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Inshore fishermen are calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to investigate why stocks of shellfish have declined and seaweed has stopped growing in parts of the Waterford estuary.

As The Times Ireland edition reports today, the National Inshore Fishermen’s Association (NIFA) is also appealing to the EPA to refuse a revised discharge license application sought by a gas-powered plant at Great Island, near Campile, Co Wexford, on the confluence of the Suir and Barrow river estuaries.

NIFA, which was established in 2017 to represent some 200 commercial inshore boats of less than 12 metres in length, works closely with the National Inshore Fishermen’s Organisation (NIFO), which also opposes the license application.

NIFA general secretary Alex Crowley says that the Waterford estuary supports important inshore fisheries for shrimp, whelk, lobster, velvet and green crab, and there is also pelagic trawling for sprat and herring and dredging for various bivalve species.

The estuary is close to an “important spawning ground for a number of commercially important species including Celtic Sea herring”, the organisations state.

Crowley says that local fishermen have noticed how shrimp, whelk and velvet crab stocks have recorded a “noticeable decline”.

The fishermen claim that there has been “significant die off” of bivalve shellfish species, and seaweed no longer grows in the intertidal zone for “some miles” downstream of the plant’s current outfall pipe.

SSE Generation’s 464MW natural gas-fired combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power plant dates from 2015, replacing the former oil-fired station run by the ESB.

All large combustion plants are now required to renew their emissions licence under the EU’s Industrial Emissions Directive, and SSE’s application for a licence review is part of this process, the company says.

The company describes the plant as “one of the cleanest and most-efficient power stations on the island of Ireland, generating enough electricity to power half a million Irish homes”.

It says it works with the EPA on an ongoing basis to ensure it is compliant with its licence conditions at all times.

However, NIFA is concerned that the EPA learned last September that some 1300 tonnes of chemicals were being discharged into the estuary under a license covering just five tonnes.

NIFA is specifically concerned with the use of chlorine, in the form of sodium hypochlorite, which is added to cooling water at intake to prevent fouling of pipes within the power station.

The EPA said it had investigated the allegations and found SSE to be “compliant with the license limits on the concentration of chlorine in discharged water”.

The EPA said it found no evidence that SEE’s discharge was having “such an effect on shellfish and fish mortality”, and said there was “insufficient evidence to conclude which individual pressures, if any, are contributing to impacts on marine life in the estuary”.

The EPA said the submission by NIFA would be considered as part of the revised license application under the relevant legislation

Read The Times here

Published in Aquaculture
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Ireland’s seafood sector remains “resilient” in spite of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) says.

Its annual Business of Seafood report says that Ireland’s seafood economy declined in 2020, with a drop of 12% (-€142million) compared to 2019, giving a total value of €1.1 billion.

It says this was driven mainly by a reduction of 18% in domestic consumption due to the closure of the food-service sector with additional impacts of a 17% reduction (-€44 million) in private investment and an 8% decline (-€50 million) in exports.

Global markets faced severe disruption from the Covid-19 pandemic, and when added to the continued uncertainty from the UK’s departure from the EU, this made for challenging trading conditions.

It says that despite these challenges the seafood sector remained resilient and adapted to the disruption the market faced. While there was a decrease of 18% in domestic consumption to €406 million, mainly due to a fall in sales in foodservice, this was somewhat offset by a 6% increase (€18m) in retail sales.

There was also a reduction in private investment to €213 million (-17%) reflecting the uncertainty in the markets leading to cautious activity from many seafood businesses. There was also a decline in our seafood balance of trade (exports – imports) which fell by €28 million (-10%) to €263 million.

Overall investment in the sector was €416 million, equivalent to 39% of seafood GDP, a slight increase compared to 2019, underlining the importance of strong public sector support through times of economic turbulence.

Ireland imported some €327 million euro worth of fish last year, with €188million coming from Britain.

While exports of Irish seafood to European and Asian markets were hit, Ireland’s mackerel landings drove an 87 per cent increase in the value of exports to Africa and a 43 per cent increase to the Middle East.

The assessment states that the total value of Ireland’s seafood economy in 2020 was just under €1.1 billion - a decrease of 12% (-€142million) on 2019.

BIM says this was “driven mainly by the severe disruption in global markets”, while “the continued uncertainty of the UK’s departure from the EU made for challenging trading conditions”.

“Despite the pandemic, and even with reduced demand in the foodservice sector, employment in the seafood sector remained stable in 2020,”it says, with over 16,000 employed directly and indirectly in the seafood industry.

Employment remained “high” in coastal regions, generating “significant socioeconomic value in these areas”, particularly Donegal, Cork, Galway-Clare and along the east coast.

“Undoubtedly 2020 was a challenging year for the seafood sector but yet again the sector displayed its ability to adjust and refocus to the available market opportunities,”Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue said.

“The Irish seafood sector sells a lot of its produce to foodservice markets in Europe and in Asia which experienced lengthy lockdowns significantly impacting sales,”BIM chief executive Jim O’Toole said.

He said the industry showed “great agility” during the year, switching where possible from supplying hospitality to supplying the retail market and online sales.

Domestic consumption amounted to €406m, down 18%, exports-imports were valued at €263m, down 10% and private investment was valued at €213, down 17%, BIM says.

However, there was an increase of 9% on government investment – an increase to €203m.

Overall investment in the sector was €416 million, equivalent to 39% of seafood GDP, a slight increase compared to 2019, it says.

Some 346 million euro worth in landings was recorded in Irish ports last year, with Killybegs, Co Donegal recording 112 million euro and Castletownbere, Co Cork, recording 104 million euro worth of landings.

Some 406 million euro in domestic sales value involved 316 million euro in retail and 90 million euro in “food service”.

Top selling species were salmon at €120m and cod at€46m, and the main export markets were the EU, valued at €321m, Britain at €93m and Africa at €75m

The volume of seafood produced by the Irish seafood sector surpassed 220,000 tonnes with a value of €394m, it says.

While less than 20% of this volume was produced by the aquaculture sector, it contributed 46% of the total value.

Species by value:

  • Salmon €127m (+13%)
  • Irish Rock Oysters €37m (-19%)
  • Seabed Cultured Mussels €7m (-15%)
  • Rope mussels €6m (-11%)
  • Other finfish €2m (+12%)
  • Other shellfish €1m (-6%)

By volume:

  • Salmon 13,400 (+14%)
  • Irish Rock Oysters 9,000 (-14%)
  • Seabed Cultured Mussels 4,400 (-11%)
  • Rope mussels 10,300 (-1%)
  • Other finfish 600 (-1%)
  • Other shellfish 300 (-1%)
Published in Fishing
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Marine environment and inshore fishing groups have welcomed a temporary reinstatement of a ban on larger vessels trawling within six nautical miles of the Irish coast.

As The Times Ireland edition reports, Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue has also welcomed the decision by the Court of Appeal to reinstate a policy directive underpinning the ban, pending a full hearing of the case in late June.

The National Inshore Fishermen’s Association (NIFA) and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) paid tribute yesterday to Mr McConalogue’s department.

IWDG co-ordinator Dr Simon Berrow said hoped it would “pave the way for full restoration of the ban at the next court hearing”.

“Much of the activity inside the six nautical mile limit by a small number of larger vessels is over for the winter, so it won’t make any practical difference now,” Padraig Whooley of the IWDG pointed out.

However, for marine mammals like the recent Arctic walrus recorded on Kerry’s Valentia island, it is a “positive move”, he said.

NIFA secretary Alex Crowley also said the ruling was very positive in ensuring the sustainability of stocks for some 80 per cent of the Irish fleet.

However, the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation chief executive Patrick Murphy said that the directive still required scientific backing to support it.

The policy directive was introduced in March 2019, stating that from January 1st 2020 “all trawling by large vessels, over 18 metres in length overall, in coastal waters inside Ireland’s 6-mile zone was to cease, other than for a sprat fishery which was to be phased out during 2020 and 2021”.

Following a judicial review by two fishermen, the High Court made an order in favour of the applicants last October and the policy directive was declared “void/or of no legal effect”.

Read more in The Times here

Published in Fishing

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D., today confirmed that agreement has been reached at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council to set provisional quotas for EU fishermen in line with scientific advice for fish stocks for the period up to 31 July 2021.

The Minister stated, “Our ambition is to achieve a satisfactory conclusion of the negotiations between EU and UK on setting TACs and quotas for the full year for the stocks shared with the UK. These consultations are ongoing and have not yet been concluded. In the meantime, this is a practical measure to provide continuity for our fishing fleets, because the existing interim quotas expire at the end of March.” 

At the EU Council of Fisheries Ministers in December last year, Ministers agreed to set interim Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas for the first quarter of 2021, pending the outcome of the negotiations on a future relationship with the UK.

The European Commission, on behalf of the EU, has been engaged in consultations with the UK on setting fishing opportunities for shared stocks for 2021 since early February. While progress is being made in these consultations and an agreement with the UK has not to date been reached, setting provisional TACs and quotas for EU fishermen for seven months will provide certainty and continuity for the fishing industry.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.DThe Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D

The Minister said, “I am hopeful that the negotiations with the UK will be finalised shortly, but even the best estimates would not have the full year quotas in place by the end of March. As soon as the consultations with the UK are complete, I will be seeking to have Council adopt the EU quotas for the full year without delay.” 

In line with the EU / UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement, these provisional quotas for 7 months will follow scientific advice. The Council agreed increases in the provisional quotas for important stocks such as Monkfish in Area 7 (+8%) and Nephrops in the Porcupine Bank (+25%), compared to 2020. The provisional quota for the pollock stocks has remained at the level set for the first three months reflecting the precautionary advice from ICES.

For pelagic species, including Mackerel, Arctic herring and Blue Whiting, the full twelve-month quotas has been agreed by Council.

The Minister said, “I am pleased with the outcome of the consultations with Norway in respect of Blue Whiting. The ICES advice is for a 20% cut in this stock and this advice is being followed. I took a strong line internally in the EU in relation to the recently concluded EU negotiations with Norway. As a result, EU negotiated successfully to reduce the customary transfer of this stock to Norway. This reduced transfer of EU Blue Whiting to Norway has resulted in the necessary scientific cut to the Total Allowable Catch being significantly mitigated As a result Ireland’s quota has been reduced by only 8%, giving us a quota of 35,373 tonnes. The level of transfer of EU Blue Whiting to Norway for 2021 has been set at the lowest transfer level we have seen and represents a recognition at EU level of the need to use every opportunity to improve the situation for our pelagic fleet.”

The Minister welcomed the progress that had been made to date in the EU-UK consultations. He added, “It is encouraging that the UK are engaging in these consultations in a pragmatic and cooperative way. An agreement with the UK would provide much needed certainty to our fishing industry. An agreement with the UK must be fair and balanced and provide a level playing field in order to protect the long-term sustainability of our shared stocks and our fishing industry.”

Published in Fishing
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The fishing industry is "one hundred per cent united" in what it wants the Government's new Seafood Task Force to do for the industry, according to the Chief Executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers' Organisation in Castletownbere.

CEO Patrick Murphy said in an interview that all sectors of the industry were united in their approach, writes Tom MacSweeney.

He said that fishing had been devastated and was reduced to being "just a memory" in his area because of the previous way decommissioning of the fleet had been forced on fishermen.

The key points the industry is seeking are a fair share-out of the Brexit fishing impact amongst all EU nations and a reversal of the discrimination shown against Ireland; that any package of aids to the industry should prioritise the most affected and that the Task Force must continue in existence until the coastal communities are properly protected for their future.

Listen to Patrick Murphy here

Published in Fishing
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Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue T.D. has welcomed the decision of the Court of Appeal to temporarily reinstate the Policy Directive excluding large vessels from trawling in inshore waters within six miles of the coast. This will apply at least until the full hearing of the case by the Court of Appeal in late June.

After hearing the motion on Friday 19th March last, the Court was persuaded that the balance of justice leaned in favour of the State at this time and granted a stay on the order of the High Court up until the hearing of the substantive appeal in June, at which time the matter of the stay will be reconsidered by the Court.

Minister McConalogue commented today “I am pleased to hear that the Court of Appeal has allowed for the reinstatement of the Policy Directive. This decision will mean that vessels over 18 metres in length are prohibited from trawling inside our 6 miles zone, at least until late June, except for a restricted sprat fishery, which would usually not occur during the late spring/summer period. The stay has only been granted up until the June hearing.”

The Policy Directive was introduced in March 2019, following the decision of the then Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine that from 1 January 2020 all trawling by large vessels, over 18 metres in length overall, in coastal waters inside Ireland’s 6 mile zone was to cease, other than for a sprat fishery which was to be phased out during 2020 and 2021.

A Judicial Review was taken by two applicant fishermen who successfully challenged the validity of the Policy Directive. On 6th October 2020, the High Court made an order in favour of the applicants and the Policy Directive was declared void/or of no legal effect. A stay on the order was refused by the High Court on 10th December last. The Court of Appeal has now reinstated the Policy Directive at least until the full hearing of the appeal. The substantive hearing by the Court of Appeal is due to take place on the 22nd and 23rd June.

Published in Fishing

Ireland is determined to secure almost one billion euro in EU compensation for the impact of Brexit in spite of France’s attempt to reduce this country’s share, Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue has said.

As The Times Ireland edition reports today, Mr McConalogue said it was not yet clear what proportion of this funding would be allocated to the fishing industry, but this sector is recognised as having borne “the most severe impact of the final Brexit deal”.

Mr McConalogue said that there would also be national exchequer funding for the sector, in addition to the monies from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve – as the EU’s 5 billion euro compensation package is known.

Earlier this week, The Irish Times reported that France was trying to cut Ireland’s share, by proposing a different “allocation key” that would result in extra money going to bigger states like France, Spain and Italy.

It could cut €200 million from the expected sum of almost €1 billion due to Ireland this year, according to calculations by Belgian MEP Pascal Arimont, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the Brexit Adjustment Reserve.

In a frank admission of the Brexit deal outcome, Mr McConalogue suggested it was almost inevitable that once Britain’s EU exit campaign had put the fishing industry and reclamation of its waters “front and centre”, there would be a negative outcome for the seafood industry here.

He defended Ireland’s decision not to use a veto, in contrast to France which had threatened to use it in defence of its Channel fleet.

“Given that we catch one-third of total fish in UK waters, a “no-deal” scenario would have been quite disastrous,” he said.

“It was a tremendous disappointment that fish was contained within the deal, and involved a 15 per cent quota loss to Ireland,” he said.

Mr McConalogue said that part of the remit of a seafood task force he has recently established would be to recommend the best ways for EU and national exchequer funding to be spent to support the seafood sector and coastal communities.

Its final report would have to be completed in four months, he stressed, and its remit would include Ireland’s approach to the next EU Common Fisheries Policy review, due to be completed by 2023.

A former State scientist Dr Peter Tyndall recently called on the government to employ the “best legal and maritime minds” to take a legal case for a better deal for Ireland under the EU Treaties guaranteeing coastal communities a fair income.

Mr McConalogue confirmed he has asked the task force to look at the options of tying up vessels in return for compensation in the short term, or a “small-level “of decommissioning vessels permanently.

Asked how he responded to the industry’s call for more fish, rather than fleet downsizing, McConalogue said that he was “ absolutely....with the industry on that”.

Read The Times here

Published in Fishing
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Efforts are due to resume this week to avoid a series of 24-hour strike actions by State sea fisheries inspection staff after talks collapsed last week at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

As the Times Irish edition reports today, the WRC discussions had been convened after SFPA staff voted “overwhelmingly” late last month for industrial action in a disagreement over consultation on management changes to the State body.

It is understood the discussions fell apart over an SFPA management decision to continue with organisational changes recommended in a consultancy review.

The Price Waterhouse Coopers (Pwc) review of the SFPA finalised last year found that the authority was “not working effectively” and that it required “urgent attention”.

The SFPA monitors and enforces sea-fisheries and seafood safety legislation, and it works with the Naval Service on inspections of fishing vessels under the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.

The union served notice of the first in a series of 24-hour stoppages at sea fisheries harbours from midnight of March 8th, but this was suspended when invitations were issued to attend the WRC.

Fórsa and SFPA management resumed contact shortly before the weekend to seek a resolution, and both bodies declined to comment.

The SFPA committed to implementing the Pwc review’s 47 recommendations from early this year.

The Pwc review also referred to a European Commission audit of 2018 in Killybegs, which has led to a recent demand from the EU for “payback” of Ireland’s mackerel quota due to issues with weighing and under-reporting of catches.

It is understood that SFPA staff believe they are being blamed by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine for the under-reporting.

Read more in The Times here

Published in Fishing

Red Bay and Larne RNLI came to the aid of 17 fisherman last night (Thursday 11 March) after their 35m Spanish trawler got into difficulty 11 miles east of Cushendall.

The volunteer crews at both stations were requested to launch their all-weather lifeboats just before 7.30pm following a report from Belfast Coastguard that the trawler had lost all power and was drifting into a shipping lane.

Weather conditions at the time were challenging with Storm Force 10 gusts of up to 54 knots and high seas recorded during the course of the call out.

Red Bay RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat under Coxswain Paddy McLaughlin and with five crew onboard, was on scene first to assess the situation. Larne RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat meanwhile, under Coxswain Frank Healy and with four crew members onboard, was diverted from a training exercise and made its way to the scene.

Weather conditions at the time were challenging with Storm Force 10 gusts of up to 54 knots and high seasWeather conditions at the time were challenging with Storm Force 10 gusts of up to 54 knots and high seas

Red Bay RNLI began to work with the crew of the trawler to establish a towline while the all-weather lifeboat from Larne illuminated the scene in what were dark, wet and windy conditions.

The lifeboat started a slow tow to bring the vessel back to Red Bay but the extreme weather forced the tow to part mid-way.

Larne RNLI established a second tow and brought the trawler the remainder of the way into Red Bay where it was secured at 11 pm.

Both lifeboats were requested to launch once again this morning after the trawler began to drag its anchor out of Waterfoot. In much better conditions and daylight, Red Bay RNLI safely towed the vessel into the shelter of Red Bay.

Speaking following the call out, Larne RNLI Coxswain Frank Healy said: ‘Weather conditions on scene last night were extremely challenging for all involved and I would like to commend our volunteers both here and in Red Bay for their teamwork over the three and half hours as they worked in darkness amid Force 10 winds gusting up to 54 knots and high seas. Our volunteers are highly skilled and trained for all eventualities at sea and that was certainly put to the test last night but we were delighted to help and bring the fishermen to safety.’

Published in Fishing
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The Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D., today addressed the inaugural meeting of the Seafood Sector Taskforce, established by the Minister to make recommendations on measures to mitigate the impacts on the Irish Fishing industry, and on the coastal communities that depend on fisheries, of the fish quota share reductions arising from the EU/UK Trade & Cooperation Agreement.

Addressing the Taskforce, Minister McConalogue said, “The outcome of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement will lead to a loss of €43 million per year in fish quotas for our fisheries sector, with knock-on effects on marine support industries and our coastal communities. The quota reductions in some of our most important stocks will be felt immediately by our fishing industry when the full annual EU quotas for 2021 are determined shortly. The impacts for Ireland’s fishing sector are disproportionate compared to other Member States and I again call on the Commission and other Member States to find a more equitable solution to the quota transfers to the UK.”

Minister McConalogue added, “I can assure this Task Force that the Government will work to ensure that the fisheries sector, and the coastal communities that depend on it, are supported through the period ahead. The Work of this Task Force will inform funding priorities for the coming years under my Department’s Seafood Development Programme 2021-27 and under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve.

The Seafood Sector Taskforce

The Seafood Sector Taskforce is chaired by Aidan Cotter, barrister and former CEO of Bord Bia. Mr Cotter will be assisted by a steering group comprised of Margaret Daly - Deputy CEO of seafood processor Errigal Bay Ltd and Mícheal Ó Cinnéide, member of the Aquaculture Licensing Appeals Board and former Director of the EPA and Marine Institute.

Chairperson – Aidan Cotter

Steering Group - Margaret Daly and Mícheal Ó Cinnéide

Members

  • · Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation
  • · Irish Fish Producers Organisation
  • · Irish South & West Fishermen’s Organisation
  • · Irish South & East Fishermen’s Organisation
  • · Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation PO
  • · National Inshore Fisheries Forum
  • · 4 main Fishermen’s Co-operatives (Castletownbere, Foyle, Clogherhead, Galway & Aran)
  • · Irish Fish Processors & Exporters Organisation
  • · Irish farmers Association (aquaculture branch)
  • · Fisheries Local Action Groups (1 representative of the 7 FLAGs)
  • · Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine
  • · Bord Iascaigh Mhara (secretariat)
  • · Bord Bia
  • · Enterprise Ireland
  • · Údarás na Gaeltachta
  • · Tourism Ireland
  • · Coastal Local Authorities (2)
  • · Irish Local Development Network
Published in Fishing
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