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The EU’s fisheries commissioner has paid tribute to Irish fishermen for their role in shifting the location of Russian military exercises outside the Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

In a tweet, Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said that “Irish fishermen got their diplomatic game on! “

“They managed to stop Russian military exercises that would undermine their activities and marine life,” he said.

“ Real custodians of the sea on duty! The world could use more of you!” the commissioner, who holds the environment, oceans and fisheries portfolio, tweeted.

He was responding to a report on Irish Central headlined “Irish fishermen defeat the Russian navy”.

The Russian ambassador to Ireland has credited both the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) and the Irish government with its decision to relocate planned military exercises outside the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

In a statement on Saturday, Ambassador Yuriy Filatov said that the Russian Federation’s defence minister Sergey Shoigu has decided “as a gesture of goodwill” to relocate exercises on February 3rd to 8th to an area outside the Irish EEZ.

The military exercises had been planned to take place some 240 km off the Irish southwest coast, within the Irish EEZ.

This had led to serious concerns among fishermen about the impact on their economic activity, while environmental groups expressed fears about the impact on marine life, including cetaceans.

North American news network CNN has described the latest development as a victory for Irish fishermen.

“Russians blink after Irish fishermen’s vow to block Navy war games,” CNN said in a headline to the report by CNN correspondent Donie O’Sullivan, broadcast live from Castletownbere, Co Cork on Saturday.

IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy, who met the Russian ambassador to Ireland over the issue last week along with Irish Fish Processors’ and Exporters’ Association chief executive Brendan Byrne, has stated that Irish fishing vessels were not protesting, but were asserting their right to fish their quota on their traditional grounds.

The breakthrough on Saturday was confirmed by Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney,m who said that he had written to his counterpart, the Russian Federation’s defence minister, this week, “to request a reconsideration of naval exercises off the Irish coast”.

“This evening I received a letter confirming the Russian exercises will be relocated outside of Ireland’s EEZ. I welcome this response,” Coveney tweeted.

"We don’t know where they plan to have military exercises, but it certainly won’t be in international waters that Ireland has responsibility for,” Mr Coveney told RTÉ News.

Ireland would try be a voice for compromise to help avoid a war between Russia and Ukraine describing any conflict as potentially being the largest land war in Europe since the second world war, he said.

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Two fishing industry organisations have sought to clarify what they describe as “confusion” in some media outlets over their talks with Russian ambassador Yuriy Filatov on the forthcoming Russian military exercises off the south-west Irish coast.

Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (ISWFPO) chief executive Patrick Murphy and Irish Fish Processors and Exporters’ Association (IFPEA) Brendan Byrne issued the statement on Friday morning, the day after what they described as a “successful and positive meeting” with the ambassador in Dublin.

The Irish Times reported that the Russian embassy has disputed claims by Irish fishing industry representatives that the ambassador gave them “an absolute guarantee” that their fishing grounds will not be affected by the military exercises 240 km off the Cork coast.

“There was no discussion of guarantees of any kind,” the embassy’s spokesman Nikita Isakin said in a statement.

However, Murphy and Byrne said that they were " referring to the areas known as the Porcupine Bank and the Porcupine Sea Bight - fishing grounds immediately north and northwest of the area in which the naval drill is scheduled to take place in early February".

“The confusion has arisen in that some media outlets believed the traditional fishing grounds and the naval drill area to be one and the same area,” they said.

“ This is not the case, they are two specific areas that adjoin one another, “ they said.

“The Russian Ambassador made it clear to the fishing delegation that the naval exercises would only take place within the exclusion zone as notified to Ireland, therefore it is self-evident that no impact or intrusion will occur into the areas known as the Porcupine Bank and the Porcupine Sea Bight,” they said.

“Both the IS&WFPO and the IFPEA are again at pains to stress that fishing activity is guaranteed to be uninterrupted or negatively impacted in the traditional fishing grounds of these two areas namely the Porcupine Bank and Porcupine Sea Bight. The naval drills and exercises will take place within the notified area south of these traditional fishing areas,” Murphy and Byrne said.

“Both the fishing vessels and the Russian Navy can co-exist for the duration of these exercises at safe distance apart while both go about their respective tasks and routines,” the fishing industry organisations said.

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The Russian Embassy in Ireland has described as “constructive” and “positive” the outcome of discussions with two Irish fishing industry organisations in relation to proposed Russian military exercises next week in the Porcupine Seabight off the south-west Irish coast.

Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFO) chief executive Patrick Murphy and Irish Fish Processors’ and Exporters’ Association (IFPEA) Brendan Byrne also said the 50-minute discussion with Russian ambassador to Ireland Yuriy Filatov was very positive.

Byrne, who said he was “very surprised” by the wealth of knowledge of the ambassador about issues relating to the Irish fishing industry, said it was agreed that there would be a “buffer zone” between Russian vessels and fishing trawlers when military exercises are underway.

Russian ambassador to Ireland Yuriy FilatovVery positive - Russian ambassador to Ireland Yuriy Filatov

This is subject to approval from Moscow, Murphy confirmed, adding he was very happy with the meeting.

Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFO) chief executive Patrick MurphyIrish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFO) chief executive Patrick Murphy

“We have now come to an accommodation where there is a pathway for coexistence for the naval exercises and for our fishing fleet,” Byrne said.

Both men praised the level of communication with the Irish industry which, they said, was better than anything they had experienced from their own government.

Earlier, Murphy had expressed anger at publication by the Department of Transport of a marine notice – without advance consultation with the fishing industry - warning of “serious safety risks” posed by military exercises 240 km off the Cork coast from February 3rd to 8th.

The marine notice said the Russian Federation “has indicated that the exercises will include the use of naval artillery and launching of rockets”.

Non-governmental organisations have expressed serious concerns about the impact on marine wildlife, while military sources that the Russian Federation had selected the sea area as the “EU’s back door”, with risks posed to vitally important undersea communication cables.

International news networks covering the Ukraine crisis have reported on the Irish dimension, focusing on the stance taken by the Irish fishing industry.

Commenting on the row on January 26th, before the meeting between the Russian ambassador and Irish fishing industry representatives, North American television commentator Rachel Maddow of MSNBC noted that there was not much that Ireland could do about the military exercises. See clip below.

Maddow referred to Ireland’s weak defence capability – “no offence, but they don’t have much of a navy” and the “lack of a military radar".

She referred to Irish concerns about a Russian “spy ship”, the Yantor, which turned up off the Donegal coast last August.

“You know what Ireland does have to defend itself in this instance....it has very annoyed fishermen,” Maddow commented.

Maddow then played recent RTÉ news reports with the IS&WFPO, recorded before the organisation’s meeting with the Russian ambassador.

“The whole world, to Vladimir Putin’s great delight ...the whole world is on tenterhooks, waiting to find out whether Russia is going to start another war,” Maddow said.

“Irish fishermen on the other hand are heading out to actively stop it and fish for mackerel while they’re at it. God bless them, every single one of them,” Maddow said.

The Irish Times reported last night that the Russian embassy disputed claims by Irish fishing industry representatives that the ambassador to Ireland gave them “an absolute guarantee” that their fishing grounds will not be affected by the military exercises.

“There was no discussion of guarantees of any kind,” the embassy’s spokesman Nikita Isakin said in a statement released to The Irish Times.

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Irish fishermen planning a peaceful protest over Russian naval exercises off the south-west Irish coast have been invited to talks by the Russian Ambassador to Ireland.

Ambassador Yuriy Filatov asked members of the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) to discussions at the Russian embassy in Dublin on Thursday to hear their concerns about the proposed naval exercises planned for early February.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said Russia should call off its plans for military exercises off the Irish coast, saying it would “demonstrate goodwill” that they want to de-escalate tensions at a time of concern over a potential war in Ukraine.

The IS&WFPO announced its protest earlier last week over concerns about the potential harm to fish stocks and cetaceans from the effect of military sonar use and possible disruption from live ammunition drills in the area during the drills.

ISW&FPO chief executive Patrick MurphyISW&FPO chief executive Patrick Murphy

It is expected that the ISW&FPO delegation headed by chief executive Patrick Murphy will request that the planned area for the five-day exercise would be relocated further south west into deeper water off the Continental Shelf.

Up to 60 fishing vessels affiliated to the IS&WFPO pledged to peacefully disrupt the exercises, due to take place within Ireland’s exclusive economic zone, due to the threats to marine life and biodiversity.

Murphy said that there were currently "half a billion tonnes" of blue whiting in the area that move up along the coastline, representing "a one million tonne fishery".

"We should be entitled to go fishing there, and if we're fishing there then these boats, these warships, shouldn't be having war games."

Murphy said an issue of "real concern" was that fishing gear could get tangled with a submarine.

In a comment, the Russian Embassy said it would be “reckless” for the fishing organisation to send vessels to the area within the exercise.

Ambassador Filatov said earlier this week that controversy around the exercise was "hugely overblown"..

He told a press conference that the planned exercises by Russian naval vessels were "not in any way a threat to Ireland or anybody else" and that no harm was intended by it.

Filatov said three or four ships would be involved, but he did not know if missiles or submarines would be used.

In an interview on RTÉ Radio’s Claire Byrne Show on Wednesday, Varadkar said that while he respected fishermen’s right to peaceful protest, he urged them not to be “naive” and not to put themselves at risk.

He said the Russian plans for naval exercises in the Republic’s exclusive economic zone are “not illegal” but “not welcome” and this had been conveyed to the Russian ambassador by Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney.

Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan said he was “ deeply concerned” about the impact on marine mammals, and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has expressed similar fears.

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The British-registered gillnetter detained by the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) off the Irish coast last week has been released without charge.

The 23-metre Govenek of Ladram, which played a starring role in the series, The Catch, was escorted into Castletownbere, Co Cork last Friday.

It was detained by the EFCA's fishery protection vessel Aegis 1 in the Celtic Sea for alleged fishing offences.

The EFCA, based in Vigo, Spain, said the vessel was inspected by two Irish fishery officers, who were on board the European agency’s charter vessel, Aegis 1, “in the framework of EFCA´s joint deployment plan for western waters”.

An EFCA spokeswoman said Ireland’s Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) requested the Aegis 1 to escort the detained vessel to Castletownbere port.

The EFCA said it handed over the file to the SFPA, and an SFPA spokeswoman confirmed the vessel was released with "a warning".

It is understood the detention related to placement of cetacean pingers on the buoy line, and the inspectors believed the pingers – to prevent bycatch of marine mammals - were not spaced correctly on the float line.

The 1986-built British registered gillnetter is based in Newlyn, Cornwall, and is part of a fleet run by family-owned fishing company, Waterdance.

It fishes for hake, monkfish and turbot, using static gill and trammel nets.

Its skipper Phil Mitchell and crew vividly portrayed the everyday lives of fishermen when the Channel 4 series was broadcast in 2015.

The Waterdance company did not respond to a request for comment.

The EFCA organises joint fisheries control and inspection activities in EU waters through a specific control and inspection programme adopted by the European Commission in association with member states.

Authorised fisheries inspectors use EFCA chartered vessels, with activities always co-ordinated by an EFCA official on board, the EU agency says.

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Staff with the State’s Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) have served notice of a 24-hour work stoppage this week with further strike action to follow.

Barring last minute efforts to resolve issues, the move is expected to cause disruption in designated fishing harbours around the coast.

The SFPA monitors and enforces sea fisheries and seafood safety legislation, and works with the Naval Service on inspections of fishing vessels under the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.

The State seafood regulator was established in 2007 as an agency independent of, but working with, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Lack of consultation with staff over a new strategy and organisational changes are among key reasons cited for the industrial action.

The Fórsa trade union’s marine branch representing approximately 110 members of the SFPA.

They undertake inspections of landings and monitor certifications at six sea fishery harbours - Killybegs, Co Donegal, Ros-a-Mhíl, Co Galway, An Daingean (Dingle), Co Kerry, Castletownbere, Co Cork, Dunmore East, Co Waterford and Howth, Co Dublin.

Industrial action had originally been due to take place in March 2021, but this was suspended when invitations were issued to attend talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

However, after failure to resolve issues at several WRC conciliation meetings, the dispute was referred to the Labour Court which convened a hearing in June 2021.

The Labour Court said it could only assist in the context of binding arbitration, and adjourned its hearing for both sides to consider this.

When the hearing was reconvened last July, the SFPA is understood to have said it would need approval from the Departmental of Agriculture, Food and Marine in advance of agreeing to be bound by court recommendations.

Fórsa has described this as “procedural gymnastics”, and has accused SFPA management of continuing to “unilaterally alter our members’ core working conditions and agreements”.

The union has served notice under the 1990 Industrial Relations Act of 24-hour work stoppage by all Fórsa members from midnight Wednesday, January 19th to midnight Thursday, January 20th.

This may be followed by a 48-hour work stoppage by all Fórsa members from midnight Tuesday, January 25th to midnight Thursday, January 27th unless there is a resolution.

The union has indicated the action could be avoided if the SFPA agrees to binding arbitration by the Labour Court.

In a statement, SFPA management said it had been notified of strike action, and said that the Sea-Fisheries Protection Consultative Committee, comprising representatives of Ireland’s marine community including industry, had also been informed.

“ The SFPA has requested Forsa to confirm that minimum cover will be provided on these days, as is required under the code of practice on disputes procedures, to help minimise disruption to industry and seafood trade,” it said.

The organisation would be “making best efforts to minimise the impact on industry from this industrial action, but some disruption of SFPA services may be unavoidable”, it added.

“The SFPA is keen to secure as early a resolution to matters as possible and is disappointed that industrial action is being taken at this time,”it said.

Former Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine principal officer Paschal Hayes was appointed executive chair of the SFPA by Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue earlier this month.

Published in SFPA

A BIM scientist has welcomed two recent reports in the scientific journal Nature recording how fisheries management and marine conservation have helped to reduce overfishing.

A recent Nature paper entitled “Rebuilding marine life” says that “substantial recovery of the abundance, structure and function of marine life could be achieved by 2050, if major pressures—including climate change—are mitigated”.

Writing in the current issue of The Skipper, Dr Ronán Cosgrove, BIM Fisheries Conservation Manager, says measures on management and conservation since the 1980s have boosted recovery to the point where two-thirds of large-scale commercial stocks are exploited at sustainable rates.

Cosgrove says that the number of marine species at risk of extinction has decreased while populations of marine mammals such as humpback whales and several seal species have significantly increased.

"The number of marine species at risk of extinction has decreased"

While it’s a case of much done and much more to do on the latter, climate change is the “critical backdrop against which all future rebuilding efforts will play out”, he says.

Drawing of the modified 100mm T90 codend by Dr Matthew McHughDrawing of the modified 100mm T90 codend by Dr Matthew McHugh

“Threats such as increased ocean warming, acidification, sea level rises, and ancillary impacts will need to be dealt with through effective mitigation of greenhouse gases and development of carbon capture and removal technologies,”he says.

Cosgrove says the latest edition of the Marine Institute Stock book includes a positive assessment of Irish fisheries.

The number of sustainably fished stocks rose from 33 in 2020 to 35 in 2021 with gradual progress towards long-term sustainable utilisation of the resource base since 2012, he says.

He attributes this to a variety of management measures and increasingly high-quality scientific advice from the institute.

Gear selectivity also helps develop sustainable fisheries, he says, such as increases in mesh sizes and introduction of large square mesh panels to reduce mortality in some fisheries.

Cosgrove records how BIM’s latest gear collaboration with industry has further boosted the performance of the highly selective T90 codend, a key gear measure in the Celtic and Irish Seas. The work was supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

“Due to increased mesh openings, T90 consistently reduces catches of small fish. Thanks to increased water flow through the open meshes, greater quantities of larger market sized fish are swept into and retained in the codend,” he explains.

Testing of a new four-panel 100 mm T90 cod end design was led by BIM’s Daragh Browne, working with an Irish seiner and Cathal Boyle and colleagues at Swan Net Gundry.

The gear modification has been trialled in Canadian and Icelandic fisheries and was successfully tailored to the Irish seine net fishery with extensive design input from Swan Net Gundry, he says.

“Haddock is a key target species for seiners with additional monthly quotas allocated to this fleet,” he notes.

“Conducted on a self-sampling basis due to Covid restrictions, a comparison of the new T90 codend compared with a standard two-panel T90 codend demonstrated a 70% reduction in small grade haddock, and 157% and 133% increases in medium and large-grade haddock. Very few undersize fish occurred in either gear as expected with 100 mm T90 codends,”Cosgove says.

“While price data have yet to be analysed, large haddock are worth substantially more than small haddock meaning the new gear greatly assists in maximising the value of available quota,”he says.

Major reductions in small fish also reduces fishing mortality - leading to improved sustainability of the haddock stock.

The Nature papers are here

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-020-00668-1

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2146-7

The MI stock book is available at www.marine.ie.

Cosgrove’s full report in The Skipper is here

https://theskipper.ie/good-news-for-fisheries-sustainability/

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Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue today announced a support scheme for the inshore fisheries sector to assist inshore fishers in adjusting to the impacts of Brexit on their businesses. The Brexit Inshore Fisheries Business Model Adjustment Scheme delivers on a recommendation of the Report of the Seafood Task Force – Navigating Change (October 2021). The scheme will be implemented under de minimus rules and is proposed for funding under the EU Brexit Adjustment Reserve.

Announcing the Scheme, Minister McConalogue said: “The Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and the UK had significant negative impacts for our fishing industry. Our inshore fishers have been particularly and uniquely impacted by logistical and route to market difficulties as exporters of live shellfish and other highly perishable seafood products. These difficulties have added costs to the business model of our inshore fishers and in reducing the shelf life of these highly perishable products have impacted negatively on the sector.

“I am announcing today a forward-looking support scheme to assist inshore fishers in adjusting their business model to the post Brexit market environment. The scheme will take the form of a suite of four online training modules to be made available by BIM, specifically tailored to the inshore fishing sector, with a payment to owners of inshore fishing vessels to assist them with the costs of undertaking the training and subsequently adjusting their business and marketing plans. The scheme will be open to owners of fishing vessels under 18 metres in length, registered in the polyvalent, polyvalent potting and specific segments. As recommended by the Seafood Task Force, these one-off payments will be €2,700 for owners of vessels under 8 metres in length and €4,000 for owners of vessels between 8 metres and 17.99 metres in length”.

The Scheme will operate from January to March 2022 and will be administered by Bord Iascaigh Mhara. Further details will be available from BIM in due course here

For vessel owners to be eligible, they must demonstrate that they were actively fishing during the period January to June 2021. The scheme will specify requirements in this respect.

Seafood Task Force

In March 2021, Minister McConalogue set up the Seafood Sector Task Force to examine the implications for the Irish Fishing industry and coastal communities particularly dependent upon it arising from the Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement, agreed between the European Union and the UK. The Task Force, chaired by Aiden Cotter, was charged with recommending initiatives that could be taken to provide supports 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.

Minister McConalogue received the Task Force report on 11 October 2021. The report recommended 16 support schemes at a total estimated cost of €423 million. The recommendations include voluntary decommissioning schemes for the white fish fleet and inshore fleet to restore those fleets to viability, supports for temporary cessation of fishing activities, capital investment in seafood processing enterprises, in aquaculture enterprises and in publicly owned marine infrastructure, and investment to diversify the economies of our coastal communities through a community led local development initiative through the seven Fisheries Local Action Groups. These stakeholder recommendations are being urgently examined across Government with particular regard to available funds, eligibility of the recommended measures for funding under the EU Brexit Adjustment Reserve and with regard to State Aid rules and the Public Spending Code.

Brexit Inshore Fisheries Business Model Adjustment Scheme

The scheme announced today delivers on recommendation 2.5.2 (inshore short-term support). The four training modules to be delivered through the scheme are as follows:

Module 1 - Adjusting your Seafood Business Plan post Brexit
This module will provide participants with the core skills, understanding and tools to adapt their own professional business plan to develop or stabilise their seafood operation which is needed as a result of the new market conditions due to Brexit.

Module 2 - Reaching new customers - tailored digital skills for inshore fishing businesses
This module will raise awareness of the opportunities that exist for inshore fishers to reach customers directly online and engage participants so that they develop a new interest in digital skills training to help them further their business interests online.

Module 3 - Alternative Market Opportunities for your Inshore Catch

This module will provide inshore fishers with knowledge on alternative markets and how they can exploit them as well as how to direct sell their catch.

Module 4 - Understanding your Market and Maximising the Return from your Inshore Catch
This module will provide the inshore sector with an overview of the market for inshore species, the market requirements for these species and the characteristics of good and bad product. It will provide information on how inshore fishers can improve the quality of product provided to the market and the economic benefits from doing so.

Demonstration of fishing activity

For vessels to be eligible, they must demonstrate they were actively fishing in 2021 as follows:

For vessels greater than or equal to 10 metres in length, they must demonstrate that they were active during January to June 2021 through logbook data showing a minimum of 30 days fishing activity.

For vessels under 10 metres in length, they must demonstrate that they were active during January to June 2021 through Sales Notes data showing landings of a minimum value of €1,000. If an error has been made by a fisherman or his/her agent or customer and Sales Notes have not been uploaded to the SFPA Sales Notes system for whatever reason, the applicant should arrange for the error be corrected appropriately. Applicants who feel they have a valid reason for not having their catch recorded on the Sales Notes system may submit an appeal to BIM. In the case of such appeals, where Sales Notes data cannot demonstrate the requisite fishing activity, certain verified sales invoices may be accepted by BIM. These must demonstrate compliance with the following statutory requirements:

  • Maximum quantity of 30 kg per week to a final consumer or to a local retail establishment supplying directly to the final consumer.
  • Maximum value of €50 per day per final consumer.
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The Minister for the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D., today welcomed the agreement between the EU and the UK on Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for shared stocks in 2022. This agreement covers all our whitefish stocks including Haddock, Cod, Whiting, Monkfish, Prawns, Sole and Plaice and other stocks including Horse Mackerel and Herring.

The Minister said: “Negotiations with the UK on the fishing quotas began in early November and have proven very difficult, particularly in relation to stocks in the Celtic Sea. The negotiations commenced on the basis of the scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) but there were significant differences between the parties on how the scientific advice should be applied in mixed fisheries. Throughout this process, I worked closely with Commissioner Sinkevičius to protect Ireland’s key interests in these negotiations. I thank the Commissioner and his negotiating team for their hard work over the last number of weeks.”

The Minister for the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.DThe Minister for the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D

The Minister added that: “I had sought that the quotas should be set following the scientific advice and had pressed this point in relation to certain key stocks where the UK took a different position. However, taking account of the need for fishers to have certainty for the coming year, and in the context of what were very difficult and prolonged negotiations and widely diverging views on some stocks, I am satisfied that the Commissioner delivered a balanced overall agreement. Like all agreements, it involved compromises. This agreement will support the sustainable management of our shared stocks and enable fishermen to plan their activities for the year ahead. The agreement sets sustainable quotas for the stocks of interest to Ireland and by-catch only quotas for vulnerable stocks in mixed fisheries.”

Preliminary Analysis of 2022 TACs for EU stocks shared with UK

The quotas above have not been formally adopted by the Commission yet and are based on Department’s analysis only of IE’s quota for 2022 for stocks shared with the UK.  Hague Preferences have been included for the relevant stocks – Hague Preferences must be agreed and adopted by Council.  The table above only includes the stocks shared with the UK only.The quotas above have not been formally adopted by the Commission yet and are based on the Department of the Marine's analysis only of IE’s quota for 2022 for stocks shared with the UK. Hague Preferences have been included for the relevant stocks – Hague Preferences must be agreed and adopted by Council. The table above only includes the stocks shared with the UK only.

The Minister added: “Having this agreement in place before the end of the year will provide much needed stability and certainty for the fishing industry. My priority now is to ensure that the Hague Preferences, which increase Ireland’s quotas for our traditional stocks such as Cod, Whiting, Sole and Plaice, when the TAC is set at a low level, are applied to the relevant stocks in the final EU Regulation that gives effect to this agreement. The EU/UK Agreement determines the overall level of the EU share for the coming year and there is then a further internal EU step required to determine the detailed national quotas for each stock. That work is under way but will take more time.”

The Presidency of the EU Council has clarified that the formal regulation on fishing opportunities for 2022 – including the amendment containing the final quotas – will be finalised by the Council’s legal and linguistic experts, following which it will be formally adopted by the Council and published in the Official Journal. The provisions will apply retroactively as of 1st January 2022.

Published in Fishing

Post Brexit negotiations between the EU and UK on fishing quotas for shared fish stocks, which commenced in early November were still deadlocked ahead of the EU Council of Fisheries Ministers that commenced on Sunday and finished early this morning. In light of that situation, Fisheries Ministers decided to set provisional fish quotas for EU fishers for the first quarter of 2022 in the event that an agreement is not reached before the end of the year.

Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue said, “It is regrettable that the negotiations with the UK on fish quotas for shared stocks, which started on 11 November, could not be concluded ahead of the Council. These negotiations with the UK have proved to be very difficult and it is in Ireland’s interest that the EU is not rushed into an unacceptable deal. To avoid any disruption to our fleets, we have agreed provisional fish quotas for the first quarter of 2022. The EU remains committed to securing a balanced and sustainable agreement with the UK.”

The Council of Ministers agreed to set provisional quotas for the EU industry, to the end of March, at the level of 25% of the 2021 quotas. Given the seasonal nature of certain fisheries, Minister McConalogue ensured that the quotas made available for those fisheries that take place predominantly in the first three months of the year meets the seasonal patterns of these fisheries. The final outcome was that the full 2022 annual quotas for mackerel, blue whiting and Norwegian herring were agreed as well as 70 per cent of the full year quota for Horse Mackerel.

In addition, Minister McConalogue ensured that half of the quota for Prawns on the Porcupine Bank to the West of Ireland and 85% of the whiting stock in the Celtic sea is available in the first quarter, to reflect the seasonality of these important fisheries.

Minister McConalogue said, “I was pleased that Commissioner Sinkevičius accepted our request to provide for our seasonal fisheries by providing adequate quota to enable the Irish fishing industry to pursue these economically important fisheries from the beginning of January. The Council also agreed to my request to apply the Hague Preferences, which benefit Ireland when stocks are at low levels.”

In respect of the actions by Norway and the Faroes Islands, in unilaterally setting unacceptably high quotas for mackerel for 2021, Minister McConalogue said “I asked the EU to work with like-minded partners to secure fair and balanced mackerel shares for coastal states in 2022. I made clear that the EU must be prepared to take all appropriate measures if Norway and Faroes again set such unsustainable quotas for 2022. This level of overfishing resulting from these inflated unilateral quotas will, in short time, deplete this stock which is economically very important for our own fishing fleet. ”

Minister McConalogue also welcomed the commitment secured from the Commission to examine and produce proposals, by the 31st of March next year, on the allocation and distribution of an EU mackerel quota historically linked to an agreement with Norway. The Minister said “I was satisfied that the Council agreed that the mackerel quota in question has been suspended, pending the outcome of a thorough assessment involving the Commission and Member States. I will continue to engage actively on the issue and look forward to examining the Commission proposals.”

The Council will finalise the list of all provisional TACs and Quotas agreed in the coming days

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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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