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Fishing communities on both sides of the Irish Sea have marked the 20th anniversary of the sinking of a scallop dredger with the loss of seven lives off the Isle of Man.

The Celtic League non-governmental organisation has also marked the deaths of skipper Andrew Mills (known as Craig), (29), his brother Robin Mills (33), their cousin David Mills (17), Martin Milligan (26), John Murphy (22), David Lyons (18) and Wesley Jolly (17).

All seven men died when their dredger was caught in a storm off the Scottish coast on January 11th, 2000.

The men were all from the Isle of Whithorn area of Dumfries and Galloway, and had set out from Kirkcudbright in south-west Scotland the previous day.

They fished off the Manx coast and planned to steam home on January 11th, but sought refuge in stormy conditions with gale-force nine winds on the northeast coast of the Isle of Man.

Nothing further was heard of the vessel until an emergency beacon was picked up later that day.

The search and rescue mission organised included Manx lifeboats from Ramsey, Port St Mary and Douglas, as well as the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company ferry Ben-My-Chree.

An Irish Air Corps helicopter was involved in the joint search involving vessels and aircraft from Prestwick in Scotland and Anglesey in Wales. The next day two unopened lifeboats from the vessel were found.

The wreck was found 18 km from the Manx coast in 35m of water on January 15th, 2000. The bodies of the seven crew members were on board, but the British Government refused to fund the rescue operation and recovery of the crew.

The Manx government-funded the £1 million the salvage operation. The crew were later returned to their native Scotland for burial.

The British Marine Accident Investigation Branch found that the vessel capsized because its fish room flooded, making it unstable.

Water drained unnoticed into the fish room through scuttles (hatches) on the deck which did not have their covers on.

It said a pump was blocked, and an alarm which warns when the bilges are filling with water was broken - meaning the skipper had no warning the room was flooding.

In the rough seas, the vessel rolled sideways to 30-40 degrees. Tonnes of fish and gear shifted to starboard and water became trapped on the main deck.

Although buoyancy would have allowed the vessel to roll back to 20-25 degrees, the Solway Harvester never regained stability and gradually rolled onto its side.

Published in Fishing
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Marine minister Charlie McConalogue’s department has been criticised for its “chaotic” handling of a permit system for Irish fishing vessels to British waters after Brexit. 

Only a fraction of the entire Irish fleet has been given permits to continued access to British waters – albeit with a reduced quota as a result of Brexit.

“Rockall is not the only issue - the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine had no plan B,” Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation chief executive Patrick Murphy has said.

Mr Murphy described the past week as “chaotic”, and said he was shocked at how unprepared the department was.

Mr McConalogue’s department has confirmed that only 141 vessels out of the full list of 1900 Irish vessel have been given temporary permits to date.

Mayo prawn skipper Paddy Mulvany - concerned about handling of permit system to UK watersMayo prawn skipper Paddy Mulvany - concerned about the handling of a permit system to UK waters

It said that it had requested authorisation on December 31st for all 1900 Irish registered vessels to fish in the British exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between 12 and 200 nautical miles, after notification by the European Commission of the need to do so. 

It said it was “actively and urgently seeking from the UK authorities, through the EU Commission, that all Irish vessels be granted authorisation to fish in UK waters”.

Mr Murphy said arrangements should have been put in place by department officials “months ago”, as preparation for a negative Brexit outcome.

Mayo prawn skipper Paddy Mulvany, who fishes with his 20m Kristel Patrick for 40 per cent of the year in the Celtic Sea, was critical of the department’s “arbitrary” selection which did not include his vessel

He has also questioned the department’s use of the term ” priority vessel” in its response to him last week.

“What does that make the rest of us – second class?” Mulvany said.

"Unless this is sorted, anyone who wants to sell on a boat won't be able to realise its value if it does not have access to British waters," he explained. 

Ireland stands to be the biggest loser in a Brexit deal which sees EU member states lose 25 per cent of catch overall, but separate administrative authorisation for continued access “should not have been left to the last minute”, Mr Murphy said.

Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) chief executive Sean O’Donoghue said that the department’s approach was “pragmatic”, in ensuring those vessels preparing to go to sea on January 1st had authorisation. 

Mr O’Donoghue said the initial permits only last for three weeks, and expects a second list will be issue for the full year. He said he understood Britain “couldn’t handle” the full list.

Meanwhile, Mr McConalogue and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney have said there remains an “increased risk of enforcement action being taken by Scottish fisheries control authorities against Irish vessels operating in the waters around Rockall at present”.

This follows last week’s warning by Marine Scotland to a Donegal vessel fishing within 12 nautical miles of Rockall.

Sinn Féín marine spokesman Padraig MacLochlainn said he had warned the then marine minister Michael Creed in 2019, when the issue last flared up, that a 2013 agreement between the Irish and British governments “essentially recognised British sovereignty over Rockall”.

The 2013 agreement signed by former Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore established a single maritime boundary between the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of the two countries and parts of their Continental Shelves. 

“This is a shameful agreement that has never been ratified by the Dáil,” Mr MacLochlainn said. 

Ireland “could have supported the governments of Iceland and Denmark in demanding shared sovereignty and fishing rights around Rockall but chose not to do so”, Mr MacLochlainn said.

Published in Fishing
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There remains an increased risk of enforcement action being taken by Scottish fisheries control authorities against Irish fishing vessels operating in the waters around Rockall at present according to a  joint statement by the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Agriculture, Food and the Marine issued this evening.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine met to discuss recent developments in relation to Rockall.

As Afloat reported previously, the Ministers says they are 'fully aware' of interactions between an Irish fishing vessel, and a Marine Scotland patrol vessel in recent days.

The Irish Government has been in contact with the relevant Scottish and UK authorities.

The statement says that through this engagement, the Irish Government is seeking to address the issues involved, reflecting the longstanding fisheries tradition in the area. Taking account of the new EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, this may also require contact with the European Commission.

In addressing these issues, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, as well as their respective officials, are considering all options for further engagement on the issues involved and are continuing to work closely together.

While engagement continues, the government says there remains an increased risk of enforcement action being taken by Scottish fisheries control authorities against Irish vessels operating in the waters around Rockall at present.

Published in Fishing
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The BBC has reported that fishermen in the north-west are saying that Post-Brexit restrictions on where Northern Ireland boats can land their catch in the Republic of Ireland have "created a hard border on the island",

A new Irish government rule came into effect on 31 December 2020 meaning that Northern Ireland registered vessels can now land only at two Irish ports – Killybegs, the largest fishing port in the country located on the south coast of the County Donegal or at Castletownbere on the Beara Peninsula in County Cork. This has created serious problems for crews in the north-west.

Skipper Darrin McAvenue has a Northern Ireland registered boat though he fishes out of Greencastle, his home port on County Donegal's Inishowen peninsula on the Northern shore of Lough Foyle. He said he "has always "fished in Northern Ireland waters around the north coast. So we have a Northern Ireland-registered boat to do that," he told the BBC's Radio Foyle.

Up until the end of 2020 he could return to Greencastle to land his catch. "That's where we tie our boats, that is where I live and where most of the crew lives," he said.

On Wednesday, he said Irish government officials notified him he could no longer do so.
Instead, he landed his catch in Portrush on the North Co Antrim coast of Northern Ireland, before returning home. He said that when docking in Greencastle he was also told by Sea Fisheries Protection Authority officials that he "had broken the law by entering a southern port".

"I am still in shock - the last couple of years we have been told there is no hard border, then this," he said. Fishing is "the only way we know how to pay the mortgage and put food on the table. To be told you cannot make a living is hard to accept - I don't know where we stand, everything is up in the air".

It is reported that the N I Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has written to Northern Ireland fishermen to notify them of the new Irish government rules. And BBC reports that a DAERA spokesman said following the end of the implementation period the "UK is now outside the regime applying to EU fishing vessels.

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) in the Republic of Ireland has asked DAERA to point out to Northern Ireland licensees that landings in the Republic should only be at the designated ports of Killybegs and Castletownbere. The regulations say that UK licensed boats may not land into nor access services in any other ports in the Republic".

Another Greencastle skipper Liam O'Brien said the rule changes are "devastating" for the local-based crews working Northern Ireland-registered vessels. "These boys have been kicked in the stomach by their own government".

BBC also reports that fishing boats registered in the Republic are still able to use facilities in Northern Ireland and this week Sinn Féin's Donegal TD Padraig MacLochlainn told Radio Foyle that the new rules were a "huge issue for smaller vessels and boats".

The BBC has asked the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and the Marine in the Republic of Ireland for comment but has yet to receive a response.

Published in Fishing
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What would our island nation be like if we did not have thriving coastal communities?

How much awareness is there amongst government politicians and the mandarins of the civil service that there is a considerable level of fear and concern about their future because of the outcome of the Brexit Agreement negotiations and its effect on the fishing industry upon which these communities depend?

These thoughts are in my mind for this week's Podcast because, it seems to me, our coastal communities' survival is at stake, and I am not certain that this is fully understood by the public.

Why are coastal communities so important?

Because there is so much of Irish life, culture and history in the coastal communities and aspects of our land borne lives depend upon them. There is the supply of seafood, maintained during the Covid pandemic. These communities have manned the lifeboat service for generations; they provide the volunteers of the Coast Guard. How many times, when emergencies occur, are there the accounts of the magnificent response by the coastal communities?

There should be more understanding of their needs. Who doesn't enjoy visits, holidays, to the coastal communities, many of which are also big sailing locations - think Dingle – Dunmore East – Schull and some which have already seen their fishing fleets shrink – Crosshaven, Baltimore for example – because of the combined onset of EU regulatory controls and Irish government neglect and its failure to appreciate, protect and defend the importance of the Irish fishing fleet.

The government is accused by the fishing industry of failing again to defend Irish fishing. The Taoiseach and the Minister for the Marine, one from Cork, the other Donegal, admitted that the impact on the Irish fleet will be severe, but that a deal was better than 'no deal'. That is not accepted in the coastal communities where there is great anger and particularly towards the suggestion that Irish fishermen owners should "decommission" their boats - which really says to Irish fishermen that they should give up and get out of the industry.

Patrick Murphy Mof the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ OrganisationPatrick Murphy Mof the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation

As a fishermen put it to me this week: "Why should we be thrown on the scrapheap when Ireland has the richest fishing waters in Europe, but other nations benefit from them, not Ireland?" A very strong opinion was voiced on my Maritime Ireland Radio Show, such that I feel Afloat listeners should hear Patrick Murphy, Chief Executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers' Organisation in Castletownbere, West Cork as he outlines what life is really like in the coastal communities and why there is so much concern and fear about their future.

Listen to the Podcast below

Published in Tom MacSweeney

Sinn Féin has criticised the Government’s handling of a seven-year-old agreement with Britain on Rockall after an Irish fishing vessel was inspected by a Scottish patrol earlier this week.

Sinn Féin fisheries and marine spokesman Pádraig MacLochlainn was reacting to a claim by the Donegal-based Northern Celt that it was told by Scottish authorities on Monday that it could not fish within 12 miles of Rockall.

Skipper Adrian McClenaghan said he had a permit to continue to fish within British waters.

Mr MacLochlainn said he had warned the then Irish marine minister Michael Creed in 2019 that a 2013 agreement between the Irish and British governments establishing a Single Maritime Boundary between the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of the two countries and parts of their Continental Shelves, “essentially recognised British sovereignty over Rockall”.

Padraig MacLochlainn, Sinn Fein spokesman on the MarinePadraig MacLochlainn, Sinn Fein spokesman on the Marine

“This is a shameful agreement that has never been ratified by the Dáil,” Mr MacLochlainn said.

Ireland “could have supported the governments of Iceland and Denmark in demanding shared sovereignty and fishing rights around Rockall but chose not to do so”, he said.

He said that Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and his Fine Gael party had “created this mess” and “need to sort it out”.

The 2013 agreement was signed on Ireland’s behalf by then Tánaiste and foreign affairs minister Eamon Gilmore.

The Irish government maintains that Rockall, as an uninhabited rock, does not have an EEZ under Article 121 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

However, when the issue flared up last in mid-2019, two Irish maritime lawyers disagreed.

Rockall expert Prof Clive Symmons of Trinity College, Dublin and Prof Ronán Long, who is ocean governance and law of the sea chair at the World Maritime University, both stated that rocks can generate 12-mile territorial sea limits under the same UN convention.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has said it is aware of “contact between an Irish fishing vessel and a Marine Scotland patrol vessel” and has been in contact with the Scottish and UK authorities.

A Scottish government spokesperson said: “One Irish vessel was routinely inspected outside of territorial waters around Rockall”

"The master requested clarification on the access rights granted by his licence to fish in UK waters,” it said.

The KFO fears the renewal of tensions over Rockall may jeopardise the seasonal non-quota squid fishery for Irish vessels.

Up to 30 per cent of whitefish, including haddock, caught by Killybegs and Greencastle vessels is taken around Rockall.

Published in Fishing
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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s seafood development agency is today urging every seafood business who trades with or through Great Britain, no matter how small his or her operations, to continue to familiarise themselves with the impacts any new rules or processes will have on his or her operations and supply chains.

Jim O’Toole, CEO BIM, acknowledged the dual challenge the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit is having on the sector and said:

“The focus of BIM and other state agencies including the SFPA is to continue to provide support and guidance to the sector during this challenging time. By working together and taking action now, we can reduce the impact of Brexit as much as possible. Brexit has changed the way many seafood businesses operate and they need to be ready for this change.”

Any seafood business that has not already done so, is being urged to complete BIM’s Brexit Readiness Assessment questionnaire. The short questionnaire takes less than 5 minutes to complete and can signpost businesses to the steps they need to take to get Brexit ready. The assessment questionnaire covers customs and revenue, registrations, supply chain, financial management.

BIM’s online Brexit hub also includes guidance and financial support for seafood businesses. These include access to funding to support businesses that are importing/exporting products to Great Britain.

For more information go to  the BIM Brexit hub

Published in Fishing
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Lifeboat crew at Castletownbere RNLI were launched yesterday afternoon (Saturday 2nd January) at 15:30 to assist an 11-metre fishing boat which had lost power 18 miles south west of Castletownbere Harbour in West Cork.

The lifeboat, under coxswain Aaron O’Boyle, was launched within minutes and located the stricken vessel 51 minutes later. The Castletownbere-based fishing boat had three people on board none of whom required medical attention. On scene, there was a three-metre swell and force 5/6 north-westerly winds. The volunteer lifeboat crew attached a tow rope and proceeded to tow the vessel to Castletownbere harbour where it was berthed at the pier at just before 8.00 p.m.

This was the first call-out for Castletownbere lifeboat with Coxswain Aaron O’Boyle (above) in commandThis was the first call-out for Castletownbere lifeboat with Coxswain Aaron O’Boyle (above) in command

Commenting on callout Castletownbere RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager Paul Stevens said, ‘This was the first shout for the station in 2021 and the first call-out with Coxswain O’Boyle in command. He and the volunteer crew undertook the rescue with great skill and efficiency and there was a positive outcome.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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As details emerge on the full negative impact of Brexit on the Irish fishing industry, two Wexford skippers have called for the appointment of a dedicated minister for marine. 

Scallop skippers Will Bates and Seamus Molloy who fish from Kilmore Quay have welcomed Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s appeal for “progressive ideas” from the fishing industry. 

However, they have said the government must have a Cabinet member whose sole task is to provide leadership in relation to the difficulties facing the Irish marine sector.

Seamus Molloy - Kilmore Quay fishermanSeamus Molloy - Kilmore Quay Scallop fisherman. Screenshot: Sean Moroney

Ireland must start “taking back”, given that it will represent some 12 per cent of EU waters – but with “30 per cent of fishable waters”, the fishermen have said.

"Ireland should seek a share of the bluefin tuna quotas allocated to other EU member states"

As a first step, Ireland should seek a share of the bluefin tuna quotas allocated to other EU member states, given that the migratory fish spend up to four months off this coast, they say.

Under the Brexit deal finalised on Christmas Eve, the EU is handing back 25 per cent of its share of the catch in British waters. 

There will be a five-and-a-half-year transition period, after which both sides will hold annual negotiations on some 100 shared stocks from 2026.

Seán O'Donoghue, chief executive of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO), said the deal demonstrated the “duplicitous nature of the protracted negotiations” and that the “repeated guarantees” given to Irish fishermen had effectively been shredded.

The four and a half years of agreements have for all intent and purposes been “dishonoured by the negotiators” the KFO leader has said.

The reaction of the Kilmore Quay skippers can be heard on Wavelengths below

Published in Wavelength Podcast

A potentially serious incident involving a fishing vessel in Kerry’s Blasket Sound could have been avoided if there were adequate facilities in the wheelhouse to make hot drinks, a report has found. 

Five crew onboard the 23m trawler Dearbhla had a narrow escape, when their vessel struck rocks off the north-west of Inis na Bró in the Blaskets on May 14th last.

The skipper was able to manoeuvre the vessel into deeper water, but it was found to have sustained substantial damage on its stern and under the bow when it was examined later in Bere Island Boatyard, Co Cork.

The Dearbhlá was on its way from Ros-a-Mhil, Co Galway to Howth, Co Dublin via the Kerry coast with a relief skipper when the incident occurred at about 4.10 am on May 14th. 

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) report into the incident records that there was a moderate northerly breeze when the vessel left Ros-a-Mhíl on the evening of May 13th, decreasing to light winds with good visibility and slight sea state.

The vessel was northwest of Sybil Point at 3 am when the skipper called a crewmember, named “A” in the report, to take over the wheelhouse watch and instructed him to proceed through Blasket Sound.

The skipper had gone to his bunk when crew member “A” changed course and then went to the tea station in the crew mess to make a cup of tea 

Before leaving the wheelhouse, he switched off the watchkeeper alarm, which is timed to give an audible sound every ten minutes to ensure the watchkeeper remains alert.

The crewman forgot to turn back on the watch alarm when he returned with his tea, and fell asleep shortly after. There was no one else on the bridge, and the bridge watch alarm was switched off also.

The vessel was on autopilot, and making a speed of 8.7 knots, but a course change was required before it reached the Blasket island of Inis na Bró.

When the fishing grounded on rocks on the northwest peninsula of Inis na Bró, the skipper was called immediately and the crew alerted 

The report says the skipper manoeuvred the fishing vessel away from the rocks, and the crew investigated the damage – establishing that there was no water ingress, and no vibration felt from the propulsion system.

As the skipper didn’t think the vessel was in danger, the emergency services were not alerted, and he continued at reduced speed while a continuous assessment was made 

After the skipper contacted the owner at 8 am, the vessel was re-routed to Berehaven for inspection and damage assessment at Bere Island Boatyard, arriving at 9am. 

On May 15th, the vessel was inspected by a Marine Survey Office (MSO) surveyor, who detained it on the grounds of the damage to the bow and stem and expired certification.

The MCIB report says that “by falling asleep whilst on watch in the wheelhouse, the watchkeeper did not make the necessary course alteration to keep the vessel in safe and navigable waters” 

It says the incident may have been averted if the required course change to navigate Blasket Sound safely was better supervised, and if there were adequate facilities in the wheelhouse to make beverages and allow watchkeepers to take light refreshments 

It also says it may have been averted if the watchkeeper alarm panel keyed switch facility had been used as intended by its designer.

It says that “no evidence was provided demonstrating that the crew had received adequate training to reduce the risks of endangering the health and safety of the crew or preventing accidents”.

It recommends the Minister for Transport should remind owners and operators of fishing vessels of the need for training under the Merchant Shipping (Safety of Fishing Vessels) (15 – 24 metres) Regulations 2007, particularly relating to health and safety and accident prevention.

It also says the minister should remind owners and operators of the obligation to notify the MSO Chief Surveyor when a vessel has been involved in a marine casualty.

 It recommends the minister issue a marine notice to remind vessel owners and operators to ensure “all navigation is planned in adequate detail, and that passage plans, with contingency plans where appropriate, are compiled and made known to the crew”. 

These contingency plans and procedures should include provision for a grounding event or collision incident, it says.

Download the full report here.

Published in MCIB
Page 8 of 64

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