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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency has today (Friday, 23 September) announced an extension to the Brexit Voluntary Permanent Cessation ( ‘decommissioning’ scheme) for fishing vessels.

The new deadline is 5pm, Friday 18 November.

BIM has also announced a change to the crew compensation agreement within the scheme. This agreement which was previously required to be submitted with an application, can now be submitted prior to first scheme payment subject to an applicant being approved for decommissioning and having received a letter of offer.

The aim of the new scheme, that opened for applications last week, is to help restore balance between fishing fleet capacity and available quotas following quota reductions arising from the Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) between the EU and the UK. The scheme is a recommendation of the Seafood Task Force, established by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue TD, in 2021.

More information, including details on eligibility and how to apply can be found by visiting www.bim.ie

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A coalition of Ireland’s leading environmental non-governmental organisations and networks says progress is beginning to be made towards protecting some of the most vulnerable ecosystems within Irish waters. Fair Seas has welcomed a decision by the European Commission to close parts of the Northeast Atlantic to bottom fishing but says more action is needed.

The move will see deep sea fishing using gear such as trawls, gillnets and bottom longlines, banned in 87 sensitive zones. The area amounts to 16,000 km2 of EU waters, of which nearly 9,000 km2 are within the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Fair Seas published a report in June identifying 16 ‘Areas of Interest’ for MPA designation in Irish waters. The new closures line up almost perfectly with the areas identified by Fair Seas.

The new ban on bottom fishing will apply to 1.8% of Irish waters. Fair Seas is urging the Government to designate a minimum of 30% of Irish waters as Marine Protected Areas by 2030, up from the current figure of 2% which the group says is wholly inadequate. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are areas of our seas and coasts legally protected from activities that damage the habitats, wildlife and natural processes.

A basket star which is found in some of the deep water habitats off the coast of Ireland. The Gorgonocephalus catches prey with its many arms that bend and coil towards a mouth on the underside of its central disc. Image courtesy of the SeaRover project which is co-funded by the Irish Government and the European Maritime & Fisheries Fund 2014-2020A basket star which is found in some of the deep water habitats off the coast of Ireland. The Gorgonocephalus catches prey with its many arms that bend and coil towards a mouth on the underside of its central disc. Image courtesy of the SeaRover project which is co-funded by the Irish Government and the European Maritime & Fisheries Fund 2014-2020

Aoife O’ Mahony, Campaign Manager for Fair Seas highlighted the need for legislation to be implemented in Ireland, she said, “The Irish government has committed to protecting 30% of our waters before 2030. We need to ensure that MPA legislation is ambitious and timely to conserve, restore and protect our ocean. Our ocean territory is home to endangered sharks, globally important seabird colonies, and animals threatened with extinction. It is vital that we act now to restore critical habitats, safeguard wildlife and help address the climate crisis. The time for action is now.” 

Regina Classen, Marine Policy and Research Officer with the Irish Wildlife Trust said, “This is incredible news for Ireland. We have sensitive ecosystems in the deep waters off the Irish coast. These areas are home to cold-water coral reefs, deep sea sponge reefs and sea-pen fields which are easily damaged by bottom-contacting fishing gear. Not only are we now protecting fragile deep-sea reefs from bottom trawling, but even a part of the Porcupine Bank, which is heavily trawled for Dublin Bay Prawn, is now protected due to the presence of sea-pens. 

Ireland South MEP Grace O’Sullivan, Green Party Spokesperson for the Marine added, “The news that over 16,000km2 of fragile marine ecosystems are to be strictly protected is a fantastic development for Ireland and our seas. Civil society organisations have worked hard to achieve this victory over the last few years and should be commended. These areas are home to priceless biodiversity and are also some of the most effective at storing carbon. I believe these areas could now play a central role in the government’s work to protect at least 30% of our waters with new Marine Protected Areas, a third of which should be ‘strictly protected’ from human interference. The EU meanwhile must now ensure that these commitments are met by Member States as the clock is ticking towards 2030.”

The Fair Seas campaign is led by a coalition of Ireland’s leading environmental non-governmental organisations and networks, including Irish Wildlife Trust, BirdWatch Ireland, Sustainable Water Network, Friends of the Irish Environment, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Irish Environmental Network and Coastwatch. It is funded by Oceans 5, Blue Nature Alliance, BFCT and The Wyss Foundation.

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Several leading Aran Island fishers have spoken of how impossible it is for family businesses to continue fishing due to Brexit-related quota losses and escalating fuel costs.

Interviewed on RTÉ Radio 1 Countrywide, John and Mary Conneely outlined the struggle involved, and said they would be considering applying for the Government’s decommissioning scheme.

The Conneelys, who live in Gort na gCapall on Inis Mór, are a fourth-generation fishing family.

A 60 million euro scrappage scheme, where vessel owners who agree to surrender their licenses and have their vessels broken up, is being rolled out by the Government with EU backing.

It is anticipated it will involve decommissioning up to 60 vessels to ensure that the remaining Irish whitefish fleet remains viable.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara, which is administering the scheme, has opened it for applications.

Conneely, whose late father Gregory was something of a legend in the Aran fleet, told the programme that the industry is no longer offering an attractive career for young people from the islands.

Stevie Joyce, also an Aran islander, said he hopes to remain in the industry. Joyce, who fishes the 27-metre Oileáin an Óir, recalled how there was a time when one had to queue for several hours to land fish in the Galway fishery harbour of Ros-a-Mhíl.

Stevie Joyce’s trawler Oileáin an Óir in which he hopes to continue fishing. Photo: Ray O'Donoghue/Marine TrafficStevie Joyce’s trawler Oileáin an Óir in which he hopes to continue fishing. Photo: Ray O'Donoghue/Marine Traffic

“Those days are gone,”Joyce said, and landings by Irish vessels are becoming increasingly infrequent.

He told the programme how Irish fishermen had agreed to conservation measures for the Porcupine Bank prawn fishery, but now Irish vessels have to tie up early due to the small quota, while French, Spanish, Northern Irish and other vessels continue to fish there.

Landings of foreign vessels into Irish fishing harbours have risen by 48 per cent over the past decade, while there has been a “big drop” in the amount of fish landed by Irish vessels, according to two seafood industry organisations who met Tánaiste Leo Varadkar recently on the issue.

Listen to the RTÉ Radio 1 Countrywide report HERE

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Achill Island RNLI went to the assistance of two local fishermen whose 21ft fishing vessel was experiencing engine difficulties this morning.

The volunteer lifeboat crew were requested by Malin Head Coast Guard to go to the assistance of the two fishermen who reported difficulties with their engine close to Corrán, off Achill Island, shortly after 10am this morning. The ‘Sam and Ada Moody’ launched with Dave Curtis, Coxswain, Michael Cattigan, Mechanic, Patrick Kilbane, Terry Hogarth and Declan Corrigan on board. They quickly reached the vessel, which was located approximately two miles from the Lifeboat Station, in what was described as ideal sea and weather conditions at the time.

On reaching the vessel, both fishermen were found to be safe and well. The vessel was assessed, and a decision was made to tow it the short distance to Corrán, the nearest and safest pier.

Speaking after the call out, Ciaran Needham, Achill Island RNLI’s Lifeboat Operations Manager, said: ‘The fishermen on board this vessel did everything right and made the right call in seeking assistance. Anyone can encounter problems with their vessel, and while sea and weather conditions were perfect this morning, they can change very quickly. Our advice is never to hesitate to call the Coast Guard for help if you encounter unexpected problems while at sea. Our crew are always happy to assist.’

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The Government today approved submission to the European Commission of the European Maritime Fisheries & Aquaculture Fund 2021-2027 - Seafood Development Programme.

The Seafood Development Programme, which will now be subject to adoption by the EU Commission, is worth up to €258.4 million and will make available significant funding to the seafood and marine sectors.

This new Programme represents an increased funding commitment from the €240 million allocated under the previous Programme under European Maritime & Fisheries Fund 2014 to 2020.

Announcing the decision, Minister McConalogue said; “I welcome Government’s approval of the new Seafood Development Programme 2021-2027. This new programme represents the Government’s ongoing commitment to supporting the seafood sector and coastal communities, as well as ensuring that our marine environment is maintained for future generations.”

Developed to implement the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund, the Programme supports the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the EU maritime policy and the EU’s international commitments for international ocean governance and as such supports sustainable fisheries and the conservation of marine biological resources, for food security through the supply of seafood products, for the growth of a sustainable blue economy and for healthy, safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed seas and oceans. In addition to its important function to support the preservation of the marine environment, it is also a key source of funding for the development of the seafood sector including fishers, processors and aquaculture operators to support sustainable, economic growth in our coastal communities.

The programme was developed over the past two years in consultation with the public, stakeholders and the EU Commission. This programme is complementary and in addition to the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, €225 million worth of supports and developmental strategies that have been implemented by the Minister in 2021 & 2022. The supports followed the recommendations of the Seafood Task Force which was established by Minister McConalogue in response to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. The implementation of the Brexit Adjustment Reserve supports, as recommended by the Seafood Taskforce, meant that this new Seafood Development Programme development timeframe was extended to ensure a coherent and long-term approach to supporting the seafood sector through the remainder of the EMFAF programme to the end of 2027. A final public consultation and statutory consultation on advanced drafts was concluded in early September.

Minister McConalogue added; “Over the past year, I have announced a range of schemes, worth €225 million, designed to support the seafood sector and coastal communities in overcoming the impact of Brexit. This new Programme will provide for further support to the sector over the coming years up to 2027 to ensure that it will not only survive, but transform to generate economic growth and sustain jobs. The Programme will also provide funding to state bodies which carry out important work in the marine environment to protect our coastal natural resources.”

Government approval of the Programme now means that it will be submitted to the EU Commission for adoption by the end of 2022.

The European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) 2021 to 2027 is the successor to the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) 2014 to 2020 by which Ireland successfully implemented the previous Seafood Development Programme. Almost all of the funds available under EMFF have been committed and have resulted in a significant investment in Ireland’s marine sector and environment. It is expected that all funds will be expended by the end of programme.

The new Seafood Development Programme is a high-level framework for investment. It details the vision and key missions to be achieved by its implementation. It also demonstrates how the strategic objectives of the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (specified in Regulation (EU) 2021/1139) will be employed in fulfilling the Programme.

The Programme aims to support a diverse range of activities within the marine area. Specifically, it aims to support Ireland's environmental obligations through a continuation of the EMFF Marine Biodiversity Scheme. This will fund appropriate assessment of fisheries and aquaculture activities, reporting on the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, projects in support of the CFP, and species and habitat restoration.

The Programme also aims to support enhancement of Ireland's knowledge of its marine environment, particularly in terms of enhancing knowledge of climate change impacts on fish stocks, habitats and species.

Fishing

For fisheries, the Programme envisages support for capital investment on board, capital investment ashore relating to the landing obligation, innovation in fishing gear and methods, technical advice to the fleet, acquisition of first vessel by young fishers, supports to the inshore fleet, training and marketing.

Aquaculture

For aquaculture, the Programme envisages support for implementation of the National Strategic Plan for Aquaculture. This will include in particular, support for capital investment in aquaculture sites, supports for innovation and research to develop technology and enhance knowledge, advisory services, training and marketing. For processing, the Programme envisages support for capital investment in seafood processing enterprises, in particular, to add value to raw material, enhance energy efficiency, reduce CO2 emissions, and enhance competitiveness. It will also support innovation to develop new products, advisory services, marketing and training.

The Programme aims to support the socio-economic development and diversification of coastal communities through the seven Fisheries Local Action Groups. This will carry on from the Brexit Blue Economy Enterprise Development Scheme, implemented through the FLAGs over 2022/23, but will also have a broader remit to support community-type projects.

Lastly, the Programme aims to fund Ireland's compliance with its obligations under the CFP, specifically for fisheries protection and for fisheries management science.

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Landings of foreign vessels into Irish fishing harbours have risen by 48 per cent over the past decade, while there has been a “big drop” in the amount of fish landed by Irish vessels.

The figures were conveyed to the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar by Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO) chief executive Aodh O’Donnell and Irish Fish Processors’ and Exporters’ Association (IFPEA) chief executive Brendan Byrne at a meeting with him last week.

Ó’Donnell and Byrne described the hour-long discussion with the Tánaiste – arranged through Fine Gael - in Government Buildings as “positive”.

O’Donnell said it was “the first step in a process aimed at ongoing engagement on the developmental needs of the seafood sector.”

The Department of the Marine was represented by Dr Cecil Beamish.

Byrne said the meeting was focused on “building a whole of government approach to arrest the decline of the sector”.

Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO) chief executive Aodh O’DonnellIrish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO) chief executive Aodh O’Donnell

He said it also “focused on the need to support industry at all levels in a process of innovation-led development’’.

Landings of Irish fishing vessels in both domestic and foreign ports fell by a third since 2012, O’Donnell told the Tánaiste.

“Over the same period, landings of foreign vessels at Irish ports rose by 48%. There is a major disparity here, leading to a big drop in the amount of fish landed by Irish fleets,”he said.

“ This hits hard at fish producers and fish processors, but also at other industries relying on Irish fish. We discussed this in the context of the adverse and disproportionate impacts of Brexit quota transfers,”O’Donnell said.

“We emphasised that there is a need to achieve a rebalancing so that Ireland has a fairer share of quotas in the EU,”he said.

“We are moving towards a situation where Irish processors, retailers and restaurants are forced to buy more fish from foreign vessels because the Irish fleet can no longer meet demand,”he said.

“We outlined how this is a threat to our food security and employment in coastal communities,” he added.

The value of the fishing processing industry in Ireland fell from €627m in 2015 to €325 in 2020, a fall of 48%, according to the latest available Eurostat figures.

The IFPO and the IFPEA say they also “took time to press for the need to immediately draw down the existing EU fuel aid subsidies which other member states are already claiming”.

“There is no cost to the State in passing on this aid as it is already on offer. It makes no sense to force our fleet to compete at a disadvantage with other EU fleets that are getting as much as 30c/litre in fuel aid. Otherwise, putting to sea will simply be unaffordable for increasing numbers of Irish vessels,” they said.

O Donnell says he outlined to the Tánaiste the need to back demands for the development of plans for the fishing industry’s future.

He said the Government “needs to press the EU to achieve a more equitable share of quotas for Ireland”.

“At present, decommissioning around a third of the whitefish fleet is being implemented to match the fleet to reduced quotas post Brexit. This is a bleak prospect for the sector,” O’Donnell said.

“We have stressed the need for a developmental approach to modernise and renew the fleet. This needs to be supported by innovative ways of securing more quotas,” he said.

O’Donnell said they also “outlined the need for Government to take account of fishers in the planned development of offshore wind”.

The IFPO and the IFPEA said the delegation was satisfied with the exchange of perspectives.

Byrne thanked the Tánaiste for ‘’taking time in his busy itinerary to meet with industry representatives in a frank meeting and for sharing his insights”.

“The Tánaiste clearly confirmed his commitment and that of the whole of government to working on sustaining this important industry to coastal communities,” Byrne said.

O’Donnell said the seafood industry must “continue to build a consensus and work together to represent this sector, and this is a step in this process”.

The meeting was arranged by Manus Boyle and Declan Lovett of the Dunkineely and Killybegs branch of Fine Gael

The IFPO and IFPEA representatives credited the support of Boyle and Lovett and their Fine Gael branches.

They also paid tribute to Colm Markey, Fine Gael MEP for the Midlands-North-West constituency for “his drive and commitment in raising awareness of fishery matters at national and EU level’’.

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Marine expert Dr Kevin Flannery has called for a commission of inquiry into how successive governments have managed Ireland’s fishing resource.

In an Irish Independent feature on the impact of the 60 million euro whitefish fleet decommissioning scheme – totalling 80 million euro including tax credits – Flannery also says people will drive around the west coast in a few years and wonder where all the Irish boats have gone.

The decommissioning scheme aims to scrap 60 vessels – a third of the active whitefish fleet, at a time of growing concern over food security.

It will be funded from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve to compensate for quota losses due to Brexit.

“In reality, an Irish skipper would be better off now taking the decommissioning money and buying a vessel registered in France to fish from its quota,”Flannery says.

“The Spanish have been doing this for years, and now the Dutch are at it too. You take one well known Dutch fishing company and it has a turnover equivalent to the total turnover of the Irish fleet.

“Our politicians always seem to view fishing as a problem, rather than an industry which could help us with food security,”Flannery says.

Marine expert Dr Kevin FlanneryMarine expert Dr Kevin Flannery

Flannery says that Shetland is buying up vessel tonnage to keep for its fishermen, who may need it later, and believes the Ireland should not be scrapping viable vessels permanently.

John Lynch of the IS&EFPO says Ireland’s last hope is in the upcoming review of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy – but he isn’t holding his breath.

“We have the best and most productive waters in Europe,” Aodh O’Donnell of the IFPO says, pointing out that the Government here has a duty to initiate development plans for those left in the fleet.

“ Irish fish producers have contributed to the sustainable management of fish stocks, while others have been able to exploit resources in our rich waters. Decommissioning is our Government’s solution to a historical legacy of failing to deliver for industry and coastal communities,” O’Donnell says.

Aodh O’Donnell of the IFPOAodh O’Donnell of the IFPO

Vessel owner Caitlín Uí Aodha from Helvick, Co Waterford, says increased regulations, fuel prices and Brexit-related quota losses have piled on the pressure, she says.

“I think my family has been involved in fishing since before the Famine,” she says. “My grandfather fished, my father, brothers, cousins...and now maybe I am the last one in that line.”

“If farmers in Munster – a beautiful green province – were told that they had to sell off their farms to one or two investment companies, there would be an outcry, but that is the agricultural equivalent of what is happening here. And once you surrender your license, there is no way back in...”

Read more in The Irish Independent here

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Fishing and seafood organisations say they are “shocked and disappointed” at the Minister for Marine’s failure to address the fuel crisis facing the sector.

A joint statement from eight representative organisations calls on the Government and marine minister, Charlie McConalogue, to set up a national scheme and draw down existing EU funds to cover extra fuel costs.

The statement follows a lengthy meeting with Mr McConalogue earlier this week, which the minister had described as “productive”.

However, the eight organisations have warned that the survival of the entire seafood sector is at stake and that he must “act now”.

On July 6th, the same day as the meeting with Mr McConalogue, the European Parliament had voted to allocate unused funds in the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) to tackle the fuel crisis.

“Some member states have had a quick and effective response, leading to a reduction of fuel prices for fishing vessels,” the joint statement by the organisations says.

“ Others such as Ireland, have refused to compensate their fishermen - a response which has sparked port blockades in, for example, the Netherlands,” the statement says.

‘’There is no excuse for the minister to delay in immediately setting up a national scheme to cover the additional costs, particularly fuel -the EU funding is there,” the statement continues.

“Failure to act is a major threat to the survival of the fishing/seafood sector, which is worth € 1.26 billion to the Irish economy. It’s also a blow for the coastal communities which depend on our sector for their survival,” it says.

“We are disappointed that the Minister did not announce a scheme at our meeting last night. However, we do expect he will act, having reflected on the magnitude of the crisis very clearly articulated by us at the meeting.”

The joint statement was issued on behalf of the delegation which met the minister. 

They include the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO), Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (IS&WFPO), the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA), the Irish Farmers’ Association aquaculture (IFA Aquaculture), the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO), the Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation (IIMRO), the Irish South and East Fish Producers Organisation (IS&EFPO) and Ireland’s seven Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs).

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Eight Irish fishing industry groups have warned that traditional fish and chips “may not be on Irish restaurant summer menus” due to Government inaction on high energy prices.

“Rising fuel prices are crippling the Irish seafood sector, including fishermen, aquaculture producers and fish processors,” Aodh O Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO), has warned.

He says the crisis is “a threat to food security”.

Aodh O Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers OrganisationAodh O Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation

The seafood sector says it is calling on the Government to “act now to claim available EU funds to compensate the seafood sector and get the situation under control”.

Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogueMinister for Marine Charlie McConalogue

A joint statement issued in advance of a meeting with Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue this week has been issued by the eight groups.

They include the IFPO the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (IS&WFPO) the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA), the Irish Farmers’ Association aquaculture division, the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO), the Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation (IIMRO), the Irish South and East Fish Producers Organisation (IS&EFPO) and Ireland’s seven Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs).

"The crisis is a threat to food security"

IFPEA chief executive Brendan Byrne says the European Commission adopted a ‘Temporary Crisis Framework’ for the seafood sector on March 23rd.

“This was to enable member states to use the flexibility of State aid rules to compensate for high energy prices,” Byrne says.

“In addition to this, just two days later, the commission activated a crisis mechanism to grant financial compensation for lost income and additional costs, because of seafood market disruption. It was activated under the umbrella of the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) ”he says.

The EMFAF crisis mechanism is a temporary measure and applies retrospectively as of 24th February 2022 and will be in place until the end of 2022.

Enda Conneely of the IIMROEnda Conneely of the IIMRO

Enda Conneely of the IIMRO says the Irish government has “abjectly failed to act, despite jobs already being in jeopardy”.

Marine biologist, Dr Kevin Flannery, of the Fisheries Local Action Groups, says the seafood sector has a crucial role in the Irish economy.

Marine biologist, Dr Kevin FlanneryMarine biologist, Dr Kevin Flannery

“The Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) Business of Seafood report for 2021 clearly shows the vital importance of the seafood industry to the economy of our fishing communities sustaining over 16,000 jobs. These jobs are mainly located in peripheral areas. So, any job losses will hit hardest at the heart of our coastal and maritime communities,” Dr Flannery says.

John Lynch of the IS&EFPO also says that “the Irish government is failing to activate the funding made available by the EU for the seafood industry.

“Meanwhile French, Spanish and many of our fellow EU compatriots who fish our seas are receiving targeted benefits to aid their seafood sectors and enabling them to continue operations,” Lynch says.

“We need to prevent a wipeout of the seafood industry which threatens our ability to make a significant contribution to EU food security. In order to do this, we must be on a level playing field with our EU counterparts.”

Norah Parke, on behalf of KFO, says her organisation supports the Irish fishing industry’s stance.“

“We appeal for immediate action by the government before many vessel owners, processors and suppliers reach a point of no return. This is due to the unsustainable spiral of costs facing the fishing industry and further supply chain. It is incomprehensible that there is a solution available which is not being used,” she says.

Patrick Murphy of the IS&WFPOPatrick Murphy of the IS&WFPO

Patrick Murphy of the IS&WFPO says “we have a united Irish seafood industry of fishing, fish processing, and aquaculture sectors. Together we demand that the Irish government act now”.

“The Minister for the Marine must at least activate the provision granted by the EU Commission to release essential funds immediately,” Murphy says.

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A new report for two British fishing industry organisations says that over a third of English and Welsh fishing waters and more than half of Scottish waters could be inaccessible to trawling by 2050 due to plans for offshore energy and expansion of marine protected areas.

The report for the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) and National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) published today (30 June) examines three future scenarios to demonstrate the scale of displacement the fishing fleet may face.

The report, entitled “Spatial Squeeze in Fisheries”, was produced by independent consultancy ABPmer.

It is said to be the first such study to quantify the cumulative impact on commercial fishing of “hugely increased competition for space” in the marine environment.

It says in the “worst case scenario”, where fishing is banned in designated highly protected marine areas (HPMAs) and offshore renewable energy expands to meet central and devolved government net zero targets, approximately half (49%) of British fishing waters (357,000km2) could be lost.

Broken down, Scotland could lose 56% of its fishing waters (260,000 km2) and England and Wales losing 36% of theirs (83,000 km2 and 11,100km2 respectively), the study says.

“Even if the worst-case assumptions are not realised, an area of 277,000km2 (38% of British waters) are likely to be lost by then, threatening the very existence of British fishing businesses and causing severe harm to coastal communities,”the report says.

“The pace and scale of change is evident. Trawling is currently excluded from around a third of Scottish waters. Looking back to 2000, trawling was restricted in less than 1% of Scottish and English waters,”the two organisations state.

“In all the future scenarios examined in the report, Scotland is projected to lose far more of its waters for trawling when compared to the rest of Britain – almost double that of England in one of the 2050 scenarios,”they state.

Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and Barrie Deas,chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, said that “the outlook ahead is truly frightening”.

“The report shows that expansion of both offshore renewable energy generation and marine conservation are being prioritised above fishing, despite fishing’s value in producing low carbon, healthy and sustainable food, contributing to our food security and supporting thousands of jobs in our coastal communities,”they said.

“The industry’s voice and interests are being downplayed by government when it comes to overall strategy for marine planning, and in relation to individual planning decisions. No one disputes the need for renewables to help in the battle against climate change, however the scale of development proposed offshore risks putting an already climate-smart industry to the sword,” they said.

“It is deeply unjust that fishing businesses and fishing communities are being denied an equal say when we are the sector likely to feel the most significant impact,” they said.

“We need a proper seat at the table and for consultation to be meaningful, not just lip-service,” they added.

The report indicates that it is not too late for action to minimise the impact on fishing considerably through much better planning and design and the implementation of mitigation measures.

“Both the British and Scottish governments need to recognise the importance of sustainable fisheries for both food production and livelihoods, and more effectively integrate our industry into the marine spatial planning and decision-making systems. The benefits of climate-smart energy should not be at the expense of climate-smart food,” Ms Macdonald and Mr Deas said.

“Fishing industry representatives need to be given a stronger and more effective voice in the planning process, at both strategic plan and project level, to ensure that the potential impact on the fleet of proposed developments and conservation zones are adequately expressed and considered so that impacts can be avoided or minimised. There must be real, meaningful consultation, not just lip service,” they emphasised.

The ABPmer report focuses on demersal trawling, with further work required on pelagic trawling and shellfish fishing, they note. However, they say the study is “an important starting point to underline just how serious the spatial squeeze will be for Britain’s fishing fleet”.

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