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A crisis hitting the Irish inshore fishing sector will be outlined at an Oireachtas parliamentary committee this evening (Wednesday, Jan. 24).

Representatives from the National Inshore Fishermen's Association (NIFA) will address members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and Marine during the meeting, which starts at 1830.

Committee Cathaoirleach deputy Jackie Cahill said: “Today's meeting will focus on the crisis in the inshore fishing industry in Ireland and the proposed Soil Monitoring Laws's impact on the agricultural industry.”

“Inshore fishing plays a significant part in the Irish economy and for the economy of coastal communities,”Cahill said.

"Inshore fishing plays a significant part in the economy of coastal communities"

“ Due to several events in recent years, including the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit, fishing families across Ireland have experienced financial hardship,” he said.

“The committee look forward to hearing from the NIFA and their proposed strategy to reduce the impact of the crisis on coastal communities across Ireland,”he said.

The second part of this evening’s committee session will discuss EU legislative proposals in relation to fishing opportunities and fishing stock in Ireland with department officials.

The third session will focus on establishing a soil monitoring law for Ireland and the EU.

The Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine has 14 members, nine from the Dáil and five from the Seanad.

The meeting in Committee Room 3 from 1830 is split into three sessions and can be viewed live on Oireachtas TV.

Committee proceedings can also be viewed on the Houses of the Oireachtas Smartphone App, which is available for Apple and Android devices.

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The National Inshore Fishermen’s Association (NIFA) has warmly welcomed its recognition as an EU seafood producer organisation (PO).

The sanction by Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue was hailed by NIFA chair Michael Desmond.

Desmond said it came after a “long battle” and “many years of hard work”.

“Many long hours were put in by our former general secretary, Alex Crowley, who is still a director of the organisation,” Desmond, an inshore fisherman based in West Cork, said.

“Thanks to Alex Crowley, and to founder members Richard Gildea, Bernard Whelan, Shane and Trudy McIntyre, Eddie Moore and others, we have 210 members,” Desmond said.

“We have members in every single coastal county, and we have had to put in dozens of submissions in relation to offshore wind farm applications due to our broad membership spread,” he said.

“Much of this work was voluntary by NIFA members like Alex Crowley,” he said.

Announcing the recognition, McConalogue said that in Ireland’s programme for government it was “committed to supporting the inshore fishing fleet in generating greater marketing and promotional capacity by facilitating the establishment of a producer organisation for these smaller fishing vessels”.

Inshore fishing vessels at Fethard in County Wexford Photo: AfloatInshore fishing vessels at Fethard in County Wexford Photo: Afloat

This would provide “additional opportunity for the island and coastal communities involved in the inshore sector”, he said.

“In 2021, my department recognised the Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation (IIMRO) as a producer organisation which focuses on our offshore islands,” McConalogue said.

“ I am very pleased to announce that my department has now completed the process to formally recognise NIFA as an EU seafood producer organisation,” he said.

“The inshore fishing sector is a vital part of our coastal economies and communities and I am committed to supporting this sector and our inshore fishing families,” he added.

In a statement in early January, NIFA said that the Irish inshore fishing sector - or the “forgotten sector” as it is known by those involved - is facing unprecedented challenges due to the rising costs and failing markets throughout various segments.

“ The Irish government is determined to push offshore renewables as the economic saviour to coastal communities, not taking into account that there will be limited numbers of specific hubs (ports) for servicing this industry,” it said.

“Every fisherman in Ireland knows that if given the correct structures and proper support, the inshore fishing industry could revitalise dying rural coastal communities, providing a viable sustainable and prosperous future to the neglected areas of our country,”it said.

NIFA also noted that a government strategy for the inshore fishery sector which was published in 2019 amid “much fanfare”, is now “gathering dust in some forgotten corner of the marine department or BIM office”.

“This alone will tell you where inshore fishermen stand in the department’s priorities,” it said.

“However, with the latest round of decommissioning resulting in the inshore sector becoming ninety plus percent of the Irish fleet, we can no longer be ignored,” it said.

“The smaller inshore vessels that work from the hundreds of piers dotted along the rugged Irish coastline are the beating heart of rural coastal communities,” it said.

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Irish Minister for the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D. today (6th April) met with his French counterpart, Annick Girardin, the French Minister of the Sea, in Paris. The primary focus of the meeting was to discuss Minister McConalogue’s case to provide greater protection to the inshore fishing waters around Ireland under the Common Fisheries Policy.

The background to the meeting is that the European Commission has proposed to roll over the existing access arrangements for Member States' access to Coastal Waters for a further 10 years. At present, a number of Member States have historic rights to fish in our 6 - 12 mile zone.

Commenting on the meeting, the Minister said “The meeting today was constructive and I made my case requesting the French Presidency to give further consideration to the Irish position on access to our coastal waters. We had a detailed engagement on the issues and I am satisfied that the French Presidency has a better understanding of the Irish case following the meeting. The French Minister, Minister Girardin, undertook to consider how the French Presidency would proceed taking account of the views of other relevant Member States.

Discussions on an EU Fisheries Council position are expected to be concluded in the coming weeks. The European Parliament is also setting out its position. The agreement of the Council, Parliament and Commission on access arrangements is expected to be finalised before the summer.

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A scheme to support Ireland’s inshore fishing sector to adjust their business to the post-Brexit market has opened for applications today following the announcement by the Minister for the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D. on January 14.

Ireland’s inshore fishing sector is made up of some 1,800 vessels, that catch a range of fish and shellfish species while typically operating in waters close to the coast. The sector had exported up to 90% of its catch, however, the advent of Brexit and associated new fishing agreements, have had an impact on export trends, as accessing or transiting through the UK market is now more complex.

The new scheme is based on recommendations contained within the final report of the Seafood Taskforce that was established by Minister McConalogue. The new scheme is being administered by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) as recommended in the report.

"Between €2,700 & €4,000 is available for fishing vessel owners"

Under the scheme, depending on the size of their boat, grant aid of between €2,700 and €4,000 is available for fishing vessel owners on completion of a tailored training programme.

Jim O’Toole, CEO BIM, said there were specific challenges facing the inshore sector in the post-Brexit landscape and the support on offer would help them adapt their business model to address these new working conditions:

“This short-term scheme is designed to help the sector navigate the difficult trading conditions facing them as a result of Brexit. This scheme has been designed to support the Inshore sector to adjust to the new market realities post-Brexit and will provide real and practical benefit to the sector through a range of easily accessible courses that will help them strengthen their skills and help them find new opportunities for their businesses”.

Under the new scheme, fishing vessel owners with boats up to 8 metres in length can apply for grant aid up to €2,700, while those with fishing vessels up to 18 metres in length can apply for grant aid of up to €4,000.

For vessel owners to be eligible, they must show that they were actively fishing between January and June 2021.

To receive their grant, applicants must complete at least one of five online training courses that are designed to provide the sector with the skills to adapt to the new market realities post-Brexit. These courses are designed to enable vessel owners to explore finding new market opportunities for their catch, adjust their business plans to account for the new market conditions, use digital technology to reach customers directly, help maximise the value of their catch and show how they can access alternative markets.

The scheme is open for applications until March 31, 2022. For more information or to apply, visit here

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The Government has been urged not to delay in establishing a formal liaison between marine users including fishermen and the offshore renewable energy industry.

As The Times Ireland edition reports today, the Department of Housing – currently lead agency for marine planning - says it is “acutely aware” of communication issues between the fishing industry and offshore renewable energy.

Draft terms of reference for forming a seafood/offshore renewable energy “working group” are still being worked on, it says.

The National Inshore Fishermen's Association (NIFA) says that liaison and State guidelines should not be “long-fingered” if confrontations are to be avoided.

NIFA has said difficulties have already arisen in the Irish Sea, where one wind energy company “reneged” on its commitment to fishermen.

As a result, several NIFA members had to engage expensive legal advice, NIFA secretary Alex Crowley said.

NIFA is calling for establishment by the State of guidelines for wind energy companies dealing with other stakeholders including the fishing sector.

Sligo fishermen David Downes, who fishes out of Raghley on the east side of Sligo Bay, says that there has been no direct contact by an energy company in relation to its recent application to conduct an offshore wind energy feasibility study off the Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal coast.

Aniar Offshore Array confirmed that it has submitted an investigatory foreshore licence which, if granted, would allow it five years to conduct investigations and assessments of feasible sites for both fixed and offshore wind.

“If the licensing authority decides to grant this application, Aniar Offshore Array will publish all application documents to the website and update all stakeholders of the development,” a company spokeswoman said.

The company confirmed the total area to be surveyed is 1,162.26 km2 off Sligo, Leitrim and South Donegal.

It said it was considering a two-phase project - a first phase involving a static or fixed turbine development of approximately 500 MW situated within 10 to 22 km off the coast, covering an area of approximately 125km2.

The second phase would involve another 500 MW approximately of floating turbines, within 14 to 33 km off the coast and comprising an area of approximately 180km2, the company said.

Downes said this was a substantial sea area and, “even at this stage” consultation with all stakeholders was important, and not just with representative organisations.

The Government is committed to increasing the current target of offshore wind energy from 3.5 gigawatts (GW) to five GW off the Irish east and south coasts by 2030.

It has prioritised the Maritime Area Planning (MAP) Bill – formerly titled the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill – which will issue marine area consents for offshore wind projects.

Minister for Environment and Climate Eamon Ryan has said the legislation would provide for a “ steady predictable phased routine process” of licensing and approving offshore wind.

Read The Times Ireland here

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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.