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The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D, today attended a virtual meeting with EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier in relation to the current state of play in the negotiations on a fisheries agreement with the UK. The meeting involved Fisheries Ministers from EU Member States most impacted by the UK withdrawal from the EU, including Ministers from France, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Ministers welcomed Mr Barnier’s strong commitment to the link between the overall economic partnership and the conclusion of a fishing agreement. Minister McConalogue urged Mr Barnier to stay firm on this and not to agree to any short-term arrangement on fisheries which would serve to break this link.

Minister McConalogue again stressed that “Ireland’s fishing industry needs a strong and stable EU/UK Fisheries agreement. Our fishing industry is in a particularly vulnerable position as Ireland shares its main fish stocks and its waters on three sides with the UK and needs to retain access to UK waters and to shared resources.”

The Minister also emphasised that any outcome in the future relationship negotiations that results in a loss of quota share for the EU would be damaging to Ireland’s fishing industry. The Minister also stated that in the event of No Deal and EU vessels being denied access to UK waters Ireland could face serious difficulties arising from displacement of EU fishing activity into our zone.

Commenting afterwards on the meeting, Minister McConalogue said “I appreciated the opportunity again today to meet with Mr Barnier and outline again Ireland's serious concerns in relation to the potential impacts for Ireland’s fishing industry if a fair and balanced Fisheries Agreement with the UK is not reached. I have continued confidence that Irish and EU fishing interests will be robustly defended by Mr Barnier and his team in this late phase of negotiations.”

Published in Fishing
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Students from Norway and other countries are participating in a higher diploma in aquabusiness which is now in its fourth year in Wexford.

A total of 19 students have registered for the one-year part-time diploma in “business in aquabusiness” which is being run by Carlow Institute of Technology’s (CIT) Wexford campus.

As Afloat reported previously, the course was developed by CIT with Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

It is the only Fetac level eight course aimed. at the fisheries, marine and aquaculture sector in Ireland.

Numbers have doubled as the course goes from “strength to strength”, according to the college.

Students of last year’s course recently participated in an online graduation ceremony due to Covid-19.

However, some of the fisheries sector graduates gathered in a socially distant manner for a photograph at Kilmore Quay harbour, along with three Wexford campus staff and a local representative of BIM.

The course presents two annual awards in memory of late Donegal fishing industry leader Joey Murrin, and the late BIM chief executive Brendan O’Kelly.

Presentation of these awards to the latest graduates has been deferred until the public health situation improves.

CIT’s Wexford campus says that the three remaining modules for the fourth year of the higher diploma will run online from January 2021.

These modules can be taken separately as certificates.

The law and regulation modules will be covered every second Friday and Saturday from mid-January, while strategic and innovation management will run from late February.

A module in planning will be covered from mid-April.

Interested students for these subjects as certificates can contact course Amy Allen at email address [email protected]

Published in Aquaculture
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Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D., today chaired a meeting of the Sea Fisheries Liaison Group of Fisheries Stakeholders to discuss the European Commission’s proposal for Fishing Opportunities for 2021. The meeting was attended by fishing industry representative bodies and environmental NGOs.

This meeting is held each year in advance of the negotiations at the December EU Fisheries Council so that the Minister can hear the views of all fisheries stakeholders on the Commission’s proposals for Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas for the following year. This is an important part of the Sustainability Impact Assessment of the Commission’s proposal, which also includes a public consultation and as well as expert contributions from the Marine Institute (MI) and Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

Minister McConalogue said “There was the good engagement at the meeting today. This is an important opportunity for me to hear the views of stakeholders as we prepare for setting of Total Allowable Catches for Fish Stocks for 2021.”

The Minister added “The disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty relating to the impacts of Brexit on Fisheries has made 2020 a challenging and unprecedented year for fisheries. In these uncertain times, it is more important than ever that we work together to achieve the best possible outcome for the Irish Fishing Community while ensuring the sustainability of fish stocks.”

Minister McConalogue will present the Sustainability Impact Assessment to the Joint Committee on Agriculture and the Marine on Tuesday 1 December.

Published in Fishing
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A well-intentioned campaign by a celebrity chef to reduce dumping of unwanted fish in European waters has led to an increase in fishing quotas, according to new research.

The “unintended impact” of the European ban on discarding fish may lead to “implosion of the EU fisheries management system”, Portuguese scientist Dr Lisa Borges, who formerly worked in Ireland’s Marine Institute, says.

The “Fish Fight” campaign spearheaded by chef and food writer Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall from 2010 was designed to eradicate a system which fishermen were forced to discard unwanted catch under the EU quota system.

It was claimed up to 1.7 (one point seven) million tonnes of unwanted and juvenile fish was being discarded annually.

The first phase of the EU’s ban on discards – known as the “landing obligation” - was introduced in January 2015.

However, the paper by Dr Borges for the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) Journal, finds that there has been “no enforcement”, no decrease in discards, and an increase by up to 50 per cent in fish quotas to allow for implementation of the ban.

It notes that this “discrepancy” is “likely to lead to a widespread unmeasured increase in the number of fish killed each year”.

This “undermines the accuracy of scientific data”, Dr Borges, whose research was partly funded by the non-governmental organisation Our Fish and initially grant-aided under the EU Horizon 2020 programme, claims.

It will lead to what she describes as an "implosion of the EU fisheries management system”.

The discard ban requires that all caught fish are documented, counted against quotas, and landed, but there are four exemptions.

The exemptions cover species for which fishing is prohibited, fish damaged by predators, and species that have “high survival” rates after being caught.

Under a fourth exemption, known as “de minimis”, up to five per cent of the total annual catch can be discarded if deemed “very difficult” or “disproportionately” expensive to avoid catching.

Dr Borges says that even though these exemptions exist, all fish caught should still be documented.

She notes that another key condition was that TACs would be increased to account for the new landings of previously discarded fish.

She says that in a “complicated and non-transparent process”, the European Commission receives scientific advice for maximum catches from ICES, and then estimates exemptions and proposes adjusted TACs.

These adjustments have contributed to higher fishing limits, but she says that the number of granted exemptions to the European discard ban has increased, with some fisheries even gaining multiple exemptions.

An analysis of the TACs before and after the landing obligation was introduced shows that there is an average annual increase of 36% in TACs since 2015, and that this increase reached 50% in 2020 overall, above pre-landing obligation levels.

She found that for demersal (whitefish) fish species, which are often caught with less-selective gears and have a high proportion of unwanted fish, these TAC increases reached 60% for 2020 fishing limits.

Dr Borges has worked in fisheries for over 20 years, including for the research institutes of Portugal, Ireland and Netherlands, and for the European Commission, and is now director of consulting company FishFix.

Our Fish, which partly funded her research, says it works to end overfishing and restore a healthy ocean ecosystem.

The European Commission and Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine did not respond to requests for comment on the paper at the time of going to press.

Published in Fishing
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If Fungie or any similar solo bottle-nosed dolphin had a notion to settle in an Irish harbour, they could be in stiff competition for feeding on sprat and juvenile herring.

As The Irish Examiner reports today, there is mounting concern on certain parts of the coast over the environmental impact of a small number of larger Irish-registered fishing vessels working within the six nautical mile limit.

“If we are going to take the forage fish, what is left?” Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) co-ordinator Dr Simon Berrow says.

“Catching sprat, which is a short-lived fish, and selling it for fishmeal is a race to the very bottom of the food chain,” Dr Berrow says. 

His group has called for a moratorium on sprat fishing pending further scientific research. 

Independent TD for Galway West Catherine Connolly has also called for a ban on “unsustainable fishing for sprat” 

Inshore fishingInshore sprat fishing off Atlantic coasts Photo: National Inshore Fishermen's Association

It is understood that the State’s Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) has been alerted to the activities of several large vessels which are legally engaged in fishing for species like sprat and juvenile herring which marine mammals depend on.

A groundbreaking ban on trawling or seine fishing by vessels over 18 metres of length inside six nautical miles, introduced by former marine minister Michael Creed, was recently overturned as a result of a High Court judicial review.

Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue recently confirmed he is appealing the High Court ruling.

While welcoming the minister’s move, the National Inshore Fishermen’s Association (NIFA) and National Inshore Fishermen’s Organisation have both called for an interim “stay order” which would retain the ban, pending the outcome of the appeal.

NIFA member Michael Foley, a third-generation inshore sprat fisherman from Wexford, said that each year is more and more challenging for the inshore fleet. 

Mr Foley (52) pair trawls for sprat on his 13m Western Dawn with another similar-sized vessel.

“When I began fishing 37 years ago, there were small boats in every port, but now all you have is a handful of boats on pots,” he said.

The Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation representing 53 vessels said it believed the process used by the minister Michael Creed for the initial inshore ban was “fundamentally flawed” and its view had been vindicated by the High Court.

It said it would continue to offer its services to the new minister to see if more research should be carried out by the Marine Institute and if a draft management plan for sprat was required.

A Marine Institute study on the impact of inshore fishing found that vessels over 18m in length spend two per cent of their trawling effort inside six nautical miles.

Read more in The Irish Examiner here

Published in Fishing
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Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue has lodged an appeal against large trawlers fishing Inside Ireland’s six Mile zone, saying he is committed to the sustainability of fishing in Irish waters. 

In December 2018, following a public consultation process in which over 900 submissions were received, the then Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine announced that vessels over 18 metres will be excluded from trawling in inshore waters inside the six nautical mile zone and the baselines from 1 January 2020. A transition period of three years for vessels over 18 metres targeting sprat was allowed to enable adjustment for these vessels, as the sprat fishery is concentrated inside the six nautical mile zone.

A Policy Directive was issued by the Minister to the independent Licensing Authority for Sea Fishing Boats under Statute and was intended to give effect to the measures announced by the then Minister excluding vessels over 18 metres in length from trawling inside six nautical miles

A Judicial Review was taken by two applicant fishermen challenging the validity of the Policy.

The High Court’s ruling of Judicial Review proceedings which relate to the Policy Directive has been appealed by the State to the Court of Appeal and a stay is being sought on the orders granted therein.

Minister McConalogue said that “As this matter is sub judice, I am not in a position to comment on the Policy until the matter can be resolved before the Courts. However, I am committed to the sustainability of fishing in Irish waters and to implementing the commitment made in our Programme for Government that inshore waters continue to be protected for smaller fishing vessels and pair trawling be prohibited inside the six-mile limit.”

Published in Fishing
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When the funeral of Galway fishermen Martin and Tom Oliver left Claddagh church yesterday, the silence among hundreds of people lining the route was broken only by the roar of the river Corrib and the gentle sound of wind in canvas sails.

Three Galway Hookers had moored in the Claddagh Basin, with musician Sharon Shannon on board the deck of one of the vessels playing soft airs on her accordion.

Three Galway Hookers gathered at Claddagh ChurchThree Galway Hookers moored in the Claddagh Basin

Martin, who was almost 62, and his son Tom (37) died within 24 hours of each other after a fishing accident on their potting vessel on the north side of Galway Bay last Monday.

Mayor of Galway Mike Cubbard, who opened a book of online condolences, paid tribute to the two men as “salt of the earth” and “the best of friends”.

He noted that it was only a few weeks since he had recognised the role of Martin’s relatives, Patrick and Morgan Oliver, in rescuing two paddleboarders, Sara Feeney and Ellen Glynn, in Galway Bay last August after 15 hours at sea.

Several generations of the Oliver family have been associated with the lifeboat service, and members of the RNLI and the fishing communities along the coast and on the Aran islands travelled to pay their respects.

Galway RNLI volunteers and members of the Galway Sea Scouts formed a guard of honour outside the church, where a private Mass was celebrated by Fr Gerry Jennings of Salthill parish, assisted by Fr Donal Sweeney of the Claddagh’s Dominican community.

Afterwards, Martin’s daughter and Tom’s sister Susanne and her mother Eileen were consoled by many friends, and relatives, as the city centre came to a standstill and construction work stopped as a mark of respect.

Crew with Badóirí an Cladaigh and the Galway Hooker Sailing Club had rigged the gleoiteog Manuela - named after the late Swiss student Manuela Riedo - along with the leath-bhád Croi an Cladaigh, and the bád mór Naomh Crónán in full sail in the Claddagh basin.

A Garda escort led the cortege over Wolfe Tone bridge and around by Long Walk and into Galway docks, as people lined both sides of the streets.

Two orange flares were released on the water surface, and members of Galway Bay Sailing Club then lit hand-held flares on the dockside, where State research ship Celtic Voyager and a number of fishing and angling vessels were berthed. 

Flares were lit at Galway Docks and Harpist Flares were lit and harpist Úna Ní Fhlannagáin (left) played at Galway Docks

The rich chords of harpist Úna Ní Fhlannagáin resonated as members of the Oliver and Griffin families cast flowers at the water’s edge in bright sunshine. 

The cortege paused for a few moments at the docks, and more tears were shed before the two hearses continued up to Rahoon cemetery overlooking the city. In the graveyard, the father and son – who had been inseparable in life - were buried side by side.

Galway harbourmaster Brian Sheridan said it was a “profoundly sorrowful tragedy for the Oliver family, and the wider fishing community”.

Published in Galway Harbour
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Environmental and commercial fishing groups have joined forces to call for a restoration of a ban on trawling by larger vessels within six nautical miles of the coast.

Marine life such as dolphins, small scale fishing vessels and sea birds dependent on inshore stocks are threatened by the actions of larger fishing vessels, the groups point out.

A letter sent by 15 groups to Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine Charlie McConalogue yesterday (Thursday, 29 October) calls on him to take the “steps necessary” to reinstate the ban and protect inshore stocks.

Former marine minister Michael Creed signed the new ban, applicable to fishing vessels over 18 metres working within six miles of the coast, into law from January 1st of this year.

A three-year “transition period” for vessels over 18m targeting sprat inside the six nautical mile zone was allowed.

However, the ban was recently overturned by the High Court in a judicial review taken by fishermen Tom Kennedy and Neil Minihane.

The National Inshore Fisherman's Association (NIFA) and National Inshore Fishermen’s Organisation (NIFO), Birdwatch Ireland, An Taisce, Cork Environmental Forum, Cork Nature Network, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Environmental Pillar and Friends of the Irish Environment are signatories to the appeal to Mr McConalogue.

The Irish Seal Sanctuary, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Irish Wildlife Trust, Oceana, Seas at Risk, Sustainable Water Network and Our Fish non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have also signed the letter.

The groups say that the policy directive, introduced by Mr Creed, “was one of the most important fisheries policy shifts in the history of the Irish state, and was broadly welcomed as being the right decision from a social, economic, environmental and a social justice perspective”.

The groups say it was backed by expert analysis by the Marine Institute and the Bord Iascaigh Mhara.

“The fishing industry and environmental NGOs are often portrayed as opposing forces, however, the reality is they have a common goal or vision for a healthy marine environment,” NIFA spokesman Alex Crowley said.

“Inshore fishers are acutely aware of the need for a healthy marine environment to support their businesses and way of life, and as an economic sector ... we are particularly exposed to negative environmental impacts,” Mr Crowley added.

Birdwatch Ireland policy officer Fintan Kelly said that “overfishing has hollowed out marine ecosystems” and had “a direct impact on the Irish fishing communities” that depend on collapsing stocks.

Our Fish programme director Rebecca Hubbard said that the Government can “ deliver on ambitions to halt the biodiversity and climate emergency” and “set an impressive example for other European countries to follow” by reinstating the ban.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine said that the minister is “currently considering the implications of the judgment in consultation with his department officials and legal advisors”.

The department noted that “while the applicants did not succeed on four of the five grounds of challenge, the challenge was made against the entire policy directive and was successful”.

The High Court judgment found the policy directive did not impinge constitutional rights, was not disproportionate and did not breach EU law, the department noted.

However, it said that the challenge did succeed on the point that “given the impact... there was a particular duty on the Minister to provide a fuller explanation and engage in further talks with the applicants”.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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 A French-registered fishing vessel has been detained by the Naval Service patrol ship LÉ William Butler Yeats (P63) off the south-west coast.

The detention approximately 45 nautical miles south-west of Mizen Head was in relation to alleged breaches of fishing regulations, according to the Defence Forces press office.

The vessel is being escorted to Castletownbere, Co Cork, where it will be handed over to the Garda.

It is the 12th vessel detained by the Naval Service in 2020, working with the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority.

As Afloat reported previously, the LÉ William Butler Yeats also detained a French fishing vessel in July, off the Blaskets.

Published in Navy
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An investigation into the death of the young west Cork fisherman Kodie Healy in Dunmanus Bay last year says he may have fallen overboard his boat.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) report published today says Mr Healy had only bought the boat three to four weeks before the incident on October 9th, 2019.

The 23-year-old man was a trained and experienced commercial fisherman and was on a day off when he went fishing for mackerel and pollack in the 5.7-metre open deck GRP vessel Tommy R 

He was not wearing a lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD), and the report notes that he may not have known that there was a satellite personal locator beacon (PLB) onboard the vessel.

The hull was not found, but wreckage was picked up widely, and his body was located by divers north-west of Carbery island in a gulley or crevice in 11 metres of water on October 13th.

There had been an extensive search for Mr Healy, after he was reported overdue by his father, John Healy - from a well known west Cork fishing family - on the evening of October 9th last year.

An autopsy identified death by acute cardio-respiratory failure due to drowning.

The MCIB report concludes that “the most probable cause” of his death was that he fell overboard sometime after 1 pm when close to the northwest shore of Carbery Island.

“The ‘Tommy R’ steering would have been uncontrolled and the boat would have come into close proximity of the Carbery breaker or the seas northwest of Carbery island,” the report says.

The boat would then have been “overwhelmed, broken up and sunk by a breaking sea”.

Contributory factors identified by the MCIB include adverse weather, with a small craft warning and rough seas in Dunmanus Bay.; and the fact that Mr Healy was not wearing a PFD.

The report says he was fishing “on his own in very dangerous seas off Carbery breaker and Carbery island”, and the vessel was not suitable for those sea conditions on that day.

The qualified commercial fisherman who trained at the National Fisheries College, Castletownbere had left to fish in Dunmanus Bay at 8 am on that morning,

The Irish Coast Guard, RNLI, Naval Service, West Cork Underwater Search and Rescue dive team and Blackwater SAR Daunt and Cork Sub Aqua were among units involved in the extensive search.

Shortly before 10 pm that first night, boat wreckage was found at Drishane point on the Dunmanus peninsula.

The report says that the Tommy R was previously a fishing vessel named the FV Jamie Andrea, and was removed from the fishing vessel register by application in August 2017. As a recreational craft, it was exempt with compliance with the EU directive on fishing vessels of this size.

It says that “from the type and condition of the wreckage, it may be deduced that the boat’s sinking was rapid leaving little time for the casualty, if he was on board and not incapacitated, to send out a distress signal, call for help, grab a lifesaving device or prepare to abandon the boat”.

The report says Mr Healy used the boat for recreational fishing on several occasions prior to the incident.

The boat, built-in 1983, had declarations of compliance, with stability declared as satisfactory.

There was no record of a VHF licence, but the radio was reported to be working. However, there was no reported VHF communication from the vessel.

The report says Mr Healy intended to use a dive board method - a device with several fish lures attached which is trolled at the end of a line behind a boat moving slowly forward at around two to three knots.

In correspondence, Mr Healy’s father John included a number of omissions in the draft report.

Mr Healy said his son was a very experienced seaman, having fished from the age of seven and in waters from “Rockall to the English Channel” in later years.

“Personally, I believe that without more sightings of the boat on that day or, ideally, having the GPS tracker for that day, it is fair and reasonable to say at this time that only the sea holds the mystery of what happened,” Mr Healy wrote.

Published in MCIB
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Ferry & Car Ferry News The ferry industry on the Irish Sea, is just like any other sector of the shipping industry, in that it is made up of a myriad of ship operators, owners, managers, charterers all contributing to providing a network of routes carried out by a variety of ships designed for different albeit similar purposes.

All this ferry activity involves conventional ferry tonnage, 'ro-pax', where the vessel's primary design is to carry more freight capacity rather than passengers. This is in some cases though, is in complete variance to the fast ferry craft where they carry many more passengers and charging a premium.

In reporting the ferry scene, we examine the constantly changing trends of this sector, as rival ferry operators are competing in an intensive environment, battling out for market share following the fallout of the economic crisis. All this has consequences some immediately felt, while at times, the effects can be drawn out over time, leading to the expense of others, through reduced competition or takeover or even face complete removal from the marketplace, as witnessed in recent years.

Arising from these challenging times, there are of course winners and losers, as exemplified in the trend to run high-speed ferry craft only during the peak-season summer months and on shorter distance routes. In addition, where fastcraft had once dominated the ferry scene, during the heady days from the mid-90's onwards, they have been replaced by recent newcomers in the form of the 'fast ferry' and with increased levels of luxury, yet seeming to form as a cost-effective alternative.

Irish Sea Ferry Routes

Irrespective of the type of vessel deployed on Irish Sea routes (between 2-9 hours), it is the ferry companies that keep the wheels of industry moving as freight vehicles literally (roll-on and roll-off) ships coupled with motoring tourists and the humble 'foot' passenger transported 363 days a year.

As such the exclusive freight-only operators provide important trading routes between Ireland and the UK, where the freight haulage customer is 'king' to generating year-round revenue to the ferry operator. However, custom built tonnage entering service in recent years has exceeded the level of capacity of the Irish Sea in certain quarters of the freight market.

A prime example of the necessity for trade in which we consumers often expect daily, though arguably question how it reached our shores, is the delivery of just in time perishable products to fill our supermarket shelves.

A visual manifestation of this is the arrival every morning and evening into our main ports, where a combination of ferries, ro-pax vessels and fast-craft all descend at the same time. In essence this a marine version to our road-based rush hour traffic going in and out along the commuter belts.

Across the Celtic Sea, the ferry scene coverage is also about those overnight direct ferry routes from Ireland connecting the north-western French ports in Brittany and Normandy.

Due to the seasonality of these routes to Europe, the ferry scene may be in the majority running between February to November, however by no means does this lessen operator competition.

Noting there have been plans over the years to run a direct Irish –Iberian ferry service, which would open up existing and develop new freight markets. Should a direct service open, it would bring new opportunities also for holidaymakers, where Spain is the most visited country in the EU visited by Irish holidaymakers ... heading for the sun!

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