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The Government’s promise of consultation and involvement of the fishing industry in the development of offshore wind farms is not being delivered on according to South East Coast fishermen, who claim that consultation and discussion, which was promised, has turned out to be a “cosmetic approach” for public relations purposes, without meaningful engagement.

The Chief Executive of the Irish South and East Coast Fish Producers’ Organisation, John Lynch, a fishing boat owner himself, says that “picking the site for a wind farm is one thing, but picking the actual location of the turbines is another and of great importance for fishermen and the fishing grounds.”

John Lynch is Chief Executive of the Irish South and East Coast Fish Producers’ OrganisationJohn Lynch is Chief Executive of the Irish South and East Coast Fish Producers’ Organisation

"Picking the site for a wind farm is one thing, but picking the actual location of the turbines is another"

It was very interesting, at the World Ocean Day Conference, in discussion with representatives of environmental organisations, that they expressed concern to me about the same topic as fishermen - an emerging maritime spatial squeeze affecting all marine users.

Kilmore Quay Harbour and marinaKilmore Quay Harbour and marina

On this week’s Podcast, John Lynch says that the fishing industry is willing to engage with wind farm developers on the way forward, but it “must be meaningful engagement, not just being told about plans without our concerns being listened to.”

“Promises were made, but so far, the fishing industry has been offered nothing, nothing, and this is not what was indicated,” he said. “There is going to be a lot of marine spatial squeeze. We will have massive squeeze in the Irish Sea particularly.”

He is my Podcast interviewee this week. Listen to the Podcast here.

Published in Tom MacSweeney

“The saddest thing really is to see how, all around the coast, indigenous fishing people like me become extinct, we’re just not going to be there,” says former skipper and trawler owner Caitlín Uí Aodha in an interview with The New York Times.

Uí Aodha is one of a number of vessel owners interviewed by the newspaper in a feature on the impact of the current Brexit-related decommissioning scheme on the Irish fleet.

A total of 42 vessels from the Irish whitefish fleet are being scrapped, as part of the scheme funded from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve.

The fund was set up by the EU to ease the impact of Britain’s withdrawal and consequent loss of quotas, with Ireland bearing the largest burden among coastal states.

New York Times journalist Megan Specia and photographer Finbarr O’Reilly spoke to Uí Aodha in Co Waterford and to owners in Castletownbere and Union Hall, Co Cork, and Greencastle, Co Donegal

Cara Rawdon, 64, who has been fishing for 40 years from Greencastle, said he received a fair price for his boat and is retiring.

“There are no young men getting into it here,” Rawdon told the newspaper.

Coastal communities around Ireland “are being annihilated”, Rawdon said.

The Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation has welcomed the report, which it has circulated unlocked on this link here

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Irish fishing boats will tomorrow (9th May) join an EU-wide protest about plans to restrict bottom fishing further. The protest is being organised by the European Bottom Fisheries Alliance (EBFA), which says 28% of the fishing fleet has disappeared in the last 20 years due to restrictions.

“Fishers have made huge efforts to protect the marine environment and recover fish stocks,” says EBFA chair, Iván López van der Veen. He says thousands of Km2 have been closed to bottom fishing, putting the future at stake. The EU is now proposing to ban bottom-trawling in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)

"Scallops and Dublin Bay Prawns, have been fished for generations by family-run businesses using bottom fishing systems"

The protest will be supported by the Irish Fish Producers Organisation, who say such a ban will create a 30% reduction in available fishing grounds. IFPO chief executive Aodh O Donnell says ‘’many of our key species, such as scallops and Dublin Bay Prawns, have been fished for generations by family-run businesses using bottom fishing systems. They represent a traditional way of life and are the economic and social strength for many communities, some of which will be put at risk.”

“Our members fully support the conservation of fishing stocks and species and adhere to quota restrictions to promote the long-term sustainability of our oceans. As stakeholders, we have a vested interest in maintaining healthy seas. We are delivering on the sustainability targets.”

“But the harsh reality is that we have never had a fair share of EU quotas. We’ve taken the biggest quota hit post-Brexit, and as a result, we are decommissioning a third of our whitefish fleet. Despite all of this adversity, we are now facing another potential huge cut in fishing opportunities.”

“We are committed to conducting responsible fishing in ways which utilise technical measures that protect and conserve marine life. The Irish fishing sector is leading the way in working with the Irish Sea Fisheries Board in developing and applying innovative trawling techniques. The EU should be talking to the fishing industry about these effective, innovative options instead of simply imposing a unilateral ban. This proposed ban will prevent trawling in large areas of traditional fishing grounds, which are of critical importance to IFPO members and many other Irish fishing vessels.”

The protest takes place at mid-day on 9th May - the Day of Europe. Fishers taking part will “sound the horn of our vessels, as the call of distress it signifies,” says the IBFA.

The IFPO is urging its members to take part. “The key message is that the entire industry is in solidarity in protesting against the actions of the EU,” says Aodh O Donnell.

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Britain’s environment department is to hold consultations with its fishing industry in June over remote electronic monitoring (REM) in vessels over 10 metres in length.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) say it wants to “learn lessons as we go” and work in “open collaboration” with the British industry.

It has described REM as “the clear next step for evidence-based fisheries management” but has acknowledged it is a “big step”.

It has identified priority fisheries and says there are no plans for REM on vessels under 10 metres at this stage.

It has identified challenges, including issues around data ownership, privacy, storage, and ensuring remote monitoring is focused on delivering for “science” and for the fishing industry.

In Ireland, a pilot project to test REM technology has been initiated by the SFPA as part of a wider EU north-western waters initiative.

However, a search for volunteers has attracted little enthusiasm, with industry organisations seeking more consultation.

The SFPA said that consultation on REM was a matter for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

REM allows for the remote monitoring of fishing vessels, providing “valuable information on fishing activity and compliance with regulatory requirements, including the landing obligation”, the SFPA has explained.

“The legislative introduction of REM in fisheries control at European level is nearing certainty, having passed through the initial consultative stage, through the European Parliament and back for final consultations,” its executive chair Paschal Hayes has said.

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The Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) has described as “an absolute scandal” the Government’s delay in paying out funding to compensate the seafood sector for the impact of Brexit.

The Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) worth almost 1 billion euro was allocated to Ireland by Brussels to cushion the impact of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, and must be spent by the end of this year.

Although the seafood sector is one of the hardest hit, only a small percentage of the BAR total has been promised to compensate for loss of quota and access to British grounds.

Ireland lost 26% of its mackerel quota and 14% of Nephrops (prawns) quota under the final deal.

“It beggars belief that a tranche of money which will provide so much relief to our members is not being disseminated,” KFO chief executive Sean O’Donoghue said.

“ We lag behind our EU counterparts and what’s of most concern to us is that if we don’t distribute this funding by year-end, it’ll be returned to Europe and permanently lost to our fishermen,” he said.

“This is potentially an appalling vista and we’re calling for the most urgent of political action by Minister [for Marine] Charlie McConalogue on this matter,” he said.

This week’s BIM report on seafood statistics for 2022 “underlines the seismic challenge” faced by KFO members, with Dublin Bay prawns now surpassing mackerel as the most valuable wild species for the industry, he noted.

The report also states that the volume of exports fell by 13% to 293,000 tonnes due mainly to the lower quotas of mackerel and blue whiting as a result of Brexit.

“In 2022 alone, we have had more than 12,000 tonnes of mackerel valued at approximately € 18 million taken from our quota as a direct result of Brexit. No business can, nor could, be expected to sustain losses on this scale,” Mr O’Donoghue said.

The KFO has warned that in the absence of financial support and other burden-sharing measures, Ireland’s pelagic sector will shed more than 1,200 jobs by 2030 because of Brexit.

From 2021 to the end of 2023, pelagic fishermen will have had more than 37,000 tonnes of their mackerel quota stripped away because of Brexit, resulting in loss of more than €52million, it warned.

“This fishery is the cornerstone of KFO members’ businesses, with fishermen in the northwest feeling the cold wind from Brexit for more than two years now and further hits to come over the next three years,” it said.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine did not respond to a request for comment.

Published in Fishing

Plans to ban commercial fishing in ten per cent of Scottish waters have prompted two fishermen to write a protest song comparing it to another Highland clearance.

Donald MacNeil from Vatersay in the Outer Hebrides and Angus MacPhail, who is the founder of the Scottish group Skipinnish, have recorded “The Clearances Again” to highlight the impact of introducing highly protected marine areas (HMPAs).

“Farewell to the Cliffs of Mingulay

And the shores of the Sandray Sound

And the glow of a boat well laden

Steaming north when you’re homeward bound,” the song starts.

Scottish government proposals for HMPAs would limit fishing and aquaculture in around ten per cent of Scottish waters.

The original Highland clearances involved forced eviction of residents in the Highlands and Scotland’s western islands from the mid-18th century to mind 19th century to allow for grazing sheep.

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In a meeting with representatives of the Inshore fisheries sector today, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue announced a new round of funding under the Brexit Inshore Fisheries Business Model Adjustment Scheme.

The support scheme, which operated in 2022, was put in place to assist inshore fishers in adjusting to the impacts of Brexit on their businesses and delivered on a recommendation of the Report of the Seafood Task Force – Navigating Change (October 2021). The scheme was delivered successfully to over 800 eligible applicants. However, given the ongoing challenges faced by the inshore sector, the scheme has been redeveloped and relaunched to offer further support to inshore fishers.

The Minister and inshore representatives also discussed a range of other topics important to the inshore sector, including developments in the hook and line mackerel fishery, North West herring policy and new fishing opportunities for spurdog. The Minister also spoke about his initiative to establish a Brown Crab Working Group in order to review the current arrangements in place for that fishery and to examine management options likely to support the sustainability of brown crab stocks in Ireland.

Announcing the new Scheme, Minister McConalogue said: “Our inshore fishers make a significant contribution to our coastal communities and blue economy, but have been significantly impacted by Brexit and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. While positive steps have been taken to support these fishers, the challenges in terms of operating costs and market access remain.”

“I am announcing today up to €3.5 million in short-term funding for the sector. This new round of support will bridge the gap for the inshore sector, while longer-term measures to strengthen the seafood sector as a whole take effect.”

The 2023 support scheme will introduce a suite of new online training modules to be made available by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), specifically tailored to the inshore fishing sector which will help these fishers manage costs, increase product quality and reach new customers. The scheme will be open to owners of fishing vessels under 18 metres in length, registered in the polyvalent, polyvalent potting and specific segments. Payments will be made to eligible beneficiaries who complete one of the modules, in order to assist them in implementing changes to their business model. Payment rates remain at €2,700 for owners of vessels under 8 metres in length and €4,000 for owners of vessels between 8 metres and 17.99 metres in length.

Minister McConalogue added: “This additional measure for the Inshore sector is part of a wider comprehensive package of supports and development strategies which will transform the seafood industry so that it can continue to develop sustainably. The ongoing investments in promoting inshore stocks in domestic and overseas markets, in developing marine infrastructure and investing in all elements of the seafood supply chain will provide opportunities for inshore fishers. These latest short-term supports will allow these fishers to capitalise on these opportunities and navigate through the current challenging environment.”

The Scheme will open in the coming weeks and will be administered by Bord Iascaigh Mhara. Further details will be available from BIM in due course here

For vessel owners to be eligible, they must demonstrate that they were actively fishing during 2022. The scheme will specify requirements in this respect.

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Ireland's sea fish landings were down, but prices were up last year, according to Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

BIM’s annual business of seafood report for 2022 estimates that the seafood sector was worth 1.3 billion euros last year.

In spite of a “volatile year”, there was a 4% annual growth due to a combination of higher prices, the reopening of restaurants after Covid-19 and an increase in the consumption of seafood in Ireland.

BIM chief executive Caroline Bocquel says the figures reflect the “enduring strength of those working in the seafood industry” and the vital role which the sector plays in coastal communities in Ireland.

“BIM remains steadfast in its commitment to support industry to navigate the fast-changing global landscape,” she said.

Sea fish landings at Irish Ports Sea fish landings at Irish ports in 2022

The report notes that while the volume of seafood produced by the Irish sector didn’t match previous years , there was very strong price growth, particularly in the sea-caught fish sector, which saw prices increase by 38%.

The value of the overall Irish seafood sector increased by 13% to €703 million, while the overall value of Irish aquaculture products increased by 10% to €196 million, it said.

Dublin Bay prawns surpassed mackerel as the most valuable wild caught species for the industry, having more than doubled in price (+53%) in 2022.

Irish rock oysters (+8%) and rope grown mussels (+7%) also reflected strong price growth last year within the aquaculture sector, the report notes.

The top-selling species on the Irish market during the year were salmon (€119 million) and cod (€44 million), the BIM Business of Seafood report says.

It says organic salmon was the top species produced by the aquaculture sector – accounting for 13,500 tonnes worth €124 million – while Dublin Bay prawns were the top species landed by the Irish fleet, accounting for 6,200 tonnes with a value of €82 million.

During 2022, a total of €507 million worth of seafood was landed at Irish ports, which was a 14% increase on 2021 in value terms, the report says.

Killybegs in Co Donegal was the State’s largest fishing port in 2022 by value, with landings worth €135 million, closely followed by Castletownbere in Co Cork, with €129 million worth of catch landed.

The report notes that the value of landings – particularly in whitefish and prawns- also increased significantly in the ports of Ros an Mhíl, Co Galway, where landings are in long-term decline, along with Clogherhead, Co Louth, and Greencastle, Co Donegal.

The report records a significant increase in Government investment in 2022 as funding under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) began to come onstream.

The report, which was published by Minister for Marine, Charlie McConalogue, shows a 10% increase in Government investment (€255 million) in 2022.

This included the opening of several BAR schemes to cushion the impact of Brexit.

Mr McConalogue referred to the significant challenges facing the industry in 2022, including the conflict in Ukraine, which led to rising energy costs as well as reduced quotas and difficult trading conditions with the UK in the aftermath of Brexit.

“However, the industry has once again shown its resilience to such shocks and continues to be a key socio-economic driver in coastal communities, employing more than 15,000 people,” he said.

The sector employed about 15,300 people in 2022, with 1,993 registered vessels, over ten seafood processors and just under 300 aquaculture sites, BIM says.

It says that more than 8,200 people are directly employed in the sector, with a further 7,100 jobs supporting the sector indirectly.

Evolution of the Irish seafood quota from 1982 to 2023Evolution of the Irish seafood quota from 1982 to 2023

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A fishing industry leader has questioned the Sea Fisheries Protection Agency’s handling of its appeal for volunteers for remote electronic monitoring of fishing vessels.

Late last month, the SFPA issued a press release stating that it was enlisting the support of producer organisations to find a number of Irish-registered fishing vessels for the project.

Its staff had by then failed to find sufficient vessels which would volunteer to participate.

The SFPA says it wrote to producer organisations in advance of issuing a press release publicising the appeal.

However, the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO) has confirmed it was contacted about the proposed pilot project on Friday, March 24th – the same day that the press release was issued.

“We appreciate that new technologies can have benefits for the regulation and sustainability of the fishing industry,”IFPO chief executive Aodh O’Donnell said.

“ But this proposal and the practical considerations involved need to be discussed with our members. The Irish seafood sector is already subject to the very highest levels of control and is very well regulated,” O’Donnell said.

“We can’t ignore the irony that very large factory ships and foreign vessels fish openly in our waters without any REM and with very little monitoring,”he pointed out.

The SFPA said it wrote to additional fisheries producer organisations (POs) “prior to March 24th” to encourage participation in the REM pilot project.

“Preliminary conversations were had over a period of time with individual fishermen as well as a number of producer organisaitions,”it said.

The REM technology to monitor fishing may become a legal requirement within the EU, and the pilot project is part of a larger EU north-western waters initiative, the SFPA has said.

REM allows for the remote monitoring of fishing vessels, providing “valuable information on fishing activity and compliance with regulative requirements, including the landing obligation”, the SFPA explained.

“The legislative introduction of REM in fisheries control at European level is nearing certainty, having passed through the initial consultative stage, through the European Parliament and back for final consultations,”SFPA executive chair Paschal Hayes said in his authority’s press release.

He said there has been work in areas of Britain, including Scotland, to mandate the use of REM for some areas and some fisheries, “which may impact Irish fishers”.

“Therefore, we feel it is important that we gain real and meaningful experience of REM and put ourselves in a position where both the SFPA and the Irish fishing industry can guide and advise on the technicalities of REM, its introduction and uses,” he said.

“Ireland holds the largest stake in the northwestern waters, and gaining experience of REM is, we feel, of significant importance for our fishing industry,” Hayes said.

“We believe that this technology has the potential to bring significant benefits to the Irish fishing industry and in assisting the SFPA to fulfil its control and enforcement mandate for all fishing vessels operating in Ireland’s exclusive economic zone,” he said.

“The SFPA wishes to work with the Irish fishing industry to manage the introduction of REM, and to explore its potential benefits as well as address any concerns through the pilot project,” Hayes said.

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The Irish fishing Industry is making gains in Europe, a meeting of fishermen in Killybegs, County Donegal, has been told.

They were assured by Fine Gael MEP, Colm Markey that the voice of the Irish fishing and seafood industry is now being heard in Europe and that this is starting to deliver positive gains.

The meeting was co-hosted by Aodh O Donnell of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO), Brendan Byrne of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA). Manus Boyle of the Dunkineely, Bruckless and Killybegs Branch of Fine Gael chaired the event, which was attended by a broad cross-section of the seafood sector, including stakeholders from other ports in Donegal, Galway and Cork.

“The catching and processing sectors pulled together to run a highly effective lobbying campaign,” O Donnell told the meeting. “This succeeded in keeping Norway out of the Irish Box. We still have a long way to go to secure our fair share of EU fishing quotas, but we are engaging directly with both the European Commission and the EU Parliament.”

Mr Markey agreed that there were still many issues to address at EU level. However, he added that attitudes in Europe to the Irish fishing and seafood industries had changed, and Irish voices were now getting a more receptive hearing.

Aodh O Donnell thanked Colm Markey MEP for his support at EU level, and the IFPEA’s Brendan Byrne for his co-operation and support for the lobbying campaign. He also thanked members of the fishing and seafood industry for taking part in the Killybegs event. “This meeting is not just a once-off, it is part of a process of engagement which we intend to maintain.”

Brendan Byrne of the IFPEA said he was delighted to co-host the meeting and it was important for the industry to stay united. “There was a frank and open discussion and exchange of views on the need to continue the fight at European level. We need to secure better outcomes, as we face the ongoing adverse impacts of the Irish transfer of quotas to the UK under Brexit. But together, we are a stronger voice, and we can achieve more for our industry and our coastal communities.”

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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.