system at Killybegs harbour “is approved for the weighing of bulk pelagic fish in the 95% of instances where a supervised weighing upon landing under the terms of the EU approved interim control plan is not required”.

The SFPA said it was “not a system that meets the terms of the EU approved interim control plan in the 5% of bulk pelagic landings where a supervised weighing upon landing is required”.

“Operators can choose to land a catch at a port in another jurisdiction – including both EU and non-EU countries – before transporting and processing the catch in the Republic of Ireland,” the SFPA said.

“However, the catch must be weighed on landing pierside in the landing state before transportation to the Republic of Ireland,” it said.

“A Common Control Programme that would permit transport to the Republic of Ireland for weighing after a landing in Northern Ireland does not [exist] and has never existed,” it said.

It warned that any “misuse” of the system “has the potential to jeopardise the EU Commission approved exemption for the entire fishing and seafood processing sector”.

“If this exemption is revoked all 20,000 landings of pelagic and demersal fish annually could be required to be weighed pierside,” the SFPA said.

The IFPO’s Aodh O’Donnell had said the debacle is “damaging to the reputation of quality Irish seafood and is losing business for our seafood exporters”.

“Regrettably, the blue whiting season is now ending, and the losses suffered by the industry and local coastal communities cannot be undone,” O’Donnell said.

O'Donnell explained the background to Wavelengths..and apologies for the slight generator hum...he is in Killybegs!

Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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Weekly dispatches from the Irish coast with journalist Lorna Siggins, talking to people in the maritime sphere. Topics range from marine science and research to renewable energy, fishing, aquaculture, archaeology, history, music and more...

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