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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."

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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

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Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has announced the launch of a Brexit Temporary Fishing Fleet Tie-up Scheme.

The scheme will help mitigate the impacts of quota cuts on the fishing fleet arising from the Trade and Cooperation Agreement agreed in December between the European Union and the UK. The scheme delivers on a recommendation of the Seafood Sector Task Force in its June 2021 Interim Report. The scheme is targeted at whitefish vessels in the Polyvalent and Beam Trawl segments.

The Minister said: “Arising from the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and the UK, Ireland is set to lose 26,412 tonnes of quota per year on a phased basis up to 2026, valued at around €43 million. These quota cuts affect many of our most valuable fish stocks and significantly impact our fishing fleet incomes in 2021. The Task Force I established in March has carefully considered this issue and recommended in its June 2021 Interim Report that a temporary fleet tie-up scheme should be implemented for the whitefish fleet to make best use of the reduced quota available in 2021 and to ensure continuity of supply throughout the remainder of this year”.

Brexit Temporary Fishing Fleet Tie-up SchemeBrexit Temporary Fishing Fleet Tie-up Scheme

The Minister went on to say: “The scheme I am launching today will invite vessels in the polyvalent and beam trawl segments to tie-up for a one-month period during October to December 2021. These vessels would tie-up at the quayside and cease all fishing activity for that month. In return, the vessel owner would receive a payment compensating for the lost fishing income. The vessel owners will in turn be required to distribute one third of that payment to crew. The following payment rates will apply”.

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The EU has approved a 10 million euro scheme to support the Irish fishery sector affected by Brexit and the consequent reduction in quota shares.

The 10 million euro funding under State aid rules is separate to the 5 billion euro Brexit Adjustment Reserve funding for EU states affected by Brexit. 

The European Commission says the support will be “available to companies that commit to temporarily cease their fishing activities for a month”.

“The aim of the scheme is to save part of the Irish reduced fishing quota for other vessels, while the beneficiaries temporarily suspend their activities,”the Commmission says.

“The compensation will be granted as a non-refundable grant, calculated on the basis of gross earnings averaged for the fleet size, excluding the cost of fuel and food for the crew of the vessel,” it says.

Each eligible company will be entitled to the support for up to a month between September 1st and December 31st this year.

Under Article 107(3)(c) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), member states can support the development of certain economic activities or regions, under certain conditions.T

This support will ensure the “sustainability of the fishery sector and its ability to adapt to new fishing and market opportunities arising from the new relationship with the UK”, the Commission says.

It says it will also facilitate the “objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy to ensure that fishing and aquaculture activities are environmentally sustainable in the long term”.

The approval of 10 million euros under State aid rules “does not prejudge whether the support measure will eventually be eligible for BAR funding, which will be assessed once the BAR Regulation has entered into force”, the Commission says.

“However, it already provides Ireland with legal certainty that the Commission considers the support measure to be compliant with EU State aid rules, irrespective of the ultimate source of funding,”it says.

The separate 5 billion euro BAR funding for a number of affected coastal states will be allocated later this year, drawing on three main factors - the value of fish caught in the UK exclusive economic zone; the importance of trade with the UK; and the population of maritime border regions with the UK.

The EU has said that overall some €600 million will be allocated on the basis of the factor linked to fishing, €4.150 billion based on trade, and €250 million under the factor linked to maritime border regions.

Following on from the EU approval.of State aid, Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue announced a temporary tie-up scheme for the fishing industry on Friday evening

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A Spanish registered fishing vessel has been detained by the Naval Service within Irish waters. 

The detention by the LÉ William Butler Yeats was in relation to "alleged breaches of fishing regulations", the Defence Forces press office said.

It did not give the position of the detention, other than stating it was "within the Irish exclusive economic zone". It said it would be escorted to port and handed over to the Garda.

This is the seventh vessel detained to date this year by the Naval Service, which conducts inspections at sea in line with a service level agreement with the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority.

Earlier, this month a French registered fishing vessel was detained by the Naval Service off Mizen Head.

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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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