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The Minister for the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, today announced that he has received the final report of the Seafood Sector Task Force that he established in March 2021. The Taskforce examined the impacts on the fishing sector and coastal communities of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom. This final report follows an interim report submitted by the Task Force in June 2021.

The Task Force was chaired by Aidan Cotter, assisted by a steering group of Margaret Daly and Mícheal Ó Cinnéide, and comprised of ten representatives of the fishing sector, representatives of the aquaculture and seafood processing sectors, coastal communities, coastal local authorities and various State enterprise development agencies.

Following receipt of the report, Minister McConalogue said: “The departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement that was agreed at the end of 2020 have had some profoundly damaging effects for Ireland’s fishing sector and the coastal communities that depend on fishing. Such a once in a generation event required a collective response involving the seafood businesses and coastal communities that are impacted and the full range of State bodies with a role to play in our response. This is why I established the Seafood Sector Task Force in March of this year and after seven months of deliberations by the Task Force, I have today received and welcome its Final Report which charts a way forward for the sector and the coastal communities dependent upon it ”.

Minister McConalogue added: “I wish to thank Aidan Cotter for his leadership in chairing the Task Force and thank Margaret Daly and Mícheal Ó Cinnéide for their dedication and hard work in assisting Aidan in steering the work of the Task Force. I also wish to sincerely thank all of the members of the Task Force for their constructive engagement with the work of the Task Force and for the many hours and days they put into the process. Lastly, I thank BIM for their hard work as secretariat and I wish to acknowledge the importance of their research and analysis in informing the work of the Task Force”.

Minister McConalogue continued: “I have asked my Department to urgently examine the report with a view to quickly implementing a comprehensive response to the impacts of the TCA on our fishing sector and coastal communities. The recommended measures will be examined with particular regard to available funds and to the eligibility of the recommended measures for funding under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, the European, Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund and with other relevant funding sources and with regard to State Aid rules and the Public Spending Code”.

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’.

The full report of the Seafood Sector Task Force is available to download below

Published in Fishing
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EU Commissioner for Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius has said he is taking a “cautious” approach to reviewing the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

In an interview with RTÉ Radio 1 Countrywide during his two-day visit to Ireland early last week, the commissioner said he “cannot promise” any fundamental change.

The Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation believes only a thorough review of the CFP can help to address the impact of Brexit on the Irish fleet’s reduced access to quotas.

Commissioner Sinkevičius said the next ten-year review of the CFP, which has to be completed by December 2022, will not only have to take Brexit into account, but also climate change, pollution, and sustainable fishing.

“We’ll do a review, and we will be listening to stakeholders’ concerns, and we’ll look at certain changes, but I cannot promise we will be reopening the CFP,” he said.

“Fishermen have to go through a lot to comply with the rules, and I think it would be unfair to make many changes, so I take a very cautious way here, and only after a review is done and gaps are identified can we take additional action,”he said.

Commissioner Sinkevičius, who also holds the environment and oceans portfolios, acknowledged the large burden borne by Ireland as a result of the Brexit deal.

He said he had planned to come to Ireland for some time but had been unable to do so due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The Lithuanian commissioner met Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine Charlie McConalogue in Killybegs last Monday, before holding discussions with Irish fishing industry representatives which he described as “frank”.

He said that Ireland was entitled to the largest proportion of the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR), and flexibility clauses allowed the Irish government to allocate funds to those sectors suffering the most.

The BAR and the new European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) would help the Irish industry to “move forward” in compensating those who would be required to adjust to a new reality, he said.

“We had nine member states which were impacted, and we knew from the very beginning that the fisheries sector had nothing to gain from Brexit,” he said.

The unilateral decision by Norway and the Faroe islands to exploit mackerel – a species which he described as “in danger” – is “unacceptable”, but also a consequence of Brexit, the commissioner said.

“We were trying hard to get back to the table and have a sustainable agreement as we had in 2014. Unfortunately, both parties did not agree to that,” he said.

The EU aimed to avoid an escalation of the issue and to try and solve it in a “diplomatic manner”, the commissioner said.

Commissioner Sinkevičius is heavily involved in delivering the European Green Deal, and stressed that the support of both fishers and farmers was vital in making this work.

He welcomed Ireland’s plans in relation to offshore renewable energy, but warned that account must be taken of competing interests including the fishing industry, shipping, tourism and the health of the marine ecosystem.

The renewable energy industry must also comply with the EU Birds and Habitats directives, he warned.

EU member states must draw up marine spatial plans which allowed for sensitive management, he said.

A podcast of the full interview can be heard here

Published in Fishing
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A documentary on the crisis facing Irish coastal communities in the wake of Brexit is due to be released today. (View video below)

Oireachtas members are invited to view the 26-minute film at a screening in Dublin when it will also be released online.

Individual fishermen and business owners, who rely on the fishing industry for their income, describe the impact of a continuing lack of access to raw material – as in fish in Irish waters.

There is considerable anger over the final Brexit deal, which resulted in a 15 per cent overall reduction in Irish fish quotas, particularly the key species of mackerel and prawns, to the value of 43 million euro.

Brendan Byrne, CEO IFPEOBrendan Byrne, CEO IFPEO

Some coastal towns depend for up to 90 per cent of their income on fishing, the documentary points out.

Niall Duffy, editor of the monthly journal The Skipper, says the documentary was made with the assistance of Sean Moroney of Santander Media in Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford.

It was commissioned on foot of the protests by the industry over the summer in Cork and Dublin ports.

Patrick Murphy, CEO, IS&WFPOPatrick Murphy, CEO, IS&WFPO

Moroney is the creator of The Fishers Voice, a social media initiative created to “garner support for the plight of Irish fishermen who feel their voices are unheard by our government and representatives”, Duffy says.

Invitations have been sent to all political party leaders, fisheries spokespersons and coastal community TDs to attend the screening, and a link will also be sent to TDs and senators who cannot attend.

“Five months in the making, this documentary lifts the lid on decades of unfairness, whereby the EU, under the Common Fisheries Policy, allocated the lion's share of 85% of the total allowable catch (Quota) to the mainland European countries, despite the majority of this fishing taking place in Irish waters,” Duffy says.

The documentary points out that Belgium, as a case in point, has 0.1% of EU fishing grounds while Ireland has 10%.

“Yet the Belgian fleet has a greater quota for some prime species in Irish waters than local Irish fishermen,” Duffy says.

Participants were asked to give their views in harbours extending from Malin Head peninsula in Donegal to the Beara peninsula in West Cork.

The full documentary can be viewed on YouTube below

Published in Fishing
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EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius yesterday accompanied Minister Charlie Mc Conalogue T.D. on a visit to Killybegs Fishery Harbour Centre, as part of his two-day visit to Ireland.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue, T.D., invited the Commissioner to come to Killybegs to meet with fishing industry representatives and see at first hand the activity in one of Ireland’s biggest fishery harbours and to discuss the significant EU related issues of concern to the Irish Fishing Industry.

As Afloat reported earlier, the Commissioner, accompanied by Minister McConalogue, met with representatives of all of the major Irish fishing industry organisations. Representatives from Irish South & West Fish Producers Organisation, Irish South & East Fish Producers Organisation, Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, Irish Fish Producers Organisation, Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation, Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association and National Inshore Fisheries Forums all attended the meeting with the Minister and the Commissioner.

Whilst in Killybegs, Commissioner Sinkevicius had the opportunity to view fish being landed by a pelagic vessel at the Fishery Harbour Centre.

Minister McConalogue said: “I am very pleased to welcome Commissioner Sinkevičius on his first official visit to Ireland. I’d also like to thank our industry representatives for their positive engagement today. The last year and a half has been a challenge for us all. Ireland’s Seafood Sector has been among the most seriously impacted by BREXIT. This meeting allowed industry to set down clearly for the Commissioner the challenges they continue to face and identify opportunities that will help to rebuild and support a robust sector in the future. It is more important than ever to work together to restore the confidence of the industry and to ensure that every opportunity is pursued so that we build a sustainable future for our industry and the coastal communities which depend on it.”

The Commissioner will also visit a FLAG funded project at Cooley Oysters Ltd in Carlingford County Louth, as part of his visit.

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EU Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius is due to begin a two-day visit to Ireland this morning with a visit to Killybegs fisheries harbour in Donegal.

The commissioner plans to meet representatives of the fishing industry in Killybegs, at a time when there is considerable concern over the impact of the Brexit deal and a 15 per cent overall reduction in Irish quotas.

He will hold a press conference on Monday evening with Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine Charlie McConalogue in Killybegs.

He is also due to visit the ‘Wild Atlantic Nature’ LIFE Integrated Project at Donegal’s Slieve League Special Area of Conservation.

The commissioner will view a “blue economy project” in Co Louth - Cooley Oysters – on Tuesday.

He will then hold a series of meetings in Dublin with Mr McConalogue, Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan, and junior ministers Malcolm Noonan and Pippa Hackett.

Commissioner Sinkevičius is responsible for the Common Fisheries Policy, and also holds the environmental portfolio.

He is heavily involved in delivering the European Green Deal, described as “the ambitious EU policy thrust for stopping climate change and ensuring sustainable and more secure future for the planet”

He is also in charge of the EU new Biodiversity strategy, including a circular economy action plan to promote the use of sustainable resources.

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Fethard RNLI lifeboat was requested to launch today (Saturday 25 September) by the Irish Coast Guard shortly before 12.30 pm, following a call for help from two stranded fishermen in a small open punt. Their craft had outboard engine difficulties in thick fog off Creadan Head in the Waterford Estuary.

The volunteer crew of Fethard Lifeboat launched at Duncannon Strand and proceeded to the coordinates given by the men on the broken-down vessel. The water was flat calm; there was a light breeze. However, visibility was less than 4 metres in a thick fog. The fishermen were located off Woodstown, where they tied up to a lobster pot marker buoy. There, the lifeboat crew assessed the situation, and it was decided to tow the fishermen back to the safety of Duncannon Harbour.

Commenting about the callout Thomas Stafford, Volunteer Helm, said, "The two lads did everything right. They wore their lifejackets, they tied up to a marker when the engine failed, and they had the means to call for help and give their coordinates when things went wrong. All this led to a positive outcome with the two lads being returned to safety."

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Birdwatch Ireland says it is “deeply concerned” at a refusal by the Court of Appeal to continue the Government’s interim ban on large vessels fishing inside the six nautical mile zone.

The stay was applied for by Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue, pending a Court of Appeal ruling on a permanent ban.

A full hearing took place on June 22nd, and judgement was reserved.

The case arose after former marine minister Michael Creed announced in December 2018 that vessels over 18 metres (m) would be excluded from trawling inside the six nautical mile zone and the baselines from January 1st, 2020.

A three-year transition period was granted for vessels over 18m targeting sprat, as the fishery is concentrated inside the six nautical mile zone.

Birdwatch Ireland says the ban followed extensive consultation and was supported by “expert analysis by the Marine Institute and the Bord Iascaigh Mhara”.

“These reports highlighted that restricting the access of larger vessels inside the six nautical mile zone would lead to improved protection of coastal environments and essential fish habitat, benefitting marine biodiversity and commercially exploited fish stocks,” the NGO said.

“They highlighted the socio-economic benefits for the smaller inshore vessels, that constitute the vast majority of Ireland’s registered fishing vessels. The potential benefits included diversification opportunities, more jobs, and added value of landings,” it said.

“Improved management of inshore waters could be achieved by aligning fishing more closely with local ecological and environmental objectives and by reducing conflict between mobile and static gears,” it said.

It said it could also strengthen the link between local fish resources and local economies.

Two fishermen sought a judicial review, challenging the validity of the policy. The High Court ruled on October 6th 2020 that the policy was made in breach of fair procedures, and was void and/or of no legal effect.

After a call by a number of NGOs, the minister appealed the High Court decision to the Court of Appeal.

Birdwatch Ireland policy officer Fintan Kelly said that it was of “serious concern”, that 2019 sprat catches increased significantly - relative to 2016-2018 - to 13,000 tonnes, at a value of approximately €3.5 million.

“Anecdotal evidence from inshore fishermen and anglers around the coast suggest that landings in 2020 may again be an increase on 2019 levels putting significant pressure on the marine environment,” he said.

“We now fear that overfishing of sprat will again occur this winter because of this ruling,” Kelly said.

He noted that European sprat is a critically important species, linking plankton and top predators including seabirds and marine mammals.

Sprat are also an important forage fish species for commercial fish species like herring, Kelly said, and overfishing poses “a significant risk to the health of commercial fish stocks which poses socio-economic implications for the fishing industry”.

“This is especially relevant when considering that three out of the five herring stocks that Irish fisher’s exploit has collapsed, and have zero catch advice for 2021,” he added.

He said BirdWatch Ireland’s research shows that sprat is an important prey species for 12 out of the 23 regularly occurring breeding seabirds in Irish waters. Many of these species are Amber-listed birds of conservation concern.

Overfishing sprat is also a threat to the whale species that pass through Irish waters during the summer months and which rely heavily on Sprat, he said, with up to half of the fin whale diet and 70 per cent of the humpback whale diet relying on young sprat and herring.

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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency is inviting Ireland’s fishing industry to take part in a survey of the labour force as part of a study on current issues facing the industry including recruiting and retaining crew. The aim of the study, that began in May, is to better understand how crew members working on Irish fishing vessels are employed and how working conditions and benefits within the sector compare to competing sectors in the Irish labour market.

The study is also looking at the different terms of employment within the industry, comparing the relative advantages and disadvantages of different working arrangements for crew and their impact on tax, social welfare and benefits for crew members and their employers.

The perceived attractiveness of the industry as a place to build a career will be explored by comparing fishing sector working conditions and overall benefits to other competing sectors of Ireland’s labour market such as the construction sector.

Once complete, the findings of the study will help inform industry on courses of action that could be taken to improve the attractiveness of the sector to potential crew. The findings will also be used to assist BIM in its future development of training programmes.

BIM is working with independent research organisation, Indecon, to deliver the study. For more details, please contact BIM Senior Economist, Richard Curtin E: [email protected]

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The Minister for the Marine will definitely "seek to address the imbalance in the quota transfers under the Trade & Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and United Kingdom."

So says Fianna Fail's MEP, Billy Kelleher, in a statement from Brussels saying he had received this confirmation from Minister Charlie McConalogue.

"It may also be necessary for the Minister to seek a separate mechanism, independent of the CFP review, to deal with the issue of burden-sharing due to opposition from some Member States. A separate, but important point is also the need for the fishing communities in Ireland to receive substantial financial support as part of the Brexit Adjustment Reserve. Ireland will receive well over €1 billion; some of this money must be used to support our fishing industry. While Ireland has 22% of EU seas, we only have 3% of total catch. As an island nation, it needs to be reflected by the EU authorities," said MEP Kelleher.

However, the Chief Executive of the Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation, Sean O'Donoghue, while welcoming a €10m EU aid deal for the Irish fleet, which had been recommended by the Task Force set up by the Minister says the aid has limitations.

He outlined why to Tom MacSweeney on the Maritime Ireland radio show. Listen in below: 

Published in Fishing

New research led by the University of Oxford says that successful conservation policies for marine mammals have increased the potential for conflict with small scale fishing communities.

The study published in the journal Conservation Letters says that management has to strike a balance, and the international community “needs to incorporate the needs and opinions of fishers in the global dialogue”.

This should include “considering if protecting human welfare could involve reducing protection for marine mammals”, the research states.

The paper drew on the experience of fisheries on the west coast of South America to highlight what the researchers describe as a “worldwide issue”.

“Globally, conflict between recovering seal and sea lion populations and fishing communities has been escalating,” the authors state.

They note that in South America, specifically Peru and Chile, marine mammals have been protected since the mid-20th century.

“ Conservation policies have mostly been successful and over the last thirty years marine mammal populations - specifically those of sea lions and seals - have recovered,” they state.

“ However, this recovery means that there’s a much higher likelihood that these animals will come into conflict with local fishers,” they say.

The study found that nearly nine out of ten fishers have a negative impression of sea lions, and they estimate that on average sea lions reduce their catch and income by over 50%.

“Whilst it’s illegal for sea lions and seals to be killed, this is happening regularly with over 70% of fishers admitting that sea lions are being killed to defend catches,”the study says.

It says that “fishers’ overwhelming concern is that sea lion populations are now too large”.

“To manage this conflict, there’s a need to balance the competing objectives of wildlife conservation with protection for local communities,”the researchers state.

“ There’s still concern about sea lion and seal populations because of how recently they’ve recovered, but small-scale fisheries are struggling, and fishers are often earning less than the minimum wage,”they note.

“If the global community is committed to a post-2020 deal for nature and people where improvements to people's wellbeing and nature conservation are both fulfilled - the elusive ‘win-win’ - then governments and scientists must engage with these “messy” local conflicts that repeat across the globe but resist high-level simplification,”lead author Professor Katrina Davis, noted.

The study says that sea lions and seals eat the same fish targeted by fisheries, and it is not uncommon for fishers to catch fish that have already been “nibbled” by the marine mammals.

This is a similar situation in Ireland with competition between seals and inshore vessels.

Marine mammals can also be accidentally caught in fishing nets.

“A tricky balance must be met between ensuring the future viability of marine mammal populations and ensuring that the livelihoods of small-scale fishers are protected. Fishers perceive that they are suffering large catch and income losses because of sea lions—and it’s these perceptions that we have to manage when we’re developing policy solutions,” Prof Davis says.

The researchers say the plan to investigate the impact of culls, and whether this would be viable without harming population levels, and whether it would curb aggression towards marine mammals.

The full paper can be read here

Published in Marine Wildlife
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Page 1 of 63

Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!

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