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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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Marine expert Dr Kevin Flannery has called for a commission of inquiry into how successive governments have managed Ireland’s fishing resource.

In an Irish Independent feature on the impact of the 60 million euro whitefish fleet decommissioning scheme – totalling 80 million euro including tax credits – Flannery also says people will drive around the west coast in a few years and wonder where all the Irish boats have gone.

The decommissioning scheme aims to scrap 60 vessels – a third of the active whitefish fleet, at a time of growing concern over food security.

It will be funded from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve to compensate for quota losses due to Brexit.

“In reality, an Irish skipper would be better off now taking the decommissioning money and buying a vessel registered in France to fish from its quota,”Flannery says.

“The Spanish have been doing this for years, and now the Dutch are at it too. You take one well known Dutch fishing company and it has a turnover equivalent to the total turnover of the Irish fleet.

“Our politicians always seem to view fishing as a problem, rather than an industry which could help us with food security,”Flannery says.

Marine expert Dr Kevin FlanneryMarine expert Dr Kevin Flannery

Flannery says that Shetland is buying up vessel tonnage to keep for its fishermen, who may need it later, and believes the Ireland should not be scrapping viable vessels permanently.

John Lynch of the IS&EFPO says Ireland’s last hope is in the upcoming review of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy – but he isn’t holding his breath.

“We have the best and most productive waters in Europe,” Aodh O’Donnell of the IFPO says, pointing out that the Government here has a duty to initiate development plans for those left in the fleet.

“ Irish fish producers have contributed to the sustainable management of fish stocks, while others have been able to exploit resources in our rich waters. Decommissioning is our Government’s solution to a historical legacy of failing to deliver for industry and coastal communities,” O’Donnell says.

Aodh O’Donnell of the IFPOAodh O’Donnell of the IFPO

Vessel owner Caitlín Uí Aodha from Helvick, Co Waterford, says increased regulations, fuel prices and Brexit-related quota losses have piled on the pressure, she says.

“I think my family has been involved in fishing since before the Famine,” she says. “My grandfather fished, my father, brothers, cousins...and now maybe I am the last one in that line.”

“If farmers in Munster – a beautiful green province – were told that they had to sell off their farms to one or two investment companies, there would be an outcry, but that is the agricultural equivalent of what is happening here. And once you surrender your license, there is no way back in...”

Read more in The Irish Independent here

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Fishing and seafood organisations say they are “shocked and disappointed” at the Minister for Marine’s failure to address the fuel crisis facing the sector.

A joint statement from eight representative organisations calls on the Government and marine minister, Charlie McConalogue, to set up a national scheme and draw down existing EU funds to cover extra fuel costs.

The statement follows a lengthy meeting with Mr McConalogue earlier this week, which the minister had described as “productive”.

However, the eight organisations have warned that the survival of the entire seafood sector is at stake and that he must “act now”.

On July 6th, the same day as the meeting with Mr McConalogue, the European Parliament had voted to allocate unused funds in the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) to tackle the fuel crisis.

“Some member states have had a quick and effective response, leading to a reduction of fuel prices for fishing vessels,” the joint statement by the organisations says.

“ Others such as Ireland, have refused to compensate their fishermen - a response which has sparked port blockades in, for example, the Netherlands,” the statement says.

‘’There is no excuse for the minister to delay in immediately setting up a national scheme to cover the additional costs, particularly fuel -the EU funding is there,” the statement continues.

“Failure to act is a major threat to the survival of the fishing/seafood sector, which is worth € 1.26 billion to the Irish economy. It’s also a blow for the coastal communities which depend on our sector for their survival,” it says.

“We are disappointed that the Minister did not announce a scheme at our meeting last night. However, we do expect he will act, having reflected on the magnitude of the crisis very clearly articulated by us at the meeting.”

The joint statement was issued on behalf of the delegation which met the minister. 

They include the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO), Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (IS&WFPO), the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA), the Irish Farmers’ Association aquaculture (IFA Aquaculture), the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO), the Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation (IIMRO), the Irish South and East Fish Producers Organisation (IS&EFPO) and Ireland’s seven Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs).

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Eight Irish fishing industry groups have warned that traditional fish and chips “may not be on Irish restaurant summer menus” due to Government inaction on high energy prices.

“Rising fuel prices are crippling the Irish seafood sector, including fishermen, aquaculture producers and fish processors,” Aodh O Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO), has warned.

He says the crisis is “a threat to food security”.

Aodh O Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers OrganisationAodh O Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation

The seafood sector says it is calling on the Government to “act now to claim available EU funds to compensate the seafood sector and get the situation under control”.

Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogueMinister for Marine Charlie McConalogue

A joint statement issued in advance of a meeting with Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue this week has been issued by the eight groups.

They include the IFPO the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (IS&WFPO) the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA), the Irish Farmers’ Association aquaculture division, the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO), the Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation (IIMRO), the Irish South and East Fish Producers Organisation (IS&EFPO) and Ireland’s seven Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs).

"The crisis is a threat to food security"

IFPEA chief executive Brendan Byrne says the European Commission adopted a ‘Temporary Crisis Framework’ for the seafood sector on March 23rd.

“This was to enable member states to use the flexibility of State aid rules to compensate for high energy prices,” Byrne says.

“In addition to this, just two days later, the commission activated a crisis mechanism to grant financial compensation for lost income and additional costs, because of seafood market disruption. It was activated under the umbrella of the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) ”he says.

The EMFAF crisis mechanism is a temporary measure and applies retrospectively as of 24th February 2022 and will be in place until the end of 2022.

Enda Conneely of the IIMROEnda Conneely of the IIMRO

Enda Conneely of the IIMRO says the Irish government has “abjectly failed to act, despite jobs already being in jeopardy”.

Marine biologist, Dr Kevin Flannery, of the Fisheries Local Action Groups, says the seafood sector has a crucial role in the Irish economy.

Marine biologist, Dr Kevin FlanneryMarine biologist, Dr Kevin Flannery

“The Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) Business of Seafood report for 2021 clearly shows the vital importance of the seafood industry to the economy of our fishing communities sustaining over 16,000 jobs. These jobs are mainly located in peripheral areas. So, any job losses will hit hardest at the heart of our coastal and maritime communities,” Dr Flannery says.

John Lynch of the IS&EFPO also says that “the Irish government is failing to activate the funding made available by the EU for the seafood industry.

“Meanwhile French, Spanish and many of our fellow EU compatriots who fish our seas are receiving targeted benefits to aid their seafood sectors and enabling them to continue operations,” Lynch says.

“We need to prevent a wipeout of the seafood industry which threatens our ability to make a significant contribution to EU food security. In order to do this, we must be on a level playing field with our EU counterparts.”

Norah Parke, on behalf of KFO, says her organisation supports the Irish fishing industry’s stance.“

“We appeal for immediate action by the government before many vessel owners, processors and suppliers reach a point of no return. This is due to the unsustainable spiral of costs facing the fishing industry and further supply chain. It is incomprehensible that there is a solution available which is not being used,” she says.

Patrick Murphy of the IS&WFPOPatrick Murphy of the IS&WFPO

Patrick Murphy of the IS&WFPO says “we have a united Irish seafood industry of fishing, fish processing, and aquaculture sectors. Together we demand that the Irish government act now”.

“The Minister for the Marine must at least activate the provision granted by the EU Commission to release essential funds immediately,” Murphy says.

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A new report for two British fishing industry organisations says that over a third of English and Welsh fishing waters and more than half of Scottish waters could be inaccessible to trawling by 2050 due to plans for offshore energy and expansion of marine protected areas.

The report for the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) and National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) published today (30 June) examines three future scenarios to demonstrate the scale of displacement the fishing fleet may face.

The report, entitled “Spatial Squeeze in Fisheries”, was produced by independent consultancy ABPmer.

It is said to be the first such study to quantify the cumulative impact on commercial fishing of “hugely increased competition for space” in the marine environment.

It says in the “worst case scenario”, where fishing is banned in designated highly protected marine areas (HPMAs) and offshore renewable energy expands to meet central and devolved government net zero targets, approximately half (49%) of British fishing waters (357,000km2) could be lost.

Broken down, Scotland could lose 56% of its fishing waters (260,000 km2) and England and Wales losing 36% of theirs (83,000 km2 and 11,100km2 respectively), the study says.

“Even if the worst-case assumptions are not realised, an area of 277,000km2 (38% of British waters) are likely to be lost by then, threatening the very existence of British fishing businesses and causing severe harm to coastal communities,”the report says.

“The pace and scale of change is evident. Trawling is currently excluded from around a third of Scottish waters. Looking back to 2000, trawling was restricted in less than 1% of Scottish and English waters,”the two organisations state.

“In all the future scenarios examined in the report, Scotland is projected to lose far more of its waters for trawling when compared to the rest of Britain – almost double that of England in one of the 2050 scenarios,”they state.

Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and Barrie Deas,chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, said that “the outlook ahead is truly frightening”.

“The report shows that expansion of both offshore renewable energy generation and marine conservation are being prioritised above fishing, despite fishing’s value in producing low carbon, healthy and sustainable food, contributing to our food security and supporting thousands of jobs in our coastal communities,”they said.

“The industry’s voice and interests are being downplayed by government when it comes to overall strategy for marine planning, and in relation to individual planning decisions. No one disputes the need for renewables to help in the battle against climate change, however the scale of development proposed offshore risks putting an already climate-smart industry to the sword,” they said.

“It is deeply unjust that fishing businesses and fishing communities are being denied an equal say when we are the sector likely to feel the most significant impact,” they said.

“We need a proper seat at the table and for consultation to be meaningful, not just lip-service,” they added.

The report indicates that it is not too late for action to minimise the impact on fishing considerably through much better planning and design and the implementation of mitigation measures.

“Both the British and Scottish governments need to recognise the importance of sustainable fisheries for both food production and livelihoods, and more effectively integrate our industry into the marine spatial planning and decision-making systems. The benefits of climate-smart energy should not be at the expense of climate-smart food,” Ms Macdonald and Mr Deas said.

“Fishing industry representatives need to be given a stronger and more effective voice in the planning process, at both strategic plan and project level, to ensure that the potential impact on the fleet of proposed developments and conservation zones are adequately expressed and considered so that impacts can be avoided or minimised. There must be real, meaningful consultation, not just lip service,” they emphasised.

The ABPmer report focuses on demersal trawling, with further work required on pelagic trawling and shellfish fishing, they note. However, they say the study is “an important starting point to underline just how serious the spatial squeeze will be for Britain’s fishing fleet”.

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Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said his department is in “ongoing contact with the French authorities” regarding a military exercise planned for this week.

However, Mr Coveney described the area affected as “off the French coast”.

He said the full extent of the area that may be potentially affected includes a “small piece of the southern extremity of Ireland’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), approximately 200km southwest of Ireland’s territorial waters”.

Notification of live-fire exercises by the French military off the southwest coast has been criticised by the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) which says it may stage a peaceful protest.

The Fair Seas group of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) has also expressed concern, stating the exercises are due to take place in a “critically important area” for marine biodiversity.

A marine notice issued by the Department of Transport says it has been advised by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) of a missile/rocket firing exercise by the French military in part of the Irish EEZ “to the south-west of Ireland”.

The department notice says the exercise is scheduled to take place from June 21st to 24th and June 27th from 0200 hours to 1600 hours daily.

Mr Coveney said, “the IAA was informed of the exercises via standard procedures and the Department of Transport has issued a marine notice to this effect”.

“As a close EU partner, the Department of Foreign Affairs will, as normal, maintain contact with the French authorities throughout the period of the military exercise,” his statement said.

Fair Seas said it was urging Government ministers to “have this military exercise relocated outside of Irish EEZ, away from the exceptionally important area for marine wildlife off Ireland’s southwest coast”.

“Critically, the Irish Government must also take urgent steps to protect its marine environment by designating and effectively managing a network of marine protected areas in Ireland’s inshore and offshore waters,” it said.

Fair Seas said the location identified by the French is the Whittard Canyon region, one of 16 areas of interest that the umbrella group identified for MPAs in Irish waters.

“The area is home to whales, dolphins, endangered seabirds, an important fish nursery and sensitive cold-water coral reefs,” it said in a statement.

“This canyon system is one of the largest submarine canyons along the Celtic Margin and is home to cold-water coral reefs. Across the border, the UK has designated ‘The Canyons’ Marine Conservation Zone, which is likely to support a variety of cetacean (whale and dolphin) species,” it said.

“The shelf sediments included in this area of interest are part of a large blue whiting nursery ground,” it said.

This area “has been covered extensively in recent years by the independent scientific surveys on board the RV Celtic Explorer and as part of the ObSERVE aerial surveys,” it said.

“Important at-risk species are frequently present here such as the red-listed kittiwake and puffin,” it said.

As Afloat reported earlier, IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy said that “we know the impact of military sonar and live missile launches have the potential to severely disrupt the annual migratory path of fish and dramatically interrupt the breeding season of mackerel and other migratory fish species”.

“The albacore tuna fishery is opening for Irish vessels on June 23rd in the waters of our Continental Shelf which could potentially be disrupted by these live fire exercises, whilst also we believe this will cause untold damage to marine wildlife like whales and dolphins that are greatly affected by underwater noise,” he said.

He said he had instructions from his members to “implement a plan to highlight these dangerous exercises and consider any course of action that may disrupt these French military exercises”.

Published in Fishing

Plans for live-fire exercises by the French military off the southwest coast have been criticised by the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation which says it may stage a peaceful protest.

A marine notice issued by the Department of Transport says it has been advised by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) of a missile/rocket firing exercise by the French military in part of the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) “to the south-west of Ireland”.

The department notice says the exercise is scheduled to take place from June 21st to 24th and June 27th from 0200 hours to 1600 hours daily.

It says the exercise “may be postponed, taking place at the same time on another date within the period June 27th to July 7th, excluding weekends”.

Co-ordinates for the area concerned have been issued as part of the marine notice.

IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick MurphyIS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy

“Given the nature of the planned exercises, vessels and crew are advised of safety risks in the operational area,” the notice says.

IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy said that “we know the impact of military sonar and live missile launches have the potential to severely disrupt the annual migratory path of fish and dramatically interrupt the breeding season of mackerel and other migratory fish species”.

“The albacore tuna fishery is opening for Irish vessels on June 23rd in the waters of our Continental Shelf which could potentially be disrupted by these live-fire exercises, whilst also we believe this will cause untold damage to marine wildlife like whales and dolphins that are greatly affected by underwater noise,” he said.

He said he had instructions from his members to “implement a plan to highlight these dangerous exercises and consider any course of action that may disrupt these French military exercises”.

“It is our understanding that live-fire exercises cannot take place if our vessels are engaged in fishing in the area, so we are discussing a plan with our vessel-owners and skippers aimed at once again carrying out a peaceful protest in our traditional fishing areas near the proposed area of the military exercise,” Murphy said in a statement.

“We understand that an aircraft exclusion zone has been announced for the area, but we are dismayed at the lack of comment from our Government, bar the marine notice once again advising us to be cognisant of a marine law that should protect us rather than put us in harm’s way,” he said.

“It would be infinitely preferable if these naval exercises were stopped as a sign we in Europe are peaceful, and not looking to escalate the current tensions,” he said.

“At the very least, they should be relocated further south to waters, well outside of EEZ, beyond our 200-mile limit and away from the men and women who sail their boats in our fishing grounds,” he said.

“The consequence of naval exercises throughout the world’s oceans and seas have been well studied and documented, and their effect on whales and dolphins shows increased strandings and mortalities for weeks and months after the event,” he said.

“As stated previously. we are calling for a moratorium of ten years be introduced to stem these unnecessary military exercises, not just for any individual country but for all states that transit our waters,” Murphy said.

Last January, the IS&WFPO led a campaign against Russian military drills planned for 240 km off the Cork coast, inside the Irish EEZ.

Following a meeting between two fishing industry organisations and Russian ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov, an assurance was given to Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney that the controversial naval drills would take place outside the Irish EEZ.

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The European Commission has been urged to follow the example of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in taking steps to protect EU waters from industrial fishing.

The call has been made by Paris-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) Bloom, following a multilateral agreement by the WTO late last week on financial support granted to the fishing sector.

After over 20 years of negotiations, the WTO agreed early on June 17th, 2022 to address three issues: illegal fishing, overexploited fish stocks and transparency.

The agreement includes prohibiting subsidies to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing; and giving a two-year exemption to the least developed countries to implement this measure in their exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

A prohibition on subsidies to fisheries targeting overexploited fish stocks was also agreed. This came with “a caveat”, according to Bloom, as it notes that a State “may grant or maintain subsidies if such subsidies or other measures are implemented to rebuild the stock to a biologically sustainable level”.

BLOOM warns that this exemption may “open a chasm of complicity between industrial fishing lobbies and States to implement soft measures in order to maintain public subsidies”.

“It also opens endless scientific conversations about what one considers a “biologically sustainable level”. The same two-year deadline is given to the least developed countries to implement this article,”it says.

The new WTO agreement also creates an international standard of transparency by making it mandatory for States to notify subsidies granted to their fleets and fishing operators.

This measure is “a major step forward,” according to BLOOM.

“As the WTO has the power to impose sanctions, these transparency requirements should completely change the situation, and put an end to the opacity that surrounds financial flows between the fishing industry and States,”it says..

The agreement also creates a "Committee on Fisheries Subsidies" which shall meet "not less than twice a year", and shall review the information submitted by States "not less than every two years".

“The financial information provisions of the WTO deal are particularly dear to BLOOM, which knows that transparency and access to data are the cornerstone of any real progress towards social equity and marine conservation,” the NGO says.

Bloom says the deal is “imperfect”, as “fundamental measures to improve the state of ocean biodiversity, marine habitats and artisanal fisheries were removed from the negotiating text”.

“Subsidies that encourage fishing capacity that leads to overexploitation of fish stocks have not been prohibited,” it notes.

“Thus, all public aid covering capital costs (construction, modernisation, replacement of engines etc.) and variable costs (primarily fuel subsidies) have not been prohibited,” it says.

“Harmful subsidies that encourage overcapacity represent the vast majority of the aid granted worldwide (>18 billion),” Bloom says in a statement.

“ These are the subsidies that directly lead to the overexploitation and destruction of the ocean. Historically, they are the subsidy categories that the industrial lobbies and therefore the States defend most ardently, despite their precise scientific knowledge of the perverse mechanisms induced by such financial arrangements,” it says.

“The consequences of the Russian aggression in Ukraine on diesel prices have not created a context that facilitates this aspect of the negotiations. Nor are included the unethical subsidies provided to fleets to access waters of foreign countries, often developing States, in the form of fishing access agreements,” it notes.

“This will be the major issues awaiting the negotiators in the coming months,”it says, noting that the participating countries are “committed to continuing their efforts and discussions”.

“There is even talk of quickly convening a new ministerial conference (the date of March 2023 is circulating) to maintain the momentum and finally stop funding the destruction of the common good, the climate, biodiversity, small-scale fisheries and food security,”it says.

Bloom notes that an ocean action plan for Europe due to come out last March is still “nowhere to be seen”.

The NGO says it is calling on European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen to “protect our future and citizens before industrial lobbies”.

It calls on the Commission president to “release an ambitious ocean action plan with a target to protect 30% of EU waters from any industrial activities”.

Bloom says this is in accordance with International Union for Conservation of Nature criteria for Marine Protected Areas, before the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon starting on 27 June 2022”.

Published in Fishing

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D. visited BIM’s National Fisheries College in Greencastle today, to officially launch new high-tech simulator suites that will enable skipper students to pilot and berth a vessel and navigate it through adverse weather conditions.

The simulator and radio suites - recently installed both at the college in Donegal and its sister college in Castletownbere - are designed to imitate real-life navigational conditions for helm, ship control training and practice, and for vessel routine and distress alert training.

Gale force winds, rain, waves and even snow conditions simulated

The equipment is currently in use by a cohort of students whom the Minister met and will enable Ireland’s next fishing skippers to hone the skills needed to safely practice vessel navigations, in a series of compromising conditions including major storms. The state-of-the art suites now in place at both colleges, represents a government investment of €465,000.

Minister McConalogue said he was greatly impressed with how closely the simulators were able to replicate the real-life conditions that can be faced at sea: “Every time our fishers set to sea, they potentially face adverse conditions, which they must be prepared for to ensure the safe return of all those on board. It was with this in mind that I approved this additional investment in the new simulator in the BIM Training College. With this new facility and training, we are ensuring that our students have access to the highest standards for skippering fishing vessels. The BIM colleges here at Greencastle, and in Castletownbere, are vital cogs in the seafood and wider marine sector.”

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) chief executive Jim O’Toole said, “This investment is very welcome and upgrading our equipment to world class standards, allows BIM to provide training to new entrants and those already in the sector to the highest level. This will also enable us to develop future navigation simulation courses as legislation progresses.”

Sea Survival Training Unit

This funding is part of a wider capital programme that involves overall €1.7 million investment in the Greencastle Training College, recently approved by Minister Mc Conalogue including a 12-metre sea survival training pool at Greencastle. The project, when delivered, will create a cost-effective Maritime Centre of Excellence that provides a modern sea survival training unit for students and instructors, on-site in the National Fisheries College, Greencastle, supporting a safe and professional sea fishing industry.

The new facility will significantly complement the extensive training infrastructure already in place in the Donegal college including a fire-fighting unit, a fully integrated fishing vessel simulator, vessel dry land trawler deck, engine room, workshop and seven classrooms.

New legislative changes mean that fishermen in vessels under 15 metres are now required to undertake this safety training at a minimum every five years, and this is now being implemented.

BIM offer these training courses through its colleges and coastal training units.

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