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The outcome of the annual EU Fisheries Council quota negotiations has been described as “acceptable” but with “much more left to do”.

This is the view of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Association after the announcement by Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue of gains for Ireland, particularly in additional mackerel, an important species for the Donegal fleet.

However, fishermen on the South Coast will not be happy with reductions and by-catches for whitefish in the Celtic Sea: Cod, Haddock, Whiting and Pollock.

The South East Fish Producers’ Organisation had warned before the negotiations that such reduction would have serious consequences for the fleet and coastal communities dependent on fishing.

The CEO of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, Seán O’Donoghue,The CEO of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, Seán O’Donoghue

The CEO of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, Seán O’Donoghue, at the talks in Brussels for the last time before he retires from his post at the end of this month, says he is “pleased that the talks regained some of their raison d'être.”

This refers to his prediction before the talks that, with decisions on many TACs (Total Allowable Catches) and quotas between Norway and the UK having concluded ahead of the Council Meeting, Ireland could achieve more. Over the last three years, he had complained that because this situation was done in reverse, the annual fisheries negotiations had become irrelevant.

“We’ve secured an increase in one of our key stocks, mackerel and while it’s wholly merited and overdue, it doesn’t undo the woeful impact which Brexit has had on our pelagic fisheries with a hit of up to 25% on our bottom line on this stock alone. We’ll therefore continue our campaign of ‘burden sharing’ with gusto whereby all coastal member states share the pain of Brexit equally and proportionally.

“For pelagic stocks, the outcome is predominantly favourable notwithstanding the 9% reduction in mackerel when the Brexit effect is taken into account. We’ve secured a 23% increase in blue whiting, a 20% increase in boarfish, a 20% increase in North West herring, a 17% increase in albacore tuna and finally a 23% reduction in Atlanto Scandia herring. “The Commission has also provided assurance that the issue of the massive overfishing of mackerel by Norway and the Faroes in the Northeast Atlantic which is jeopardising the sustainable management of the stock is a priority. I’ve put on record that we are already paying the price with a 5% cut for 2024 instead of a 10-20% increase had the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) advice been followed in recent years.

“We’ve reached agreement on a TAC for cod in the North West area 6a for the first time since 2011 as well as reductions in the balance transfer and access for blue whiting in the EU/Norway agreement. For the most part, the news is also positive for whitefish stocks in the North West with a very significant increase of just over 60 % in haddock in 6a.

“Similarly, the Commission has committed to a change in horse mackerel which will happen if the benchmark for the stock for the first quarter of 2024 is significantly revised. The Commission will have to negotiate directly with the UK on this issue.

“The reductions and by-catches for certain whitefish in the Celtic Sea – off the South Coast – namely cod, haddock and whiting as well as pollock in the South and Northwest is a significant concern and will undoubtedly have socio-economic consequences further down the road.

“As expected and in an arrangement which dates back to 1983, ‘The Hague Preferences’ were delivered - which see Ireland getting elevated quotas for a number of key species.

I would also like to acknowledge the commitment and efforts of Minister McConalogue and his officials, and while there’s a long way to go to regain the fish that we want, this does represent a positive step.

Aodh O'Donnell, CEO of the Irish Fish Producers' OrganisationAodh O'Donnell, CEO of the Irish Fish Producers' Organisation

Aodh O'Donnell, CEO of the Irish Fish Producers' Organisation, commented on the Council outcome: "While the commitment of Minister McConalogue and his team in the December Council process is fully acknowledged, the level of outcomes for Ireland are driven by a historical lack of fair opportunity under the Common Fisheries Policy. We have been locked into this CFP for the last 40 years. Ireland must remain focused on reversing the ongoing decline of the sector that was exacerbated when 40% of the quota given to the UK post-Brexit came from Ireland. 

"Representative bodies must unite further and work collaboratively with the Department to develop a strategy to renew the sector. This must secure the transfer back to Ireland of fishing opportunities which were given away in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement that resulted from Brexit. The Council agreement of a transfer of some mackerel to Ireland from Denmark is a vital first step in mitigating a severe quota cut of 9% . This is a paradigm of what can be achieved to turn the tide.

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Co-operation, mutual understanding and respect amongst all involved in offshore wind energy development is the best way forward for this island nation. It is a welcome and important step in this process and the protection of traditional fishing grounds that fishing representative organisations say they have been given a guarantee that they will be consulted and involved in the drawing up of the South Coast Designated Maritime Area Plan and they are satisfied with that.

This has emerged from consultations about the proposal by the Department, which was announced last July. It proposed wind energy development is in a marine space of about 8,600 square kilometres, stretching along the Cork coastline into Waterford and Wexford.

Eight major fishing organisations representing catching, fish-farming, processing, and inshore sectors - the Irish South and East Fish Producers’ Organisation, the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation, the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation, the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters’ Association, the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, the National Inshore Fishermen’s Association, the South East Regional Inshore Fisherman's Forum and IFA Aquaculture –made a joint submission to the Department.

Proposed South Coast Maritime AreaProposed South Coast Maritime Area

John Lynch, Chief Executive of the Irish South and East Coast Fish Producers’ Organisation, told me: “We want to be involved. No fishermen is happy with ORE (offshore renewable energy) coming into their fishing grounds, but we have to be involved in what is going to happen and it appears that this is now accepted, which is important for the industry.”

Paul Gallagher of the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications for Offshore Energy Long Term Strategic Planning, said: “The State, in co-operation with local communities and with consideration for other maritime activities, including fishing, seafood production and environmental protection, will determine the appropriate location for future offshore wind developments.”

Up to now the wind energy development industry has led the debate, calling for rapid planning decisions. Several of the development areas suggested are on traditional fishing areas, which could have huge, potentially damaging economic consequences for coastal communities and the seafood industry.

“I am happy enough that we will be consulted. This is only right for fishermen and the correct way to proceed,” John Lynch said. “Ireland’s seafood industry recognises that an orderly development of offshore wind energy is critical to the future relationship between the seafood and offshore renewable industries. That relationship is essential if the State is going to meet its targets for ORE development,” said Mr.Lynch.

Further consultation about the development will be held in the New Year. A date for the next statutory phase of the Draft DMAP will be finalised in early 2024 and communicated by the Department.

Published in Marine Planning

Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue TD has announced that the Tier 1 and Tier 2 polyvalent vessels that had no authorisation to fish mackerel in December 2021, and who availed of aid under the Temporary Fleet Tie-up Scheme in that month, will not have the payment from that scheme deducted from their aid under this new Pelagic Fisheries Support Scheme.

The Pelagic Fisheries Support Scheme, funded under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve Fund, provides a €25.6 million support package for the Irish pelagic fisheries sector. It will compensate owners of Refrigerated Sea Water (RSW) pelagic vessels and polyvalent Tier 1 and Tier 2 vessels that have suffered losses of mackerel quota over the period 2021-2023 as a result of the quota transfers to the EU under Brexit. The support is designed to stabilise cashflow and assist vessel owners to re-structure their operations in light of the loss of earnings associated with the reduction of available quota under the TCA. The short-term aid is essential financial support to allow the 23 RSW vessels and the 27 polyvalent Tier 1 and Tier 2 vessels sufficient time to put in place longer-term restructuring measures.

Minister McConalogue said: “This €25.6 million support for the RSW pelagic fleet segment recognises the impact of quota transfers to the UK from the EU under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), and in particular that this segment of the Irish fleet has suffered the largest TCA related quota reductions for the main target species of mackerel. I welcome the engagement of the Commission in clarifying this important aspect of the implementation of this scheme, which now means that the maximum aid possible under the scheme may be paid to the affected vessels”

The Pelagic Fisheries Support Scheme was one of the recommendations of the Seafood Taskforce appointed by the Minister. It is restricted to eligible vessels in the RSW pelagic segment as well as Polyvalent Tier 1 and Tier 2 vessels fishing for mackerel in 2021 and 2022. Payments under the scheme represent the value of reduced fishing opportunities that resulted from the actual loss of mackerel quota in 2021 and 2022 arising from the quota transfer of quota to the UK. In monetary terms, the loss of mackerel per vessel over the same period, equates to the loss of one month’s fishing opportunities per year, with payment calculated on the average monthly turnover per vessel, less cost of fuel and provisions, over the period 2018-2020, compensating for one month per annum for 2021 and 2022.

The Minister added: “The RSW pelagic fleet segment has suffered significant quota loss of some 20,130 tonnes worth approximately €27.3 million, and this much needed support will go some way to supporting the segment to adjust to the changed situation we find ourselves in so as to ensure a profitable and sustainable fishing fleet into the future. Now that I have secured State Aid approval from the EU Commission, I will be instructing BIM to administer this scheme without delay.”

Scheme information, once launched, will be available on BIMs website at BIM - The Brexit Adjustment Reserve Fund

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As Afloat reported earlier, Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue, T.D, today attended the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels.

The agenda included an initial exchange of views on the proposal for fishing opportunities in the Atlantic and the North Sea in 2024, 2025, and 2026.

The EU shares most of the commercial fish stocks in the Atlantic and North Sea with Third Countries such as the UK and Norway. The European Commission, on behalf of the EU, negotiates with Third Countries on the setting of fishing opportunities for shared stocks. These negotiations began in late October and are currently ongoing.

Minister McConalogue said: “The negotiations between the EU and the UK and Norway on shared stocks are still ongoing therefore we don’t have definitive figures for most of the stocks of relevance to the Irish fleet as yet. However, today’s Council is an opportunity for me to highlight Ireland’s priorities for these negotiations. In particular, I emphasised the importance of securing a timely, fair and balanced conclusion to these negotiations. This is key to providing stability for our fishers and ensuring the sustainable management of shared stocks.”

The Minister added: “Ireland appreciates the importance of a timely conclusion to these negotiations, but we cannot accept an agreement at any cost. I have consistently stated that any agreement with Third Countries must be fair and balanced and provide a level playing field.”

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Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue T.D, is today attending a meeting of the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels where the Council is discussing Council Conclusion on the Long-term Vision for Rural Areas.

The Council agreed that support for rural areas should reflect the pivotal role rural areas are playing in meeting the economic, environmental and social challenges the EU and its member States are facing, including the ones created by the current geopolitical situation.

Minister McConalogue highlighted the need for all EU policies to support rural communities.

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There is a growing feeling in the fishing industry that there is a lack of coordination between various Government Departments in developing marine, specially designated protected areas.

This has been particularly highlighted by the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, which has claimed that the initial proposed Special Area of Conservation along the Porcupine Shelf and Southern Canyons, followed by the announcement of a Special Protection Area (SPA) in the North West Irish Sea in July, constitute what it describes as “the most chaotic form of governance that will ultimately alienate fishermen, driving a wedge between them and Government.

There is an acceptance within the industry that offshore developments, part of Government policy, will affect fishing, but there is what has been described to me as “deep unease”.

Podcast below

Published in Tom MacSweeney

The Irish South and West Fishermen’s Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) has condemned the recent detention of two Irish fishing vessels by the Norwegian coastguard.

IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy said that a breakdown in communications appeared to have led to the detention and questioned whether the EU had passed on the information it received from Norway to the Irish authorities.

Murphy said the two 37-metre-long vessels Ronan Ross and Sarah David had to pay a bond equivalent to 250,000 euro to be released after they were escorted into the Norwegian port of Tromsø by Norwegian Coastguard vessel Svalbard last month.

IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick MurphyIS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy

The two vessels had steamed from west Cork to fish for an Irish quota of Atlanto-Scandian herring in Norwegian waters. They were detained after an inspection by the Norwegian coastguard in the Lopphavet (Lopp Sea) area.

“Basically,we understand that a Norwegian authority decision to change details on a closed area was not transmitted via the European Commission to the Irish authorities before these vessels steamed up to catch a quota of Atlanto-Scandian herring,” Murphy said.

“We are seeking further clarification, but it appears Ireland was not informed of the decision, and the vessels steamed to this area in good faith,” he said.

“Surely the Norwegian authorities could have shown some compassion here if it was a genuine error, and this was explained to them,” he said. “All they have to do is check with the Irish authorities.”

“Norway is seeking more blue whiting off the Irish coast, and it is ironic that they should treat two Irish vessels in this way,” he said. “One wonders how they would feel if two of their vessels were detained here under similar circumstances.”

Murphy said it was “nothing short of bullyboy tactics”.

It is understood there will be a court hearing on the case at a later date.

Asked to respond to the criticisms by the IS&WFPO, the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries said the matter was one for the Norwegian Coast Guard and the Norwegian police.

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hileThe role of three fishermen in rescuing the crew of a ship off Kerry in 1977 after the violent death of one of their colleagues is recalled in a newly released documentary for the RTÉ Doc on One radio series.

“Skyhope”, produced by Ronan Kelly, recalls how “exotic fun” turned into a “dreadful disaster” in 1977 after a freighter of the same name under the command of Capt Dave Potter went aground near Ballydavid Pier.

Ballydavid PierBallydavid Pier

As newspapers reported at the time, a tug from Holyhead in Wales, the Avon Goth, was standing by and waiting for a clearance in the weather to take the ship in tow.

A newspaper headline of the incident from The Irish Independent, Oct 15 1977A newspaper headline of the incident from The Irish Independent, Oct 15 1977

However, the tug’s lifeboat was called out after two men were injured in a fracas on board the Skyhope.

One of the sailors had buried a meat cleaver in his shipmate’s head, and the documentary narrates how “a comedy of errors” became “a tragedy” after a lifeboat bringing the ship’s crew, and the injured man, ashore was swamped at sea.

The Skyhope at Ballydavid Pier in October 1977The Skyhope at Ballydavid Pier in October 1977

At the request of the Garda, two English fishermen working out of Ballydavid, Malcolm Foster and David Stokes, along with hotelier Billy Granville, had to come to the rescue of the 11 on board the lifeboat – one of whom, a Chilean named Jose Mellada, died after he had been injured in the attack on the ship.

However, at the subsequent inquest, a verdict of accidental drowning was returned, and there was no prosecution.

Artura - SkyhopeArtura - Skyhope

The three rescuers, all of whom have since died, were awarded bravery medals for their efforts. However, Malcolm Foster refused to accept his, stating that he was just doing his “duty”.

Captain Dave Potter with the cook of Afon Goch Captain Dave Potter with the cook of Avon Goch 

Later though, when he and his Danish wife Birthe moved to Denmark, the Irish ambassador in Copenhagen asked her to trick him into visiting the embassy where they had an awards ceremony and a party for him.

“We had the most fantastic day at the embassy – even the ambassador got a little bit drunk,” she recalled in the documentary.

As for the Skyhope, it was broken up for scrap. The ship’s name lived on in the names of racehorses and the poetry of Caoimhín Ó Cinnéide.

Listen to the RTÉ Doc on One produced by Ronan Kelly here

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Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue has announced a €25.6 million support package for the Irish pelagic fisheries sector.

The Pelagic Fisheries Support Scheme, funded under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve Fund, will compensate owners of Refrigerated Sea Water (RSW) pelagic vessels and polyvalent Tier 1 and Tier 2 vessels that have suffered losses of mackerel quota over the period 2021-2023 as a result of the quota transfers to the EU under Brexit.

The support is designed to stabilise cash flow and assist vessel owners to re-structure their operations in light of the loss of earnings associated with the reduction of available quota under the TCA. The short-term aid is essential financial support to allow the 23 RSW vessels and the 27 polyvalent Tier 1 and Tier 2 vessels sufficient time to put in place longer-term restructuring measures.

Minister McConalogue said: “This €25.6 million support for the RSW pelagic fleet segment recognises the impact of quota transfers to the UK from the EU under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), and in particular that this segment of the Irish fleet has suffered the largest TCA related quota reductions for the main target species of mackerel.”

The Pelagic Fisheries Support Scheme was one of the recommendations of the Seafood Taskforce appointed by the Minister. It is restricted to eligible vessels in the RSW pelagic segment and Polyvalent Tier 1 and Tier 2 vessels fishing for mackerel in 2021 and 2022. Payments under the scheme represent the value of reduced fishing opportunities that resulted from the actual loss of mackerel quota in 2021 and 2022 arising from the quota transfer of quota to the UK. In monetary terms, the loss of mackerel per vessel over the same period, equates to the loss of one month’s fishing opportunities per year, with payment calculated on the average monthly turnover per vessel, less cost of fuel and provisions, over the period 2018-2020, compensating for one month per annum for 2021 and 2022.

The Minister concluded: “The RSW pelagic fleet segment has suffered significant quota loss of some 20,130 tonnes worth approximately €27.3 million, and this much-needed support will go some way to supporting the segment to adjust to the changed situation we find ourselves in so as to ensure a profitable and sustainable fishing fleet into the future. Now that I have secured State Aid approval from the EU Commission, I will instruct BIM to administer this scheme without delay.”

Scheme information, once launched, will be available on BIMs website at BIM - The Brexit Adjustment Reserve Fund

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On-going efforts by fishermen to reduce their environmental impact, increase their efficiency and contribute to scientific data collection are continuing to enhance the sustainability credentials of seafood, Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation has claimed.

The major Donegal-based fishing group is also looking for “ways and means of weaning the vessels off diesel.”

“While the fishing industry sometimes struggles to get the recognition it deserves for its importance to the Irish economy or as producers of highly nutritious low impact food, this is proof positive of the sustained work which KFO members are investing into long-term sustainability,” the Organisation’s Chief Scientific and Sustainability Officer, Dr Edward Farrell, has said

A report commissioned by the State’s seafood development agency, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), earlier this year, to which the KFO had significant input, found that carbon emissions for the sector are less than 2% of those produced in other key food sectors. It also stated that the carbon footprint of small pelagic species, such as mackerel and herring, is a mere fraction of land-based animal protein production.

“The KFO participated in a ground-breaking project called NEPTUNUS, the primary objective of which was to develop a life-cycle inventory database of seafood for the Atlantic Area. In addition to analysing fuel use and catch, the project has provided a carbon footprint for pelagic species, which reflects very positively on the industry here,” according to Dr Farrell. “Killybegs’ proximity to the main fishing grounds and our vessels' seasonal, targeted and selective fishing approach distinguishes them from foreign fleets landing the same species.

“While fuel accounts for the majority of the industry’s emissions, it is important to put this into context and look at the return on that energy investment, which in the case of small pelagic species was considerably higher than for land-based animal protein production.

Dr Farrell also revealed that the KFO is looking for alternatives to diesel as the fuel for its fleet: “We are probing ways and means of weaning the vessels off diesel. The KFO is working with several interested parties and research groups to explore the options, potential and realities of decarbonisation and the energy transition for our members’ vessels. As an industry wholly reliant on natural ecosystems for sustainable food production, the KFO is fully committed to sustainable fishing and ongoing reduction of its carbon footprint. “

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ESB’s 2040 strategy Driven to Make a Difference: Net Zero by 2040 sets out a clear roadmap for ESB to achieve net zero emissions by 2040. 

ESB will develop and connect renewable energy to decarbonise the electricity system by 2040. ESB will invest in the development of new renewable generation, including onshore and offshore wind and solar, and will significantly increase the amount of renewable generation connected to our electricity networks.

ESB will:

  • Deliver more than a fivefold increase in our renewable generation portfolio to 5,000MW.
  • Reduce carbon intensity of generation fleet from 414 to 140gCO2/kWh by 2030.
  • Decarbonise 63% of our generation output by 2030 and 100% by 2040 (up from c20% now).

Offshore wind

ESB know the importance of offshore wind in tackling climate change and delivering net zero. Ireland has a unique capability given its prime location to take advantage of the potential of offshore wind. ESB are working hard to develop offshore wind projects for the benefit of everyone across society in Ireland and the UK. This includes ongoing engagement with marine users and local communities so ESB can deliver these significant projects.

Offshore wind will play a major role globally in our fight against climate change. It will help to replace energy generated by burning fossil fuels with that from a clean, safe and secure renewable energy source. Ireland’s geographic location on the exposed edge of the Atlantic presents us with a significant opportunity to generate electricity from wind – both offshore and onshore.

Power from onshore wind farms currently provide over one-third of Ireland’s electricity needs. But, whilst its marine area is many times the size of its landmass, Ireland’s offshore wind potential is only starting to be realised. ESB have a coastline stretching over 3,000km but only one operational offshore wind farm – Arklow Bank, with a capacity of 25 MW. In contrast, Belgium’s coastline is only 63km long, but it has already developed more than 2,000 MW of offshore wind. In Great Britain, with a coastline four times the length of ours, offshore wind generation now equates to over 440 Arklow Banks, with an installed capacity of 11,0000 MW as of late 2021.

The Irish Government's target to install 5,000 MW of offshore wind capacity in our maritime area by 2030 is set out in the Climate Action Plan 2021. It also has the objective to source 80% of Ireland’s electricity needs from renewables by the same year. In line with this, ESB is applying its professional and proven engineering expertise to the challenges set within the Climate Action Plan.

ESB are committed to playing a strong role in developing Ireland’s offshore wind potential for the benefit of the people of Ireland. This will be done in consultation with marine users and local communities, and with due care for the marine environment.