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Bord Iascaigh Mhara has confirmed the serious economic situation for the Irish fishing industry. In its annual report, the State fisheries board says there will be a decrease in landings, revenue and profitability.

It says, "In the long-term, decommissioning will help bring fleet capacity back in balance with available quotas and improve the profitability for vessels remaining in the Irish fleet.”

This, however, is disputed by the fishing industry representative organisations, which contradicts the BIM conclusion. They say that hundreds of jobs will be lost, damaging the industry, making it unattractive to new entrants and ultimately creating serious economic and social problems in the country’s coastal communities.

Acknowledging the problems for the fishing fleet due to fuel prices, where the Marine Minister has refused requests for a subsidy, which would be similar to other EU countries, BIM says: “Based on feedback from industry, the impact of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine on inflation and rising fuel costs was the main driving force influencing the economic performance of the Irish fleet in 2022. In 2020, average fuel costs per litre were €0.42 whereas average fuels costs per litre in mid-2022 stood at €0.90, representing a 114% increase in cost and the current reported costs of €1.20 per litre represents a 18% increase since 2020.”

An illustration from the 2022 BIM Annual Fisheries Report 2022An illustration from the 2022 BIM Annual Fisheries Report 2022

The report, for 2021, says that the data indicates an increase in landings by weight from 2020 (+6%) and a decrease in value of landings (-7.5%) due to decreasing fish prices and changes in quota allocation. Gross profit for 2021 is projected to decrease significantly (-58%) to €27.6 million combined with a decreasing net profit (-75%) to €8.1 million.

“In terms of the outlook for economic performance for 2021-2022, preliminary data point to a decrease in revenue and profitability for the Irish fleet. It also records less time spent at sea by the country’s fishing boats: “The Irish fishing fleet spent 77,460 days at sea, of which 84% were fishing days representing a decrease of 16% and 17% respectively from 2019.

“For 2021, the data indicates an increase in landings by weight from 2020 (+6%) and a decrease in value of landings (-7.5%) due to decreasing fish prices and changes in quota allocation. Gross profit for 2021 is projected to decrease significantly (-58%) to €27.6 million combined with a decreasing net profit (-75%) to €8.1 million.

“Profitability of the Irish fleet has increased since 2019, however, it says. Revenue increased by 2%, amounting to €312 million; gross value added (GVA) €161 million (+6%), gross profit €65 million (+24%) and net profit decreased to €32 million (-20%) due in part to Covid-19. The fleet landed over 218,600 tonnes valued at €312 million, an increase of 5% from 2019 in live weight and an increase of 2% in landed value (€306.5 million). In 2021, the fleet landed 233,000 tonnes, an increase of 7% from 2020.

Overall, the cost structure of the fleet has remained stable with a slight increase in all costs except non-variable costs (e.g., insurance, loan interest). Operating costs totalled €255 million, a slight increase of 1% from 2019 with energy costs increased by approximately 10%. When capital costs are included, the total cost of operating the national fleet rose by 4% since 2019 to €278.5 million.

Direct employment generated by the sector was estimated at 2,928 jobs corresponding to 2,684 full-time equivalents (FTEs).

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Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue T.D, today delivered a record Budget provision for the seafood sector and coastal communities for 2023 of €335 million. The allocation represents a 62% increase in funding from 2022. This covers fisheries, aquaculture, seafood processing, fishery harbour development, marine research and conservation.

Commenting, Minister McConalogue said “Today's €335 million budget announcement for the seafood sector and coastal communities represents the largest ever annual budget provision for the sector. Over the past year I have announced a range of schemes worth €225 million, funded under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, designed to support the seafood sector and coastal communities in overcoming the impact of Brexit. These schemes will run for the remainder of this year and for 2023 and the budget provision that the Government is making today will enable these schemes to be fully delivered. The schemes reflect the recommendations of the Seafood Task Force, which I established, and which are designed to ensure that the seafood sector and coastal communities post Brexit will continue to generate economic growth and sustainable jobs in coastal communities. Having listened to fishing representatives, and at their request, I established a second tie-up scheme worth €12m for this year to help alleviate fishers' marine fuel pressures. This Budget will include supports for energy costs for seafood processors.”

The schemes which have been implemented on foot of the Task Force recommendations are:

  • Temporary Tie-Up 2021 €10m
  • Inshore Fisheries Business Model Adjustment Scheme €3.7m
  • Inshore Marketing Scheme €1m
  • Adjustment Local Authority Marine Infrastructure Scheme €35m
  • Blue Economy Enterprise Development Scheme €25m
  • Seafood Capital Processing Support Scheme €45m
  • Temporary Tie-Up 2022 Scheme €24m
  • Brexit Co-operative Transition Scheme € 1m
  • Brexit Sustainable Aquaculture Growth Scheme €20m
  • Brexit Voluntary Decommissioning Scheme [open 12 9 22] €60m
  • Total of Seafood Taskforce Scheme announcements to date €224.7m

In addition, the Minister advised, “I am continuing to work on progressing the remaining recommendations of the Seafood Task Force. These schemes are being prepared at present, and I will be seeking to progress them to EU State Aid approval over the coming period.”

EU funding under the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) for the period 2021-2027 is being progressed separately. This support is an enabler for sustainable fisheries and the conservation of marine biological resources, for food security through the supply of seafood products, for the growth of a sustainable blue economy and for healthy, safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed seas and oceans.

Minister McConalogue said, “I have recently secured Government approval for Ireland's €258 million Operational Programme for the seafood sector for the period 2021 to 2027. This programme is in addition to the €225 million worth of schemes that I have announced on foot of the Seafood Task Force recommendations. Today’s budget announcement for 2023 will enable the implementation of the Seafood Task Force recommendations and the new EMFAF Operational Programme during 2023.”

A number of important broader horizontal initiatives announced in the Government’s budget will also assist the seafood sector and coastal communities over the coming year. Commenting, the Minister said, “In discussion with industry over recent weeks, I am aware of the energy and fuel pressures facing fishers, aquaculture operators and processors. I am confident that measures such as the extra tie-up scheme, which was requested by the industry to alleviate Brexit impacts compounded by fuel pressures, will help fishers and the energy supports schemes announced by Government today will support processors.”

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Fishing industry representatives have said they are “ confounded and disappointed” by the Government’s repeated refusal to draw down EU-approved fuel aid for the Irish fleet.

As Afloat reported previously, the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO) and Irish Fish Processors’ and Exporter’s Association (IFPEA) said they met with Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue last Friday, and once again “urged him to secure the existing EU aid to help with the crippling costs of going to sea”.

An unallocated five million euro in the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund could be used as a support measure, with EU approval, the organisations have pointed out.

Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogueMinister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue

“Based on BIM (Bord Iascaigh Mhara) annual consumption data, we require fuel aid of €20m to €25m a year to compete effectively in Europe,” Aodh O’Donnell, IFPO chief executive, and Brendan Byrne, IFPEA chief executive, said in a joint statement.

“Otherwise, we are up against fleets whose governments are distributing the existing EU fuel aid or offering other fuel aid support - whereas many Irish boats can’t afford to fish because of fuel costs or can’t make a profit on fishing,” they said.

"The time for action is now"

Byrne said this was the second meeting they had requested and held with the minister this year.

“The industry spoke with one voice on the key issues of fuel aid and securing EU-approved measures to enable our fleet to compete,” he said.

Aodh O’Donnell, IFPO chief executiveAodh O’Donnell, IFPO chief executive

While the minister “took note and undertook to assess the industry’s needs”, he gave no firm commitment, the organisations said.

“Our fishing families and coastal communities deserve clear answers and clear action,” O’Donnell said.

“Jobs, livelihoods, and communities are all at risk here. We are operating in an environment of uncertainty requiring a decisive approach in line with European counterparts. The time for action is now,” he said.

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Fishing industry representatives say they are confounded and disappointed by the Government’s repeated refusal to draw down EU fuel aid.

They met with the Minister for the Marine on Friday and urged him to secure the existing EU aid to help with the crippling costs of going to sea.

“However, Minister McConalogue failed to meet this demand, although it would incur no cost to the Irish exchequer. Furthermore, a statement issued by the Minister after the meeting on Friday made no reference to the EU fuel aid scheme,” industry organisations say in a statement today.

The meeting was attended by Aodh O'Donnell, CEO of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation said that prior to the meeting, the Minster had been presented with a pre-budget submission.

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

“This outlined fully costed measures aimed at creating a level playing field for Irish fishers in Europe. Based on BIM (Bord Iascaigh Mhara) annual consumption data, we require fuel aid of €20m to €25m a year to compete effectively in Europe. Otherwise, we are up against fleets whose governments are distributing the existing EU fuel aid or offering other fuel aid support. Whereas many Irish boats can’t afford to fish because of fuel costs or can’t make a profit on fishing.

Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogueMinister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue

Brendan Byrne of the IFPEA said this was the second meeting they’d requested and held with the Minister this year. “The industry spoke with one voice on the key issues of fuel aid and securing EU-approved measures to enable our fleet to compete.”

“The Minister took note and undertook to assess the industry’s needs. We also pressed for the unallocated €5m European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), which is fully EU funded, to be used as a support measure for our industry.”

Mr O’Donnell said they would be discussing the Minister’s response with their members and hoped the Minister would take practical action soon to address their concerns. “Our fishing families and coastal communities deserve clear answers and clear action. Jobs, livelihoods, and communities are all at risk here. We are operating in an environment of uncertainty requiring a decisive approach in line with European counterparts. The time for action is now’’.

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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency has today (Friday, 23 September) announced an extension to the Brexit Voluntary Permanent Cessation ( ‘decommissioning’ scheme) for fishing vessels.

The new deadline is 5pm, Friday 18 November.

BIM has also announced a change to the crew compensation agreement within the scheme. This agreement which was previously required to be submitted with an application, can now be submitted prior to first scheme payment subject to an applicant being approved for decommissioning and having received a letter of offer.

The aim of the new scheme, that opened for applications last week, is to help restore balance between fishing fleet capacity and available quotas following quota reductions arising from the Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) between the EU and the UK. The scheme is a recommendation of the Seafood Task Force, established by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue TD, in 2021.

More information, including details on eligibility and how to apply can be found by visiting www.bim.ie

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A coalition of Ireland’s leading environmental non-governmental organisations and networks says progress is beginning to be made towards protecting some of the most vulnerable ecosystems within Irish waters. Fair Seas has welcomed a decision by the European Commission to close parts of the Northeast Atlantic to bottom fishing but says more action is needed.

The move will see deep sea fishing using gear such as trawls, gillnets and bottom longlines, banned in 87 sensitive zones. The area amounts to 16,000 km2 of EU waters, of which nearly 9,000 km2 are within the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Fair Seas published a report in June identifying 16 ‘Areas of Interest’ for MPA designation in Irish waters. The new closures line up almost perfectly with the areas identified by Fair Seas.

The new ban on bottom fishing will apply to 1.8% of Irish waters. Fair Seas is urging the Government to designate a minimum of 30% of Irish waters as Marine Protected Areas by 2030, up from the current figure of 2% which the group says is wholly inadequate. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are areas of our seas and coasts legally protected from activities that damage the habitats, wildlife and natural processes.

A basket star which is found in some of the deep water habitats off the coast of Ireland. The Gorgonocephalus catches prey with its many arms that bend and coil towards a mouth on the underside of its central disc. Image courtesy of the SeaRover project which is co-funded by the Irish Government and the European Maritime & Fisheries Fund 2014-2020A basket star which is found in some of the deep water habitats off the coast of Ireland. The Gorgonocephalus catches prey with its many arms that bend and coil towards a mouth on the underside of its central disc. Image courtesy of the SeaRover project which is co-funded by the Irish Government and the European Maritime & Fisheries Fund 2014-2020

Aoife O’ Mahony, Campaign Manager for Fair Seas highlighted the need for legislation to be implemented in Ireland, she said, “The Irish government has committed to protecting 30% of our waters before 2030. We need to ensure that MPA legislation is ambitious and timely to conserve, restore and protect our ocean. Our ocean territory is home to endangered sharks, globally important seabird colonies, and animals threatened with extinction. It is vital that we act now to restore critical habitats, safeguard wildlife and help address the climate crisis. The time for action is now.” 

Regina Classen, Marine Policy and Research Officer with the Irish Wildlife Trust said, “This is incredible news for Ireland. We have sensitive ecosystems in the deep waters off the Irish coast. These areas are home to cold-water coral reefs, deep sea sponge reefs and sea-pen fields which are easily damaged by bottom-contacting fishing gear. Not only are we now protecting fragile deep-sea reefs from bottom trawling, but even a part of the Porcupine Bank, which is heavily trawled for Dublin Bay Prawn, is now protected due to the presence of sea-pens. 

Ireland South MEP Grace O’Sullivan, Green Party Spokesperson for the Marine added, “The news that over 16,000km2 of fragile marine ecosystems are to be strictly protected is a fantastic development for Ireland and our seas. Civil society organisations have worked hard to achieve this victory over the last few years and should be commended. These areas are home to priceless biodiversity and are also some of the most effective at storing carbon. I believe these areas could now play a central role in the government’s work to protect at least 30% of our waters with new Marine Protected Areas, a third of which should be ‘strictly protected’ from human interference. The EU meanwhile must now ensure that these commitments are met by Member States as the clock is ticking towards 2030.”

The Fair Seas campaign is led by a coalition of Ireland’s leading environmental non-governmental organisations and networks, including Irish Wildlife Trust, BirdWatch Ireland, Sustainable Water Network, Friends of the Irish Environment, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Irish Environmental Network and Coastwatch. It is funded by Oceans 5, Blue Nature Alliance, BFCT and The Wyss Foundation.

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Several leading Aran Island fishers have spoken of how impossible it is for family businesses to continue fishing due to Brexit-related quota losses and escalating fuel costs.

Interviewed on RTÉ Radio 1 Countrywide, John and Mary Conneely outlined the struggle involved, and said they would be considering applying for the Government’s decommissioning scheme.

The Conneelys, who live in Gort na gCapall on Inis Mór, are a fourth-generation fishing family.

A 60 million euro scrappage scheme, where vessel owners who agree to surrender their licenses and have their vessels broken up, is being rolled out by the Government with EU backing.

It is anticipated it will involve decommissioning up to 60 vessels to ensure that the remaining Irish whitefish fleet remains viable.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara, which is administering the scheme, has opened it for applications.

Conneely, whose late father Gregory was something of a legend in the Aran fleet, told the programme that the industry is no longer offering an attractive career for young people from the islands.

Stevie Joyce, also an Aran islander, said he hopes to remain in the industry. Joyce, who fishes the 27-metre Oileáin an Óir, recalled how there was a time when one had to queue for several hours to land fish in the Galway fishery harbour of Ros-a-Mhíl.

Stevie Joyce’s trawler Oileáin an Óir in which he hopes to continue fishing. Photo: Ray O'Donoghue/Marine TrafficStevie Joyce’s trawler Oileáin an Óir in which he hopes to continue fishing. Photo: Ray O'Donoghue/Marine Traffic

“Those days are gone,”Joyce said, and landings by Irish vessels are becoming increasingly infrequent.

He told the programme how Irish fishermen had agreed to conservation measures for the Porcupine Bank prawn fishery, but now Irish vessels have to tie up early due to the small quota, while French, Spanish, Northern Irish and other vessels continue to fish there.

Landings of foreign vessels into Irish fishing harbours have risen by 48 per cent over the past decade, while there has been a “big drop” in the amount of fish landed by Irish vessels, according to two seafood industry organisations who met Tánaiste Leo Varadkar recently on the issue.

Listen to the RTÉ Radio 1 Countrywide report HERE

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Achill Island RNLI went to the assistance of two local fishermen whose 21ft fishing vessel was experiencing engine difficulties this morning.

The volunteer lifeboat crew were requested by Malin Head Coast Guard to go to the assistance of the two fishermen who reported difficulties with their engine close to Corrán, off Achill Island, shortly after 10am this morning. The ‘Sam and Ada Moody’ launched with Dave Curtis, Coxswain, Michael Cattigan, Mechanic, Patrick Kilbane, Terry Hogarth and Declan Corrigan on board. They quickly reached the vessel, which was located approximately two miles from the Lifeboat Station, in what was described as ideal sea and weather conditions at the time.

On reaching the vessel, both fishermen were found to be safe and well. The vessel was assessed, and a decision was made to tow it the short distance to Corrán, the nearest and safest pier.

Speaking after the call out, Ciaran Needham, Achill Island RNLI’s Lifeboat Operations Manager, said: ‘The fishermen on board this vessel did everything right and made the right call in seeking assistance. Anyone can encounter problems with their vessel, and while sea and weather conditions were perfect this morning, they can change very quickly. Our advice is never to hesitate to call the Coast Guard for help if you encounter unexpected problems while at sea. Our crew are always happy to assist.’

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The Government today approved submission to the European Commission of the European Maritime Fisheries & Aquaculture Fund 2021-2027 - Seafood Development Programme.

The Seafood Development Programme, which will now be subject to adoption by the EU Commission, is worth up to €258.4 million and will make available significant funding to the seafood and marine sectors.

This new Programme represents an increased funding commitment from the €240 million allocated under the previous Programme under European Maritime & Fisheries Fund 2014 to 2020.

Announcing the decision, Minister McConalogue said; “I welcome Government’s approval of the new Seafood Development Programme 2021-2027. This new programme represents the Government’s ongoing commitment to supporting the seafood sector and coastal communities, as well as ensuring that our marine environment is maintained for future generations.”

Developed to implement the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund, the Programme supports the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the EU maritime policy and the EU’s international commitments for international ocean governance and as such supports sustainable fisheries and the conservation of marine biological resources, for food security through the supply of seafood products, for the growth of a sustainable blue economy and for healthy, safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed seas and oceans. In addition to its important function to support the preservation of the marine environment, it is also a key source of funding for the development of the seafood sector including fishers, processors and aquaculture operators to support sustainable, economic growth in our coastal communities.

The programme was developed over the past two years in consultation with the public, stakeholders and the EU Commission. This programme is complementary and in addition to the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, €225 million worth of supports and developmental strategies that have been implemented by the Minister in 2021 & 2022. The supports followed the recommendations of the Seafood Task Force which was established by Minister McConalogue in response to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. The implementation of the Brexit Adjustment Reserve supports, as recommended by the Seafood Taskforce, meant that this new Seafood Development Programme development timeframe was extended to ensure a coherent and long-term approach to supporting the seafood sector through the remainder of the EMFAF programme to the end of 2027. A final public consultation and statutory consultation on advanced drafts was concluded in early September.

Minister McConalogue added; “Over the past year, I have announced a range of schemes, worth €225 million, designed to support the seafood sector and coastal communities in overcoming the impact of Brexit. This new Programme will provide for further support to the sector over the coming years up to 2027 to ensure that it will not only survive, but transform to generate economic growth and sustain jobs. The Programme will also provide funding to state bodies which carry out important work in the marine environment to protect our coastal natural resources.”

Government approval of the Programme now means that it will be submitted to the EU Commission for adoption by the end of 2022.

The European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) 2021 to 2027 is the successor to the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) 2014 to 2020 by which Ireland successfully implemented the previous Seafood Development Programme. Almost all of the funds available under EMFF have been committed and have resulted in a significant investment in Ireland’s marine sector and environment. It is expected that all funds will be expended by the end of programme.

The new Seafood Development Programme is a high-level framework for investment. It details the vision and key missions to be achieved by its implementation. It also demonstrates how the strategic objectives of the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (specified in Regulation (EU) 2021/1139) will be employed in fulfilling the Programme.

The Programme aims to support a diverse range of activities within the marine area. Specifically, it aims to support Ireland's environmental obligations through a continuation of the EMFF Marine Biodiversity Scheme. This will fund appropriate assessment of fisheries and aquaculture activities, reporting on the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, projects in support of the CFP, and species and habitat restoration.

The Programme also aims to support enhancement of Ireland's knowledge of its marine environment, particularly in terms of enhancing knowledge of climate change impacts on fish stocks, habitats and species.

Fishing

For fisheries, the Programme envisages support for capital investment on board, capital investment ashore relating to the landing obligation, innovation in fishing gear and methods, technical advice to the fleet, acquisition of first vessel by young fishers, supports to the inshore fleet, training and marketing.

Aquaculture

For aquaculture, the Programme envisages support for implementation of the National Strategic Plan for Aquaculture. This will include in particular, support for capital investment in aquaculture sites, supports for innovation and research to develop technology and enhance knowledge, advisory services, training and marketing. For processing, the Programme envisages support for capital investment in seafood processing enterprises, in particular, to add value to raw material, enhance energy efficiency, reduce CO2 emissions, and enhance competitiveness. It will also support innovation to develop new products, advisory services, marketing and training.

The Programme aims to support the socio-economic development and diversification of coastal communities through the seven Fisheries Local Action Groups. This will carry on from the Brexit Blue Economy Enterprise Development Scheme, implemented through the FLAGs over 2022/23, but will also have a broader remit to support community-type projects.

Lastly, the Programme aims to fund Ireland's compliance with its obligations under the CFP, specifically for fisheries protection and for fisheries management science.

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Landings of foreign vessels into Irish fishing harbours have risen by 48 per cent over the past decade, while there has been a “big drop” in the amount of fish landed by Irish vessels.

The figures were conveyed to the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar by Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO) chief executive Aodh O’Donnell and Irish Fish Processors’ and Exporters’ Association (IFPEA) chief executive Brendan Byrne at a meeting with him last week.

Ó’Donnell and Byrne described the hour-long discussion with the Tánaiste – arranged through Fine Gael - in Government Buildings as “positive”.

O’Donnell said it was “the first step in a process aimed at ongoing engagement on the developmental needs of the seafood sector.”

The Department of the Marine was represented by Dr Cecil Beamish.

Byrne said the meeting was focused on “building a whole of government approach to arrest the decline of the sector”.

Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO) chief executive Aodh O’DonnellIrish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO) chief executive Aodh O’Donnell

He said it also “focused on the need to support industry at all levels in a process of innovation-led development’’.

Landings of Irish fishing vessels in both domestic and foreign ports fell by a third since 2012, O’Donnell told the Tánaiste.

“Over the same period, landings of foreign vessels at Irish ports rose by 48%. There is a major disparity here, leading to a big drop in the amount of fish landed by Irish fleets,”he said.

“ This hits hard at fish producers and fish processors, but also at other industries relying on Irish fish. We discussed this in the context of the adverse and disproportionate impacts of Brexit quota transfers,”O’Donnell said.

“We emphasised that there is a need to achieve a rebalancing so that Ireland has a fairer share of quotas in the EU,”he said.

“We are moving towards a situation where Irish processors, retailers and restaurants are forced to buy more fish from foreign vessels because the Irish fleet can no longer meet demand,”he said.

“We outlined how this is a threat to our food security and employment in coastal communities,” he added.

The value of the fishing processing industry in Ireland fell from €627m in 2015 to €325 in 2020, a fall of 48%, according to the latest available Eurostat figures.

The IFPO and the IFPEA say they also “took time to press for the need to immediately draw down the existing EU fuel aid subsidies which other member states are already claiming”.

“There is no cost to the State in passing on this aid as it is already on offer. It makes no sense to force our fleet to compete at a disadvantage with other EU fleets that are getting as much as 30c/litre in fuel aid. Otherwise, putting to sea will simply be unaffordable for increasing numbers of Irish vessels,” they said.

O Donnell says he outlined to the Tánaiste the need to back demands for the development of plans for the fishing industry’s future.

He said the Government “needs to press the EU to achieve a more equitable share of quotas for Ireland”.

“At present, decommissioning around a third of the whitefish fleet is being implemented to match the fleet to reduced quotas post Brexit. This is a bleak prospect for the sector,” O’Donnell said.

“We have stressed the need for a developmental approach to modernise and renew the fleet. This needs to be supported by innovative ways of securing more quotas,” he said.

O’Donnell said they also “outlined the need for Government to take account of fishers in the planned development of offshore wind”.

The IFPO and the IFPEA said the delegation was satisfied with the exchange of perspectives.

Byrne thanked the Tánaiste for ‘’taking time in his busy itinerary to meet with industry representatives in a frank meeting and for sharing his insights”.

“The Tánaiste clearly confirmed his commitment and that of the whole of government to working on sustaining this important industry to coastal communities,” Byrne said.

O’Donnell said the seafood industry must “continue to build a consensus and work together to represent this sector, and this is a step in this process”.

The meeting was arranged by Manus Boyle and Declan Lovett of the Dunkineely and Killybegs branch of Fine Gael

The IFPO and IFPEA representatives credited the support of Boyle and Lovett and their Fine Gael branches.

They also paid tribute to Colm Markey, Fine Gael MEP for the Midlands-North-West constituency for “his drive and commitment in raising awareness of fishery matters at national and EU level’’.

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Ireland's Offshore Renewable Energy

Because of Ireland's location at the Atlantic edge of the EU, it has more offshore energy potential than most other countries in Europe. The conditions are suitable for the development of the full range of current offshore renewable energy technologies.

Offshore Renewable Energy FAQs

Offshore renewable energy draws on the natural energy provided by wind, wave and tide to convert it into electricity for industry and domestic consumption.

Offshore wind is the most advanced technology, using fixed wind turbines in coastal areas, while floating wind is a developing technology more suited to deeper water. In 2018, offshore wind provided a tiny fraction of global electricity supply, but it is set to expand strongly in the coming decades into a USD 1 trillion business, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). It says that turbines are growing in size and in power capacity, which in turn is "delivering major performance and cost improvements for offshore wind farms".

The global offshore wind market grew nearly 30% per year between 2010 and 2018, according to the IEA, due to rapid technology improvements, It calculated that about 150 new offshore wind projects are in active development around the world. Europe in particular has fostered the technology's development, led by Britain, Germany and Denmark, but China added more capacity than any other country in 2018.

A report for the Irish Wind Energy Assocation (IWEA) by the Carbon Trust – a British government-backed limited company established to accelerate Britain's move to a low carbon economy - says there are currently 14 fixed-bottom wind energy projects, four floating wind projects and one project that has yet to choose a technology at some stage of development in Irish waters. Some of these projects are aiming to build before 2030 to contribute to the 5GW target set by the Irish government, and others are expected to build after 2030. These projects have to secure planning permission, obtain a grid connection and also be successful in a competitive auction in the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS).

The electricity generated by each turbine is collected by an offshore electricity substation located within the wind farm. Seabed cables connect the offshore substation to an onshore substation on the coast. These cables transport the electricity to land from where it will be used to power homes, farms and businesses around Ireland. The offshore developer works with EirGrid, which operates the national grid, to identify how best to do this and where exactly on the grid the project should connect.

The new Marine Planning and Development Management Bill will create a new streamlined system for planning permission for activity or infrastructure in Irish waters or on the seabed, including offshore wind farms. It is due to be published before the end of 2020 and enacted in 2021.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE. Is there scope for community involvement in offshore wind? The IWEA says that from the early stages of a project, the wind farm developer "should be engaging with the local community to inform them about the project, answer their questions and listen to their concerns". It says this provides the community with "the opportunity to work with the developer to help shape the final layout and design of the project". Listening to fishing industry concerns, and how fishermen may be affected by survey works, construction and eventual operation of a project is "of particular concern to developers", the IWEA says. It says there will also be a community benefit fund put in place for each project. It says the final details of this will be addressed in the design of the RESS (see below) for offshore wind but it has the potential to be "tens of millions of euro over the 15 years of the RESS contract". The Government is also considering the possibility that communities will be enabled to invest in offshore wind farms though there is "no clarity yet on how this would work", the IWEA says.

Based on current plans, it would amount to around 12 GW of offshore wind energy. However, the IWEA points out that is unlikely that all of the projects planned will be completed. The industry says there is even more significant potential for floating offshore wind off Ireland's west coast and the Programme for Government contains a commitment to develop a long-term plan for at least 30 GW of floating offshore wind in our deeper waters.

There are many different models of turbines. The larger a turbine, the more efficient it is in producing electricity at a good price. In choosing a turbine model the developer will be conscious of this ,but also has to be aware the impact of the turbine on the environment, marine life, biodiversity and visual impact. As a broad rule an offshore wind turbine will have a tip-height of between 165m and 215m tall. However, turbine technology is evolving at a rapid rate with larger more efficient turbines anticipated on the market in the coming years.

 

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is designed to support the development of renewable energy projects in Ireland. Under the scheme wind farms and solar farms compete against each other in an auction with the projects which offer power at the lowest price awarded contracts. These contracts provide them with a guaranteed price for their power for 15 years. If they obtain a better price for their electricity on the wholesale market they must return the difference to the consumer.

Yes. The first auction for offshore renewable energy projects is expected to take place in late 2021.

Cost is one difference, and technology is another. Floating wind farm technology is relatively new, but allows use of deeper water. Ireland's 50-metre contour line is the limit for traditional bottom-fixed wind farms, and it is also very close to population centres, which makes visibility of large turbines an issue - hence the attraction of floating structures Do offshore wind farms pose a navigational hazard to shipping? Inshore fishermen do have valid concerns. One of the first steps in identifying a site as a potential location for an offshore wind farm is to identify and assess the level of existing marine activity in the area and this particularly includes shipping. The National Marine Planning Framework aims to create, for the first time, a plan to balance the various kinds of offshore activity with the protection of the Irish marine environment. This is expected to be published before the end of 2020, and will set out clearly where is suitable for offshore renewable energy development and where it is not - due, for example, to shipping movements and safe navigation.

YEnvironmental organisations are concerned about the impact of turbines on bird populations, particularly migrating birds. A Danish scientific study published in 2019 found evidence that larger birds were tending to avoid turbine blades, but said it didn't have sufficient evidence for smaller birds – and cautioned that the cumulative effect of farms could still have an impact on bird movements. A full environmental impact assessment has to be carried out before a developer can apply for planning permission to develop an offshore wind farm. This would include desk-based studies as well as extensive surveys of the population and movements of birds and marine mammals, as well as fish and seabed habitats. If a potential environmental impact is identified the developer must, as part of the planning application, show how the project will be designed in such a way as to avoid the impact or to mitigate against it.

A typical 500 MW offshore wind farm would require an operations and maintenance base which would be on the nearby coast. Such a project would generally create between 80-100 fulltime jobs, according to the IWEA. There would also be a substantial increase to in-direct employment and associated socio-economic benefit to the surrounding area where the operation and maintenance hub is located.

The recent Carbon Trust report for the IWEA, entitled Harnessing our potential, identified significant skills shortages for offshore wind in Ireland across the areas of engineering financial services and logistics. The IWEA says that as Ireland is a relatively new entrant to the offshore wind market, there are "opportunities to develop and implement strategies to address the skills shortages for delivering offshore wind and for Ireland to be a net exporter of human capital and skills to the highly competitive global offshore wind supply chain". Offshore wind requires a diverse workforce with jobs in both transferable (for example from the oil and gas sector) and specialist disciplines across apprenticeships and higher education. IWEA have a training network called the Green Tech Skillnet that facilitates training and networking opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

It is expected that developing the 3.5 GW of offshore wind energy identified in the Government's Climate Action Plan would create around 2,500 jobs in construction and development and around 700 permanent operations and maintenance jobs. The Programme for Government published in 2020 has an enhanced target of 5 GW of offshore wind which would create even more employment. The industry says that in the initial stages, the development of offshore wind energy would create employment in conducting environmental surveys, community engagement and development applications for planning. As a site moves to construction, people with backgrounds in various types of engineering, marine construction and marine transport would be recruited. Once the site is up and running , a project requires a team of turbine technicians, engineers and administrators to ensure the wind farm is fully and properly maintained, as well as crew for the crew transfer vessels transporting workers from shore to the turbines.

The IEA says that today's offshore wind market "doesn't even come close to tapping the full potential – with high-quality resources available in most major markets". It estimates that offshore wind has the potential to generate more than 420 000 Terawatt hours per year (TWh/yr) worldwide – as in more than 18 times the current global electricity demand. One Terawatt is 114 megawatts, and to put it in context, Scotland it has a population a little over 5 million and requires 25 TWh/yr of electrical energy.

Not as advanced as wind, with anchoring a big challenge – given that the most effective wave energy has to be in the most energetic locations, such as the Irish west coast. Britain, Ireland and Portugal are regarded as most advanced in developing wave energy technology. The prize is significant, the industry says, as there are forecasts that varying between 4000TWh/yr to 29500TWh/yr. Europe consumes around 3000TWh/year.

The industry has two main umbrella organisations – the Irish Wind Energy Association, which represents both onshore and offshore wind, and the Marine Renewables Industry Association, which focuses on all types of renewable in the marine environment.

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