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The Minister for Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, has undertaken a series of visits to some of Ireland’s main fishing ports. The Minister has met with fishers, processors fishing organisations and other stakeholders, as he visited Howth, Kilmore Quay, Dunmore East and Killybegs earlier this month. The visits will continue with a trip to Union Hall and Castletownbere later this week, with further visits to fishing ports planned.

In Howth, the Minister visited the Harbour Centre and met the Harbour Master and lead officials on works to the harbour. In May the Minister announced €8.3m in funding for work to Howth and he visited ongoing infrastructure work. The Minister met with fishers on the Pier to discuss fishing matters and the group included fishing representatives from ISEPO, FLAGs NIFF and NIFA & NIFO. He also met with local businesses including Kish Fish and processors including OceanPath.

In Kilmore Quay, the Minister visited the Harbour Centre and met the Harbour Master and lead officials on works to the harbour. In May the Minister announced over €200k in funding for work to Kilmore Quay. The Minister also met with fishers on the Pier, with the group including fishing representatives from ISEPO, NIFF and NIFA & NIFO.

In Dunmore East, the Minister visited the Harbour Centre and met the Harbour Master and lead officials on works to the harbour. In May the Minister announced over € 2.4 m in funding for work at Dunmore East. The Minister also met with fishers on the Pier, with the group including fishing representatives on the Pier to discuss fishing matters and the group included fishing representatives from ISEPO, NIFF and NIFA & NIFO.

In Killybegs, The Minister visited the Harbour Centre and met the Harbour Master, lead officials on works to the harbour and officials from the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority. In May the Minister announced almost €9m in funding for work to Killybegs Harbour including €6.5m for phase two of the Smooth Point Pier Inspection which he visited on his tour of Killybegs. The Minister also met with the IFPEA, the KFO and inshore fishers including NIFA and NIFO representatives and boarded a vessel and visited a processing factory.

Commenting on the visits, Minister McConalogue said: "I have had constructive meetings with fishers and fisher representatives during my visits and I thank everyone for meeting me and for discussing important matters to their community. It was great to also take an opportunity to view the ongoing infrastructure projects at all four harbours and to see progress on these projects."

Published in Fishing

Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue has rejected a plea for help from an Irish skipper who bought a beam trawler in the Netherlands which proved to be dangerously unstable.

As The Sunday Independent reports, skipper CJ Gaffney (49) of a well known Arklow fishing family has incurred substantial losses over the purchase of the vessel which had been certified as safe by German authorities.

The Gaffney family have five generations of service with the RNLI lifeboat.

Research by Gaffney’s legal representatives and naval architect established that at least nine other vessels of similar design in Europe could have safety issues.

The European Commission, which gave the family a hearing over the issue back in 2011, says it is outside its remit as the vessel is under 24 metres in length and falls under member state legislation.

However, it had indicated to the Gaffneys that Irish authorities could draw on EU funds to assist them.

The beam trawler Mary Kate was bought in the Netherlands by CJ Gaffney of Arklow, Co Wicklow and his father in 2007, borrowing 620,000 euro for the purchase.

The vessel was registered under the German flag, and was certified by Germanischer Lloyd Classification Society.

When CJ Gaffney began fishing the vessel in January 2008, he noticed that it was significantly more unstable than his previous older boat and says that " on one or two occasions the boat almost turned over”.

Tests showed 20 tonnes of unaccounted steel were in the hull, and the family opted to lengthen it to make it safer.

The family initiated legal action against several German companies and the German Marine Safety Authority.

However, jurisdiction could not be established.

Ireland’s Marine Survey Office (MSO) would not allow the boat fish initially but issued a stability certificate in 2009 when it had been modified.

The Gaffneys had run out of money to buy an additional license at this stage.

A potential sale to Britain fell through as the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency would not allow it to be registered – in spite of Irish certification to show it was seaworthy.

“The banks subsequently sold the Mary Kate in a fire sale leaving the family with a massive loan of almost €2 million, which is still outstanding,” Gaffney says.

The case has been raised at EU level by a number of Irish MEPs and was referred to the European Parliament’s petitions committee.

It has been raised in the Dáil by Sinn Féin TD and fisheries spokesman Pádraig MacLochlainn and by Social Democrat TD Jennifer Whitmore.

Mr McConalogue has said it is a private commercial matter, and that safety is the responsibility of the Department of Transport.

Ms Whitmore, who attended an online meeting hosted by Mr McConalogue with the Gaffneys late this week (Fri July 16), said she was calling on the marine minister to work with Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan on the issue.

“C J Gaffney did everything he could, and he has been a whistleblower for safety,” Ms Whitmore said.

“There are obvious regulatory gaps at European level that need to be addressed.”

The German ship safety division, the vessel designers and Mr McConalogue declined to comment.

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The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has accepted a business case from Bord Iascaigh Mhara’s (BIM) for the development of a new Sea Survival Training Unit at BIM’s National Fisheries Training College in Greencastle, Co Donegal. The Department is working with BIM on how the project will be delivered as early as possible. Speaking during a visit to the Greencastle College, Minister McConalogue said:

“I am delighted to announce today that I have approved a business case from BIM for the provision of a dedicated Sea Survival Unit at the Greencastle fisheries training college. The project involves an above ground pool, upgraded modern changing rooms together with a new navigation simulator and a radio suite for the new centre.”

The total estimated cost of the proposed BIM project will be approximately €1.1m. The Minister continued: “The new Sea Survival Unit at Greencastle will significantly build upon the professional level of maritime training which BIM currently offers to the Irish seafood sector. It will also facilitate development and expansion of BIMs training programmes over the coming years. The provision of a fit-for-purpose pool, together with new, modern training equipment will also result in a high-quality national asset that will deliver a centre of excellence to support essential training for fishers, providing the instruction needed to equip seafarers with current and future skills needed to pursue varied careers in the seafood sector.”

Following confirmation by BIM that the new facility will be among the nation’s only ‘Green energy pools’ the Minister added: “I welcome BIMs proposal to fit a “green pool” by including an appropriate renewal energy source to fund the pumps, heating and filtration system which is in keeping with national policy and ensure that running costs will be sustainable for the future. I am delighted that the Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland (SEAI) will be assisting BIM in ensuring the delivery of a sustainable facility including the provision of necessary advice prior to the procurement process. “

In response to the Minister’s announcement that the project is under active consideration subject to availability of funding, Jim O’Toole, CEO BIM said: “Safety is an essential part of training for all those embarking on a career in the seafood sector who intend working at sea. With 2,030 registered fishing vessels in Ireland and 2,881 adults working in the fisheries sector, it is important that we continue to prioritise the provision of high quality safety training for the crew of vessels. This new facility will encourage those who wish to pursue life long rewarding careers in the seafood industry and most importantly ensure that safety at sea and on the water is prioritised”.

The Minister concluded; “I am confident that this project when completed will provide a high quality training facility which will ultimately help to save lives and support this important industry which is so crucial to the economies of coastal communities in particular. My ambition is to have the facility fully operational by the end of the first half of 2022”

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Inshore fishers have expressed shock at the sudden closure of the hook and line fishery for mackerel due to an exhausted quota.

As the Times Ireland reports, the hook and line method used to catch the fish inshore has low environmental impact, as there is no risk of by-catch of dolphins and turtles and other marine mammals.

The growth of farmers’ markets has opened up new domestic opportunities to sell the highly prized migratory fish - which is in demand worldwide because of its rich oil content.

However, a number of skippers among up to 2,000 other vessels under 15 metres entitled to catch inshore mackerel were shocked to hear earlier this month (June) that the fishery has closed early.

“We were told our 400-tonne overall quota for the entire inshore fleet has expired,” Eamon Dixon of the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association in Mayo says.

“We had dozens of young lads working on this fishery up here for up to three months of the year, and it has been so valuable for this area,” Dixon explains.

Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns has called on Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue to explain why over 98 per cent of Ireland’s overall quota of mackerel has been allocated to 49 larger Irish vessels – leaving less than a per cent for the inshore fleet.

National Inshore Fishermen’s Association (NIFA) secretary Alex Crowley said the popularity of line-caught mackerel had risen in recent years, taking pressure off shellfish stocks and at a time when the price of crab had fallen.

“Up to last year, there was a trip limit of 500 kg, but this was increased by the department to 750kg per trip which had made it viable,” he said.

“For remote communities like north Mayo, it is an opportunity and with such a low impact,” he said. “However, our own management regime is choking this fishery”.

Dixon and colleagues believe there should be no quota set for smaller vessels, as they pose no threat to supertrawlers – both Irish and international - following the mackerel shoals between Norway, Scotland and Ireland.

Mr McConalogue’s department said that when the 400-tonne limit was exceeded in the fishery in 2020 it was “unexpected”, as total landings for vessels under 15m had been below this until then.

“The 2021 fishery was closed by the minister on June 12th, when the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) advised the Department that the available quota had been caught and exceeded,”it said.

The policy for allocation of 400 tonne to smaller vessels had been set in 2010, amended in 2017, and the minister must be “satisfied that there is satisfactory evidence of changed circumstances to justify a policy review”, it said.

Any such review would require an assessment and full public consultation, the department said, and any increase for the inshore fleet would require that it be “taken from others who are already facing significant cuts” under the EU-UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement.

The Brexit TCA involves transferring 25 per cent of Ireland’s overall mackerel quota to Britain, the department pointed out.

Read more in The Times here

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Steaming up the river Liffey before sunrise, a fleet of 55 Irish fishing vessels staged a national protest in Dublin over the impact of several key issues including Brexit.

The second large-scale protest called on the government to seek a “fairer share” of the burden imposed over loss of quotas in British waters as a result of the Brexit deal.

It was supported by all the main fish producer organisations.

Inshore skippers affected by the sudden closure of the hook and line fishery for mackerel were among those who travelled to Dublin.

Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association chief executive Brendan Byrne said fishermen from right around the coast were “venting frustration and anger at successive years of policy failures at EU and national level”.

“We are over-regulated...we have no equality compared to the French, and the Spanish and Dutch fleet...we are looking for a level playing field,” he said.

Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation chief executive Sean O’Donoghue said Ireland gave away a “totally disproportionate” amount of fish to Britain in the Brexit agreement.

Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation chief executive Sean O’DonoghueKillybegs Fishermen’s Organisation chief executive Sean O’Donoghue

The other “bombshell” was the withdrawal of the EU control plan which meant all fish had to be weighed at the pier – a move which could “destroy the industry”, he warned.

Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation chairman Damien Turner said he had fished for over 30 years, but he and his wife talked recently about him leaving the industry.

“It would break my heart to leave the industry and sell the boat..but when you look at the figures and look at what’ s happening ... you can’t let your heart rule your head,” Turner said.

“It is not just the men and women working on the boats, but up to 15 companies relying on us from electronics to engineering to the local supermarket,” he said.

Irish South and East Fish Producers Organisation chairman John Lynch said that "a once-off temporary tie-up scheme is not enough".

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogueMinister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue

The Irish government’s seafood task force committee has recommended a tie-up scheme in the autumn as part of a series of measures to support the fleet after Brexit.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue said he held constructive talks over two hours with representatives of the fishing industry in Dublin, following the flotilla and protest.“

“ I welcome continued engagement with the industry,” he said.

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A commitment by Taoiseach Micheál Martin to “do right by the Irish fishing community” has failed to avert a large scale protest planned by the sector for Dublin Port this week.

As The Times Ireland edition reports, the protest planned for Wednesday (June 23) is expected to involve vessels from many ports steaming up the river Liffey.

They will berth close to the National Convention Centre, where the Dáil has been sitting temporarily.

Supported by the main fishing industry organisations, the protest comes several weeks after a similar “steam-in” to Cork harbour to highlight the impact of the Brexit deal which was co-ordinated by the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation.

Mr Martin and Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue are due to hold online discussions on Brexit and other issues today (Mon June 21) after a visit by Martin to west Cork ports including Castletownbere and Union Hall.

Castletownbere fishing port in West CorkCastletownbere fishing port in West Cork

Speaking to reports in Castletownbere, Martin said that the Government had “already signalled to the European Commission that we are not happy with the unfair burden-sharing that occurred as a result of Brexit.”

Allocation of quotas was “challenging” and he hoped to “redress the balance” and “do right by the Irish fishing community”.

Martin’s weekend visit to hear the views of fishermen was organised by Fianna Fáil Cork South-West TD Christopher O’Sullivan, who called in the Dáil last week for a “whole government” approach to addressing the “unfair burden share” imposed on Ireland in the Brexit deal.

The EU-UK free trade agreement has resulted in a 15 per cent overall reduction in Irish fish quotas – to the value of 43 million euro – between now and 2026.

Irish fishing industry organisations are demanding that the Taoiseach demands a “fairer burden share” from the EU.

Ireland currently bears the largest proportionate loss of fish among eight EU coastal states which had fished in British waters.

The protest is calling for a renegotiation of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) to ensure Ireland is allocated a fair share of quotas in its own waters.

It is calling for “equal burden sharing” among EU member states in relation to the Brexit deal, and a fair share of the Brexit Adjustment Reserve fund for the fishing industry.

The withdrawal of Ireland’s control plan by the EU – which means all fish has to be weighed on the pier, affecting quality – and issues with the current penalty points system for fishing offences are also being highlighted.

The industry also wants “immediate reinstatement” of traditional access to fishing grounds at Rockall and equal rights for all seafarers under Revenue and taxation laws.

An interim report published last week by the Government’s seafood task force had many valid proposals to ease the Brexit deal's impact, the spokesman said.

The interim report recommends a voluntary temporary tie up scheme of one month’s duration be offered to approximately 220 whitefish vessels impacted by the quota reductions in the period from September to December this year, among other measures.

Read more in The Times Ireland edition here

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Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has now received the interim report of the Seafood Sector Task Force. The Minister set up the Seafood Sector Task Force to examine the implications for the Irish Fishing industry and coastal communities particularly dependent upon it arising from the Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement, agreed between the European Union and the UK.

The Task Force, Chaired by Aiden Cotter, was charged with recommending initiatives that could be taken to provide supports for development and restructuring, so as to ensure a profitable and sustainable fishing fleet and to identify opportunities for jobs and economic activity in coastal communities dependent on fishing.

The Minister requested that an interim report to focus on arrangements for a temporary voluntary fleet cessation scheme to counter the impact of the reduction in quotas would be provided, followed later by the full report of the Seafood Sector Task Force. The Task Force was also asked to review the options and recommend actions that may be pursued that would assist in reducing the burden on Ireland from the transfers of fishing quota shares to the UK.

Marine Minister Charlie McConalogueMarine Minister Charlie McConalogue

The Interim Task Force Report, supported by all Members of the Taskforce, addressed the issue of burden-sharing between Member States and recommends a range of initiatives to address the quota reductions in Trade and Co-operation Agreement. The Taskforce recommended a series of actions targeted at pelagic quotas and actions targeted at demersal quotas. The Interim Report indicates that the recommended actions, after further consideration by the Task Force, will be set down in detail in the main Report. The Interim Taskforce Report also recommends that a voluntary temporary cessation scheme of one months duration be offered, to approximately 220 whitefish vessels impacted by the quota reductions, in the period from September to December.

The Minister said “I wish to thank the members of the Seafood Sector Task Force for their constructive engagement under the guidance of the steering group (Aidan Cotter, Margaret Daly and Micheál O’Cinneide) to draft this interim report, which I requested would focus the issue of burden-sharing and on arrangements for a temporary voluntary fleet cessation scheme to counter the impact of the reduction in fishing quotas under the Brexit Trade and Co-operation Agreement. I am delighted to have now received that interim report.”

The Seafood Sector Task will continue its work with a view to producing a final report for submission to the Minister. The terms of reference ask the Task Force to outline the arrangements for a voluntary decommissioning scheme or other initiatives to address the implications of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement and outline other developmental strategies to strengthen and enhance coastal communities especially dependent on the seafood industry. The Task Force will also review the options and recommend actions that may be pursued which would assist in reducing the burden on Ireland from the transfers of fishing quota shares to the UK.

The Minister went on to say “I have asked the Task Force to consider how all available funding streams could be used to address, to the extent possible, initiatives to mitigate the impact of quotas transferred to the UK under the Trade and Co-operation Agreement. While the Brexit Adjustment Reserve and the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund will be very important elements in the implementation of the recommendations of the Task Force, they should not be considered the only sources of funding and, in the first instance, it is a matter for the Task Force to consider appropriate funding sources for recommendations they may make.”

The Seafood Sector Task Force is continuing its work and has, to date, met on seven occasions and received a total of 57 submissions from its members and through the public consultation process.

The establishment of the Seafood Sector Taskforce is an Action in the Department’s Action Plan 2021 under the Strategic Goal to ‘Deliver a sustainable, competitive and innovative seafood sector, driven by a skilled workforce, delivering value added products in line with consumer demand’.

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“There is a better way” than the present approach taken by government to the fishing industry, according to the Chairperson of Comhdháil Oileán na hEireann, the Islands’ Federation.

“This is a matter of huge importance regarding island community livelihoods and sustainability not to mention heritage and traditions,” wrote Chairperson Aisling Moran in an open letter on behalf of the offshore island communities to Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

They have asked him to “intervene personally in the difficult situation facing the fishing industry.”

“We implore you to act to prevent the loss of hundreds of jobs, a way of life and a key element to coastal communities, Irish heritage and tradition. Island communities are intimately acquainted with the consequences of changes to fishing rights and regulations inflicted through the years. Islanders are by nature people of the sea. To sacrifice their ability to make a living though life-learned skills they are passionate about is beyond unreasonable. This continued decimation of the Irish fleet has been magnified with the onset of Brexit and the Irish fishing industry is fighting for its life.

“As Taoiseach we consider it appropriate for you to personally intervene in this serious situation. We ask all involved with the control and regulation of the fishing industry to have a hard look at the consequences of their actions against a proud and respected Irish livelihood.

“There is a better way.”

The Federation represents 16 offshore island communities. It was set up in 1984 to draw attention to “the difficulties facing islanders” in socio-economic development, problems which they felt were not being addressed at regional or national level

“We don’t know if he read our letter, but his Department sent a reply that it had been forwarded to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine,” the Comhdháil told Afloat.

Charlie McConalogue is Minister at that Department, but the islanders had already sent a copy of the letter to him.

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Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D today paid tribute to the men and women working in Ireland’s seafood sector for their continued efforts to reduce Ireland’s marine waste as part of the Clean Oceans Initiative.

To date, the collaborative efforts of the sector have resulted in more than 600 tonnes of mainly plastic waste being collected at sea and during shore and pier clean-ups.

The Clean Oceans Initiative is being led by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, and supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

Speaking at the pier in Greencastle, Co Donegal, Minister McConalogue commended Irish fishing, aquaculture and coastal communities for their achievements in helping to reduce what he described as “the plastic pollution pervading the marine environment.”

The Minister also highlighted the collective and ongoing work of the sector to better manage gear to prevent it from entering oceans in the first place and their efforts to remove waste from the Marine environment.

He stated, “The Irish seafood sector are a leading example of what can be achieved through collaboration. This collective approach is the key ingredient needed to tackle the plastic pollution pervading the marine environment. I am ever- impressed by the level of ingenuity being taken by the sector and this new focus to address the problem of marine waste is helping to protect Ireland’s marine environment for future generations.”

The Clean Oceans Initiative is being led by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, and supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

Jim O’Toole, CEO BIM spoke of the learnings being gained from the sector’s involvement in the pilot project to better understand the benefits of a circular economy and said, “BIM is proud to support the work of Ireland’s fishers, aquaculture producers and other members of the seafood sector in their continued Clean Oceans Initiative activities. The sector has assumed a leadership role in the protection of the marine environment through marine litter retrieval. BIM will continue to work with industry to ensure they are prepared for new waste management requirements under impending EU legislation.”

Published in Marine Wildlife

Britain and the EU have reached agreement “in principle” on joint management of fisheries for this year, after over five months of negotiations.

The agreement was finalised in a phone call on Wednesday afternoon, June 2nd, between the EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, and Britain’s Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice, the commission says.

“Today's agreement closes the first-ever annual consultations on fishing opportunities between the EU and the UK under the terms of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA),” the commission said last night.

“The successful conclusion of the negotiations, which started in January, creates a strong basis for continued EU-UK cooperation in the area of fisheries,” it said.

Britain’s Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George EusticeBritain’s Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice

The agreement establishes the total allowable catches (TAC) for 75 shared fish stocks for 2021, as well as for some deep-sea stocks for 2021 and 2022, it said.

“It also provides clarity on access limits for non-quota species. The signing of the agreement, expected in the coming days, will also enable both parties to engage in quota exchanges,” the commission said.

Commissioner Sinkevičius said the agreement “provides predictability and continuity for our fleets with definitive TACs for the remainder of the year”.

“This is good for fishermen and women, our coastal communities and our ports, as well as for the sustainable use of our marine resources. This also proves that two partners on both sides of the Channel can find agreements and move forward if they work together,” he said.

The EU said the agreement is “based on the best available scientific advice on the state of fish stocks, as provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea”.

“It takes into account important sustainability and management principles, such as maximum sustainable yield and the precautionary approach, which are central to both the EU's Common Fisheries Policy and to the fisheries provisions of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement,” it said.

It said it would “shortly propose to the EU Council to incorporate the agreement into EU legislation”.

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