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Irish fishing industry representatives have commended the European Commission for “standing firm” over a push by Norway for additional access to Irish waters.

Negotiations between the EU and Norway were suspended late last week without approving Norway's request for more access to blue whiting off the Irish coast.

It was anticipated the issue would be referred on to the annual EU agrifish council, which opened on Sunday in Brussels.

Commenting on behalf of the Irish seafood sector, IFPO chief executive Aodh O'Donnell commended the EU for "standing firm in relation to the Norwegian request for additional access to Irish waters", and urged the European Commission and Mr McConalogue to "maintain a firm line".

An overall 81 per cent increase in blue whiting quota had been recommended by scientists for the next year.

Blue WhitingBlue Whiting Photo: Wikipedia

Norway is seeking to catch much of its anticipated increased share off the Irish west coast, without any return in terms of quotas directly to Ireland, according to the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO) chief executive Aodh O’Donnell.

““This not just about blue whiting - there is a principle here, where a non-EU member state should not be given access to areas within our EEZ without some return for Ireland,” O’Donnell said.

Reciprocal Arctic cod quotas would mainly be allocated to other EU member states, including Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal, the IFPO leader said.

“The Norwegians need to be equitable and fair in making a request such as this,” Irish Fish Processors and Exporters’ Association (IFPEA) chief executive Brendan Byrne said.

Fine Gael MEP Colm MarkeyFine Gael MEP Colm Markey

O’Donnell raised the issue with the EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius at a meeting arranged by Fine Gael MEP Colm Markey in Brussels several weeks before the opening of the annual EU fish quota talks.

The IFPO said it believed the Commissioner understood the “access principle” in relation to a non-EU member seeking to fish inside the Irish exclusive economic zone.

Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Fisheries State Secretary Vidar Ulriksen has said allocation of cod to other EU members in return for blue whiting is “internal EU policy, and Norway is not involved in these decisions”.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine said Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue was “seeking to address the challenge” and was maintaining close contact with the Irish industry.

Published in Fishing

The National Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI) is to host its second annual seafarers’ conference on the theme of offshore wind and the fishing industry in Limerick next February.

The hybrid event is sponsored by Simply Blue Group, the offshore wind energy developer, on the theme “Thriving Fishing, Thriving Offshore Wind, Thriving Ports”, and will run during the Skipper Expo.

Speakers at the event on February 23rd, 2023 in the Castletroy Park Hotel will include BIM interim chief executive officer Caroline Bocquel, Wind Energy Ireland chief executive Noel Cunniffe, State Chief Surveyor Brian Hogan at the Marine Survey Office, and Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) project co-ordinator Norah Parke.

Topics for discussion will include exploring what the fishing industry needs to thrive; the policy regime for renewable energy; implementation of the Government’s future skills needs report; the ecosystem impacts of offshore wind farms; and the future for Ireland’s fishing ports.

Minister for Agriculture and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue said he was “enthused to see the conference appended to The Skipper Expo as it provides an ideal forum within which seafarers and offshore wind developers can meet and discuss a coexistent future”.

“To ensure a sustainable seafood industry in parallel with Ireland meeting its climate action targets, the protection of biodiversity and the building of the necessary skills to achieve all of this, I encourage delegates to co-create solutions towards a sustainable, safe, and secure future for all,”he said.

Simply Blue Group director of external affairs and stakeholder liaison Captain Brian Fitzgerald said that “if ever Ireland needed its mariners and coastal communities to work together to co-create a sustainable future, it is now”.

“Let this Conference be a place to have an open and frank discussion on the challenges ahead, while enabling our ability to plot our own course and navigate towards a sustainable future for the next generation,”Fitzgerald said.

NMCI head of college Cormac Gebruers said the college was delighted to “get on the road” and host the 2023 Seafarer Conference in Limerick in association with The Skipper Expo.

“Preparing for Ireland’s future maritime skills needs most especially in the offshore wind sector is a central consideration for the NMCI. We very much look forward to discussing this with Ireland’s seafarers,”he said.

Published in Power From the Sea

Fishing vessels have been forced to withdraw from a shore side energy supply, due to a threatened 378 per cent increase in prices.

The shoreside scheme for larger vessels in Irish fishery harbours aimed to reduce harmful emissions from diesel generators, required in the case of freezer trawlers and for heat, light and technical equipment on board while in port.

In a letter sent by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, and seen by Donegal Daily, it says that it has been advised that current contracts for electricity supply from Electric Ireland, available from the Office of Government Procurement (OGP), expired on November 30th.

The department told fishery harbour centre users in the letter that it had been advised electricity prices may rise by as much as 378 per cent from December 1st, based on a 12-month estimate.

The letter said that usually, OGP utilities protected against volatile price changes, but it had been unable to secure a “replacement framework” for electricity contracts.

It said it would update users in due course, and in the meantime it advised users they may be eligible for the “Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme “ operated by the Revenue Commissioners.

One vessel owner quoted by Donegal Daily, said the increase in the electricity price adds up to €400 per day to their bills.

“This is just another slap in the face for Killybegs fishermen,” he said.

“As of December 1st, every one of us is back using the diesel generators, and we are not even getting a fuel subsidy. The electricity was expensive to begin with, this increase is a joke,” he said.

The shoreside project known as “Cold Ironing” was initiated by the department in July 2020 at a cost of €1.7 million.

It aimed to save on 2,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year – equivalent to taking almost 500 cars off the road and improvements in the local environment through reduced noise and air pollution.

Read more in Donegal Daily here

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Levels of mercury in fish landed in Ireland are very low and fish is safe for consumption by the general population, latest available data finds.

This will be “comforting for the Irish seafood industry and consumers alike”, Prof Ronan Gormley of University College Dublin’s (UCD) school of agriculture and food science says.

Writing in UCD’s SeaHealth e-bulletin, Prof Gormley explains that a monitoring programme was put in place for fish landed at major Irish fishing ports in response to the introduction of maximum limits for mercury in fishery products in 1993.

The monitoring by Ireland’s Marine Institute has found that mercury levels of fish and shellfish landed at Irish ports are low and “well within the EU human-consumption tolerance level”.

“However, these catches do not include deepwater species such as shark, swordfish, marlin and tuna,” Prof Gormley notes.

Mercury is a naturally occurring heavy metal found in air, water and soil, but mercury from industrial centres can travel miles before “raining into the ocean in organic form as methyl mercury”, he explains.

“Fish become contaminated, leading to public health concerns about different species and their mercury levels,” he notes.

In 2004 the EU Commission asked the European Food Safety Authority to consider data collected by member states.

It published its opinion, with emphasis on mercury intake from fish by vulnerable groups such as women of childbearing age, breastfeeding women and young children to raise awareness in all national authorities with responsibility for public health.

Prof Gormley notes that large, predatory fish such as shark, tarpon, swordfish and tuna accumulate higher levels of mercury over a long lifetime.

“These species are often migratory, and it is not possible to exclude fish from particular waters where background levels of mercury contamination might be high,” he says.

However, data shows that EU consumers who eat average amounts (300-350g a week) of fishery products are not likely to be exposed to unsafe levels of methylmercury.

Consumers who eat a lot of fish may be at higher risk, but at time of issue of the EC note (2004) there was insufficient data to specify the situation in all member states.

Maximum levels of mercury in fish were amended in 2022, he notes.

Levels were lowered for cephalopods (eg, squid, octopus, cuttlefish, nautilus) and marine gastropods (eg, abalone, conches, periwinkles and whelks) to 0.5 or 0.3mg/kg. Levels in shark, swordfish, pike and tuna were maintained at 1mg/kg.

Consumption of shark, swordfish, marlin and fresh tuna in Ireland is relatively low, apart from canned tuna which is increasing in popularity.

Latest advice is that pregnant or breastfeeding women and young children should not exceed two 226g cans a week.

Other adults and young people should continue to eat tuna and fish products as components of a healthy diet, Prof Gormley says.

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The European Commission has said it hopes to represent “the best interests” of EU member states in talks with Norway on blue whiting.

A Commission official was responding to fears voiced earlier this month by Irish fishing organisations that Norway would be granted greater access to annual quotas in Irish waters, while offering no reciprocal arrangement.

In a joint statement, industry organisations had appealed to Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue to ensure that the EU “blocks Norway, a non-EU member, from gaining unilateral access to our blue whiting grounds”.

Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogueMinister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue

“The EU already threw Ireland under the bus when it came to quota cuts after Brexit,” Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO) chief executive Aodh O’Donnell said.

“We took the hardest hits. A staggering 40 % of the total value of quotas transferred to the UK under Brexit came from Ireland,” he said, questioning whether the EU was “now considering that we take the hit again for a non-EU member?”

"The EU already threw Ireland under the bus"

“ It’s time to ask serious questions about the EU’s attitude to Ireland and our fishing industry,” O’Donnell had said, pointing out that “the fact that Norway is making their request to the EU and NOT directly to Ireland, speaks volumes”.

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

Norway seemed “optimistic that the EU would unilaterally surrender access to Irish fishing grounds to a non-EU member – based on the track record of EU treatment of the Irish fishing industry”, he noted.

Brendan Byrne of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA) said that Norway was pushing the EU to increase a transfer of quota by a staggering 158% to 80,000 tonnes, in addition to access.

“Most of this will be caught in our waters. Essentially, the Norwegians have enormous quotas but want additional access to Irish waters to catch this valuable stock. Their total catch of this species will have a value in excess €100 million in the coming year,” Byrne had said.

Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation chief executive Patrick Murphy said that Norway’s quotas were nine times those of Ireland, and there was “no justice in allocating them more rights to fish in the Irish Box.”

The Irish organisations said it was a “red line” issue, and stressed that any agreement by the EU with Norway must be balanced by a reciprocal arrangement.

A Commission official said that “when representing the EU in international negotiations, the European Commission operates on the basis of positions coordinated with the member states”.

“The Commission notes that the current fisheries arrangements between the EU and Norway include reciprocal access to waters to fish for blue whiting and that the exchanges of fishing opportunities for 2023 are still to be discussed between the parties,” the official said.

“The Commission welcomes the contribution of industry organisations and representatives to these consultations and looks forward to achieving progress in the best interest of the EU and its Member States,”the official said.

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The Irish fishing industry is being threatened with another major impact on its waters This is from Norway a non-EU Membet State which wants to get its fleet into Irish waters to fish for the valuable blue whiting.

Norway has made a direct request to the EU for access, ignoring the Irish Government.

“The fact that Norway is making their request to the EU and NOT directly to Ireland, speaks volumes," said Aodh O'Donnell CEO of the Irish Fish Producers' Organisation. "They seem optimistic that the EU would unilaterally surrender access to Irish fishing grounds to a non-EU member – based on the track record of EU treatment of the Irish fishing.

“The EU already threw Ireland under the bus when it came to quota cuts after Brexit,

We took the hardest hits. A staggering 40% of the total value of quotas transferred to the UK under Brexit came from Ireland. This was way more than was taken from any other EU nation, including those with much shorter coastlines and far higher quotas than Ireland at the outset. Why is the EU now considering that we take the hit again for a non-EU member? It’s time to ask serious questions about the EU’s attitude to Ireland and our fishing industry.

"Blue whiting is a valuable species, concentrated in Irish waters. The Irish industry has pioneered its development as a quality food product for export markets. Basically, Norway is looking to more than double the amount of Blue Whiting they can fish and access further south in our waters. They are not offering any quid pro quo to Ireland, in terms of rights to fish in their waters."

Norway already has a quota agreement for 2023 with Russia, which involves reciprocal arrangements regarding fishing and landing Russian vessels in Norwegian ports. This is despite the sanctions’ regime against Russia, because of the war against Ukraine.

"They are not even EU members and so, they must be refused unfettered access to fishing in the Irish Box. Although they do not belong to the EU, they currently already have rights to fish in the West of Ireland. Now, we are asked to give them access further south in Irish waters to catch blue whiting,” says O'Donnell.

Brendan Byrne of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA) said:.‘’In addition to access, Norway is pushing the EU to increase a transfer of quota by a staggering 158% to 80,000 tonnes. Most of this will be caught in our waters."

Representative organisations have called on the Irish Government to reject what they describe as "an outrageous" move by the Norwegians.

Patrick Murphy of the Irish South and West Producers Organisation (IS&WFPO) said": "There is no justice in allocating them more rights to fish in the Irish Box.”

“Any access to the Irish box to catch fish in our waters must be managed with a compensatory transfer of Norwegian quota to the Irish Fleet,” says O Donnell. “We admire the Norwegians for how they represent their vessels, but this ask is simply unreasonable. We call on the Minister to secure a ‘whole of government backing’ and meet with Irish fishing representatives urgently, to ensure that an equitable arrangement is made.”

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Ireland has said that the European Commission will be “at odds with best practice” if it fails to make legislative changes to its Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

Ireland’s submission to Brussels says there is a “compelling case” for a deeper review of the CFP, given the “urgent need for legislative change” due to a number of “critical” challenges.

The policy, which is the subject of a review every ten years, is due for renewal next year.

However, EU Commissioner for Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius warned he was taking a “cautious approach” to the review when he visited Ireland last September – while expressing sympathy to the Irish fishing industry for the large burden borne by Ireland as a result of the Brexit deal.

“ I cannot promise we will be reopening the CFP,” he said.

Critical challenges identified in Ireland’s submission to Brussels include: the impact of Brexit; the energy crisis and other emergencies confronting the European seafood sector; food security; climate change; and biodiversity loss.

Other challenges include the drive for increased marine protected area (MPAs); the growth and intended scale of offshore renewable energy (ORE) development; structural aid, and measures necessary to address climate change and associated pressures on the marine environment; and agreements with third countries.

The report takes issue with the fact that the European Commission has “intimated” that it does not intend to introduce any legislative changes to the CFP on this occasion.

It argues that reports compiled by the European Commission as part of the 10- year review cycle in 1992, 2002 and 2012 were accompanied by reforms of the CFP – “including the necessary legislative changes”.

“It is the view of this review group that it is imperative, on this occasion too, that the Commission should introduce some legislative changes on foot of its report,”it says, acknowledging that this will require agreement by the European Council and the European Parliament.

Ireland’s submission says that Brexit and the associated Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) represent “the most important changes to the CFP since its inception”.

It says that the Scientific Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries estimates that Ireland contributed 34% by volume and 40% by value of the real economic cost of fish transfers to Britain.

“ The next nearest member state in contribution terms, Germany, contributed just 24% by volume and 21% by value,” it says.

“ In the case of western mackerel alone, Ireland’s sacrifice accounts for 51% of the total Brexit transfers,” it says.

Ireland’s CFP review group contends that the implications of all major policy changes must be accompanied by a “publicly available socio-economic impact assessment”.

“Such measures should be designed to lessen the socioeconomic impact on those who depend on fishing activities, wherever they operate within the EU,”it points out.

It says the data collection regime should be strengthened to ensure adequate data is collected to enable socio economic impact assessments.

It also says that where the relative stability of fishing activities is altered, as has been the case with Brexit, measures should be taken to redress any imbalance through burden sharing.

It identifies measures that can be used to lessen the socio-economic impact of any major changes to the CFP.

These include strengthening the EU’s position in external fisheries agreements and trade deals; facilitated quota swaps; voluntary schemes to redistribute unused quota; and industry schemes to maintain employment and minimise socio economic impacts, it says.

The report recommends that in future negotiations with Norway, the Faroe Islands, Iceland and the UK, the EU must ensure that it; i) receives a fair share of the mackerel TAC, ii) receives an increased share of blue whiting total allowable catch; and iii) reduces any transfer of blue whiting to Norway.

It says Ireland’s Hague Preferences for existing stocks should be revised upwards, and Hague Preferences for additional critical stocks should be introduced to fully redress the imbalance caused by Brexit.

It says that in the case of western mackerel, Ireland’s Hague Preference should be increased by an amount equivalent to that previously available to Britain, in both the North Sea and Western Waters components of this stock.

On the environment and MPAs, it says that the “key tensions between food security and environmental conservation must be addressed” at EU level.

It says elements of the CFP “have the effect of impeding member states’ ability to meet environmental obligations” and should be amended.

It also says the EU should “integrate the scientific information on climate impacts into our collective management of marine resources”.

The 31-page report, commissioned by Ireland’s marine minister Charlie McConalogue, was compiled by a group chaired by former secretary general of the Department of Agriculture John Malone.

The group’s steering committee involved former Marine Institute and Environmental Protection Agency director Micheál Ó Cinnéide and former BIM director Donal Maguire.

It also involved representatives of fish producer organisations, the National Inshore Fisheries Forum, the aquaculture industry, co-ops, the seafood processing industry and representatives of environmental NGOs.

The full report can be viewed here

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EU funds to compensate for the impact of Brexit on the fishing industry and other sectors must be spent by the end of December 2023.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM) has said there is no flexibility with this - suggesting that money will have to be refunded if it is not spent.

The Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) fund was initiated by the European Commission to provide financial support to EU member states, regions and sectors most affected by Brexit.

It aims to deal with the “adverse economic, social, territorial and, where appropriate, environmental consequences”.

Ireland is the biggest beneficiary of the BAR and the first member state to receive its pre-financing, with staged allocations for a total of €920.4 million.

By mid October, Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue had allocated €224.7 million of the fund on various schemes relating to the seafood sectorBy mid October, Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue had allocated €224.7 million of the fund on various schemes relating to the seafood sector

The European Commission said that Ireland would receive €361.5 million in 2021, €276.7 million in 2022 and €282.2 million in 2023, and the funding can cover expenses since January 1st 2020.

It said the funding will “help Ireland's economy in mitigating the impact of Brexit, through support to regions and economic sectors, including on job creation and protection, such as short-time work schemes, re-skilling, and training”.

By mid October, Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue had allocated €224.7 million of the fund on various schemes relating to the seafood sector (see list below).

Designated body for managing and deciding on the fund in Ireland is the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER), and DAFM said that it is co-ordinating Ireland’s overall policy position on the BAR.

“The eligibility criteria set by the EU to qualify expenditure under the reserve are stringent, and any proposed expenditure must demonstrate a direct link to negative impacts arising from Brexit,” the department said.

It said the BAR expenditure terms are established by the European Union in regulation (EU) 2021/1755, which states that all expenditure funded by the BAR must be carried out within the “defined reference period”, ending on December 31st, 2023.

“The regulation, as confirmed by the relevant authorities in the EU, does not provide for any flexibility in this timing,” the department said.

The seafood sector task force established by McConalogue in March 2020, which signed off its final report in October 2021, recommended a broad range of support measures for the fishing fleet, for inshore fishermen, aquaculture, seafood processors, fisheries cooperatives and coastal communities, the department notes.

“The task force recommended that these initiatives be funded through both the 100% EU funded BAR, and Ireland’s forthcoming EU co-funded Seafood Development Programme 2021-27 under the European Maritime Aquaculture and Fisheries Fund,”it said.

“The minister is examining the recommended schemes with regard to available funds, State Aid rules, eligibility under the BAR and the public spending code,”it said.

“To date, on foot of the taskforce recommendations, the minister has been in a position to announce an unprecedented €224.7 million worth of new support schemes for development and restructuring, so as to ensure a profitable and sustainable fishing fleet and to identify opportunities for jobs and economic activity in coastal communities dependent on fishing,” it said.

It said that details of the different schemes are on www.bim.ie and, in the case of the Brexit Adjustment Local Authority Marine Infrastructure Scheme, on www.gov.ie

The status of the various recommended schemes as of mid October 2022 is:

  • Temporary Tie-Up 2021 (recommended by the interim taskforce report) €10m
  • Inshore Fisheries Business Model Adjustment Scheme €3.7m
  • Inshore Marketing Scheme € 1m
  • Brexit 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
  • Voluntary Whitefish Decommissioning Scheme €60m
  • Total expenditure of Seafood Taskforce Scheme announcements to date €224.7m
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Significant “negative impacts” of Brexit on the British fishing industry have been highlighted in a video released by the British All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Fisheries.

Seven of its group’s members outline what a post-Brexit future for the British fishing industry could and should look like and say that the fishing industry was let down by Brexit.

The group’s report, published earlier in the summer, recorded how significant financial losses were a common experience for respondents, with “fears widely expressed for the long-term viability of individual businesses, fishing fleets, and other parts of the industry including processors and transporters”.

"The British fishing industry was let down by Brexit"

“Respondents who fed into the report recommended various actions that the government should now take to support the British fishing industry, which included investing in infrastructure and new markets at home and abroad, and ensuring effective and inclusive management of domestic stocks,” the APPG says.

Tina Barnes of the Seafarer’s Charity, which co-funded the report, spoke about the human costs of economic challenges to the fishing industry following Brexit.

“The negative impacts of Brexit on the livelihoods – and therefore the welfare – of individual fishers has been significant,” she says. The report “provides compelling evidence that action should be taken to support the industry”.

APPG vice chair Alistair Carmichael MP referred to a recent parliamentary debate that he secured on the issue on October 13th last, which “provided an important opportunity for myself and other MPs to emphasise the urgency of supporting the UK fishing industry.”

APPG chair Sheryll Murray MP said that “the strength of the APPG on Fisheries lies in its cross-party nature, with the needs of fishers, coastal communities and other marine stakeholders taking precedence over party politics. This timely video, bringing together voices from several different parties on how to support UK fishing for the benefit of all, provides a fantastic illustration of this.”

Both the video and report can be found on the APPG website, and the video can be viewed is below

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Almost 60 applications have been made by fishing vessel owners to the Government’s scrappage scheme.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), which is administering the decommissioning scheme for the EU and Irish government, said it had received 36 applications by November 1st, and had a further 21 applications “in preparation”.

The closing date for applications is November 18th.

The 80 million euro scheme, comprising 60 million euros in direct payments and 20 million euros in tax adjustments, is funded from the EU Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR).

It was established to buy out vessel owners affected by loss of quotas due to the Brexit Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA).

Loss of access by Irish vessels to key stocks, including mackerel and prawns, has been estimated at 43 million euro.

Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue has pledged to push for burden sharing and a better quota deal.

As yet, there has been no Government move on introducing fuel subsidies for the Irish fleet, in contrast to subsidies introduced in other EU member states.

A target of scrapping 60 vessels to ensure the remaining fleet is viable was recommended in Government’s seafood task force report.

While the number of applications is now approaching that target figure, no offers have as yet been issued.

Irish South and East Fishermen’s Organisation (IS&EFO) chief executive John Lynch said that “we won’t know the true figure until we see the take-up on offers”.

Some vessels may be worth more on the open market than if they were scrapped, he pointed out.

The decommissioning scheme is offering applicants a basic payment of €3,600 per gross tonne(GT), and a “catch incentive premium” of up to €8,400 per GT for quota species covered under the TCA.

This will be calculated by indexing total vessel landings of quota stocks against the maximum total landings of quota stocks by any one vessel within each segment.

Landing data will be supplied by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), and will relate to a two-year period – either 2018 and 2019, or 2020 and 2021.

The fleet segments which the scheme applies to are: beamers; hake gillnetters’ prawn vessels 12-18m; prawn vessels 18-24m; prawn vessels 24-40m’ seiners; Tier 1; whitefish 12-18m: whitefish 18-24m; whitefish 24-40m; whitefish/prawn <12m.

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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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