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Overfishing is declining in Europe, but progress is “uneven from region to region”, according to a new evaluation.

The European objective of 100 per cent sustainable fishing by 2020 has “not been reached” and climate change is “inevitably” affecting fish distribution and growth, the study released by French research agency Ifremer says.

Ireland’s Marine Institute worked with Ifremer, along with the French higher education and research agency L’Institut Agro, and the Flanders research institute for agriculture, fisheries and food (ILVO) on the study into the status of fish populations in 2022.

The evaluation says that the 2022 report from the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) on the health status of fish in Europe “confirms the trends observed in the Atlantic over the past 20 years: overfishing is falling”.

It has found that 72% of fish populations are "not overexploited" in the north-east Atlantic area.

“Fish biomass has been increasing continuously since 2007 and was 33% greater in 2020 than at the beginning of the 2000s for the best-tracked populations; it was more than 50% greater for other populations subject to less tracking,”it says.

It says that 86 per cent of fish populations are overexploited in the Mediterranean, where the situation remains “critical”. In total, 29 of the 34 fish populations evaluated are considered to be overexploited, while “many other species remain poorly tracked and understood”.

It says that climate change is having direct impact on marine biodiversity, as it “changes species distribution, reduces their available food and stunts their growth”.

“Each year, the ocean absorbs between 30% and 40% of the CO2 that human activity releases into the atmosphere. This excess CO2 causes ocean acidification, which weakens the water’s concentration of calcium carbonate,” the study says.

“Calcium carbonate is essential for plankton, corals, molluscs and many other calcifying marine organisms that use it to build their shells or internal skeletons,” it notes.

Carbon dioxide also increases water temperature, reducing available oxygen and decreasing plankton abundance.

“Using climate models created by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, scientists have established that by the end of the century, marine animal biomass could have decreased by 20% on average,” the study says.

The study says that scientists are taking an ecosystem-based approach, allowing them to “propose management scenarios that better account for all ecosystem changes, not just the direct consequences of fishing”.

“ Scientists are also working on more technological aspects of fisheries management, like the development of more precise fishing methods. One idea is smart trawl nets that combine cameras and artificial intelligence to open and close depending on the species targeted,” it says.

Fostering more resilient ecosystems and encouraging good fisheries management are top priorities, the study says.

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As the transitional period for compliance with Safe Manning legislation ends, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency is urging all skippers of vessels of 15 metres in length and above that hold a Second Hand Limited (SHL) certificate, to ensure their Certificate of Competency is endorsed for service as Second Hand Special.

Skippers and owners should check whether they need a second crew member with a Certificate of Competency to be on board to comply with the regulations.

Information on certificates of competency and endorsements may be obtained at www.seafarers.ie. At least 12 months of sea service is required to obtain an endorsement to a SHL certificate.

Safe manning relates to the safe operation of fishing vessels and takes account of the safe navigation of the vessel, operations, machinery, and maintenance. On December 19th, 2019 it became a legal requirement for all fishing vessels of 15 metres in length and above, to apply a safe manning document from the Marine Survey Office (MSO) and Department of Transport. Application forms are available from Gov.ie (MSO Application forms- FV Less than 500gt)

BIM is an approved provider of maritime training on behalf of the MSO. Its two National Fisheries Colleges of Ireland in Greencastle, Co Donegal and in Castletownbere, Co Cork and its mobile Coastal Training Units deliver training to fishers throughout Ireland, to support a safe and professional industry.

To apply to endorse your certificate of competency contact the Mercantile Marine Office at the address below or to find out more information, please contact either of the BIM colleges by email or phone.

Mercantile Marine Office (MMO)

Maritime Services Division, Irish Maritime Administration, Department of Transport, Leeson Lane, Dublin 2, D02TR60.

Tel: +353 (0) 1 6783480

Email: [email protected]

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Master mariner Capt Robert McCabe has been appointed to chair the Government’s first seafood/offshore renewable energy working group.

The two-year appointment was confirmed by Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien.

Delays in establishing the working group had led to recent warnings by fishing industry representatives that both sectors could be on a “collision course”.

Capt McCabe has extensive maritime experience in a variety of senior roles during a 35-year career with the Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL).

He served as first master of the ILV Granuaile, before later being appointed to several management positions in CIL, including assistant inspector, deputy head of marine, head of marine, and director of operations and navigation.

He has also served as the president of the Irish Chamber of Shipping and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICoS), and is a current member of a number of marine bodies, including the Nautical Institute and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

Mr O’Brien said that the seafood/offshore renewable energy (ORE) working group has been established to “facilitate discussion on matters arising from the interaction of the seafood and offshore renewable energy industries, to promote and share best practice, and to encourage liaison with other sectors in the marine environment”.

He said that Capt McCabe brings extensive knowledge of both the seafood and ORE sectors, having previously worked with both in relation to maritime navigational safety.

“His work has enabled him to gain an extensive knowledge of the Irish coast and maritime activity across all sectors, and he brings a record of effective delivery of offshore engineering and navigation safety projects, which will prove valuable within the setting of this group,” he said.

‘’I’m delighted to appoint someone of Robert’s vast experience and capability to this position. Throughout his career, Robert has demonstrated the type of qualities that this group requires, working with diverse marine groups to achieve win-win solutions by showing leadership, drive and determination to succeed,” Mr O’Brien said.

“I also note that his specific expertise in safety at sea will prove extremely beneficial to the work of the group as the group progresses,” he said, wishing him “the best of luck”.

The appointment has been welcomed by Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan and Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, Charlie McConalogue.

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Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue today announced approval for a scheme which will provide €45 million in funding for capital investment projects in seafood processing enterprises.

The scheme is based on a recommendation of the Seafood Taskforce which was established by Minister McConalogue to assess the impacts of Brexit and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement on the fishing sector and coastal communities. The Taskforce recommended that the sector be provided with a stimulus to drive transformational change and thereby overcome constraints arising from Brexit and incentivise change through the provision of graduated grant aid rates for capital investment projects in the industry. This scheme is proposed for funding under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve

Announcing the approval of the scheme, the Minister said, “Our Seafood Processors are of vital importance for our coastal communities, sustaining over 4,000 jobs and supporting the local economies in which they operate. I am pleased to announce that this new scheme will introduce significant levels of support to enable processors develop their enterprises, navigate the challenging trading environment and support jobs in the seafood sector.”

In line with the Taskforce recommendation, the scheme is designed to provide greater levels of funding to those capital investment projects which result in higher value-added activities. It will, in particular, assist seafood processors seeking to move away from commodity production to the production of higher value-added products. It will also help and to those seeking to diversify their product offering and enter new markets. Funding will also be available for seafood processors seeking to improve environmental performance and those aiming to achieve greater production efficiencies.

Minister McConalogue added: “I believe this scheme will significantly assist processing enterprises to adapt quickly, to become more sustainable in both a business sense and environmentally. Through the supports on offer, processors will be able to invest in innovative equipment, diversify their product lines and reach new, valuable markets.”

An Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) will be administering the scheme, and the Minister has requested that BIM open its call for applications as soon as possible. Due to the time limitations placed on BAR funding, investment projects must be completed before the end of 2023 to qualify for funding.

Minister McConalogue concluded: “The suite of schemes and measures I have announced will support fishers, the wider seafood sector and the coastal communities which are most dependent on the sea for their livelihoods. The scheme will assist the Seafood Processing industry in making transformational change and moving further up the value chain. These investments will ensure that Ireland maintains its reputation as a source of premium quality seafood, protect food supply chains in times of uncertainty, grow coastal economies and sustain the natural environment”

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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, in collaboration with Chef Network Ireland and Fáilte Ireland on Monday 9th May 2022 announced the Taste the Atlantic, Young Chef Ambassador Programme for 2022. The aim of the programme is to engage with five ambitious young chefs, and over a four-month period mentor them through an exciting journey of learning about Ireland’s premium seafood offering along the Atlantic seaboard. This is the second year of the successful programme. Five chefs took part in the programme in 2021.

The selected chefs will benefit from on-site farm visits with Taste the Atlantic seafood producers where they will learn first-hand how organic salmon, mussels and oysters are sustainably produced in Ireland. They will also receive training in social media, business, culinary and fish handling skills from experienced industry mentors, such as Michelin starred chef, JP McMahon. Each chef will be paired with a Taste the Atlantic producer to learn about the provenance of the seafood they produce, broadening their knowledge and inspiring them to create Irish seafood recipes. At the end of the programme, the chefs will work together to create a Taste the Atlantic menu, showcasing the skill and knowledge they have gained on their journey as ambassadors helping to highlight the quality and sustainably produced seafood on the Wild Atlantic Way as well as raising awareness of food tourism.

Máirtin Walsh, Development Executive with BIM said, “BIM is delighted to announce the second year of the programme and looks forward to building on the success of 2021. It was inspiring to work with last year’s chefs and to watch them develop such an appreciation of Ireland’s valuable aquaculture sector. As a sector, providing direct employment to almost 2,000 people, it’s a significant contributor to rural, coastal communities, and was valued at €175 million in 2021. The consumption of seafood in Ireland grew by 3% to €418 million in 2021, with the hospitality sector being the main contributor. We look forward to guiding this year’s chefs on their Taste the Atlantic seafood journey!”

Sarah Browne from County Kerry was one of the Young Chef Ambassadors in 2021 and went on to work at Cava Bodega in Galway after the programme. Speaking at the launch of this year’s programme, she said:

“I’m passionate about sustainable food and I was so impressed when meeting the producers last year how much emphasis they place on sustainability and how future-focussed they were. The programme really boosted my confidence in my culinary skills around seafood and it was a huge stepping-stone for my career. I’d highly recommend it.”

JP McMahon, chef-proprietor at Michelin-starred Aniar restaurant, will provide mentorship to the chefs again this year and he spoke about why he is so supportive of the programme. “This program offers a fantastic opportunity for young chefs to develop their appreciation and understanding of the wealth of Irish seafood available to them. They will get to know producers, understand how the seafood is produced and develop their culinary creativity and confidence, learning how to prepare beautiful seafood dishes. Locally sourced produce is key to any good menu, and it doesn’t get much better than the seafood offering along the Wild Atlantic Way!”

Chef Network is a professional network connecting chefs across the island of Ireland, with over 4,500 members. Programme Manager, Ruth Hegarty said, “The Taste the Atlantic Young Chef Ambassador programme is a really exciting collaboration which brings together Ireland’s up and coming culinary talent with our wonderful seafood producers to explore the food tourism potential along the Wild Atlantic Way. It is so important to keep young chefs motivated and curious through opportunities to gain experience, upskill, and explore their creativity, and in my experience, meeting food producers is hugely inspiring and motivating for chefs, which is why I am genuinely delighted that Chef Network have the opportunity to run this programme alongside BIM and Fáilte Ireland.”

The Ambassador programme is now open for nominations, with full details available on www.chefnetwork.ie. The closing date for nominations is May 24th. Interviews will take place in June, following which we will announce the five successful 2022 young chef ambassadors, who will embark on their Taste the Atlantic seafood journey from June-September

The Young Chef Ambassador Programme is co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union, under the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF).

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The European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) and the EU’s agency for the space programme (EUSPA) have signed a cooperation agreement for an initial two years.

The memorandum of understanding will allow the EFCA to benefit from Galileo, the European global navigation satellite system managed by the EU space programme.

“This cooperation will further strengthen EFCA’s capabilities when it comes to modern and emerging technologies and services, which could be made available to member states' fisheries control authorities,” EFCA said in a statement.

“This would lead to an improved capacity for detecting, identifying and categorisation of suspected non-compliance fishing activities, providing additional tools for the operational activities coordinated by EFCA,” it said.

The two European agencies have identified some initial EU funded projects which could be of common relevance in relation to vessel management systems and search and rescue activities.

“Given the operational reality and specificities of fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance, and its connection with the EU maritime security strategy, EFCA as a central hub, seeks to further develop and expand its services in support of member states fisheries control authorities,” the Vigo-based fisheries monitoring agency said.

It said that EUSPA “will offer its technical expertise in satellite navigation as well as its “market knowhow” in global navigation satellite systems and earth observation to produce joint studies and develop space solutions with EFCA that will “positively contribute to the EU’s blue economy”.

The EFCA’s mission is to “promote the highest common standards for control, inspection and surveillance under the Common Fisheries Policy”.

EUSPA’s core mission is to implement the EU Space Programme and to “provide reliable, safe and secure space-related services, maximising their socio-economic benefits for European society and business”.

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The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has written to all Irish sea fishing boat licence holders to inform them of the incoming legal requirement for masters of such boats to formally register. This follows the passage of the Sea-Fisheries (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2022 which comes into effect on 3rd May 2022. To date, more than 500 applications have been received and are being processed by the Department.

The register of Masters, namely the Irish Fishing Master Register (IFMR), will apply to any Irish citizen who is the master, skipper or other person for the time being in charge of an Irish sea fishing boat. Registered masters will be issued with a Master’s Certificate, which must be carried on board at all times while acting as a master of a sea fishing boat. It will be an offence for anyone to lawfully take charge of a sea fishing boat unless registered on the IFMR and in possession of a Master’s Certificate. It will also be an offence to knowingly employ someone as a master who is not registered as such on the IFMR.

Anyone who has not yet applied to be registered is advised to do so before 3rd May 2022.

Application forms are available in Harbour Master offices at the six designated State-owned Fishery Harbour Centres, located at Castletownbere, Dingle, Dunmore East, Howth, Ros An Mhil and Killybegs.

Application forms can also be downloaded from: gov.ie - Irish Fishing Master Register (www.gov.ie)

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The Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) has called on the European Commission to act immediately on the presence of Russian trawlers in waters intended primarily for oil and gas exploration.

A fleet of Russian midwater freezer trawlers are currently operating in a zone shared between the UK and the Faroe islands - having been issued licences by the Faroes.

“What is most galling about this is that the Faroese are not just facilitating the access of the Russian boats, but they are also using their excessive blue whiting quota as a trade-off to ‘print currency’ or purchase cod quota from Russia,"* said Sean O'Donoghue, KFO Chief Executive.

 Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation

“It flies in the face of sanctions which have been agreed against the Russians by the EU and while the Faroes have a degree of autonomy on fisheries, they form part of the Kingdom of Denmark and do not have independence on critical issues such as military strategy.

“It is paramount that our Government does everything in its power to compel the European Commission to nip this issue in the bud. Quite apart from the disregard for stocks and scientific advice, we are all acutely aware that any profits accrued to Russian businesses are indirectly funding the catastrophic war effort in Ukraine.

“Our counterparts in Scotland have vocally condemned the Faroese, highlighting the damage it will do to the stock. This year, the Faroes unilaterally increased their blue whiting quota from 82,000 tonnes to 267,413 tonnes. It appears that the Faroese are swapping the fish in an area they share with the UK for cod quota in Russian waters.

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The European Commission has proposed additional crisis measures to support the EU fishery and aquaculture sectors in the context of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The legislative proposal involves an amendment to the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), using funds leftover from the 2014-2020 programme.

It will need to be adopted by the European Parliament and the European Council before it can take effect, the Commission said.

If approved, it will complement the first package of crisis measures adopted under the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) on March 25th.

It comprises financial compensation for additional costs, for income forgone and for the storage of products, as well as for the temporary cessation of fishing activities where they are currently unsafe.

EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said that the fishery and aquaculture sectors are “heavily impacted by the war in Ukraine”.

“There are still financial resources available under the EMFF. With this proposal, we give the possibility to member states to reallocate them to specific measures mitigating the socio-economic impact of the crisis.”

The Commission said that the military aggression of Russia against Ukraine had increased the prices of energy and raw materials, “generating very high additional operating costs and squeezing profit margins in the fishery, aquaculture and seafood processing sectors”.

“The war has also led to a precautionary interruption of fishing activities in certain areas. Once today's proposal has been adopted, Member states will have the possibility to quickly grant financial support for the additional costs and economic losses stemming from the crisis, in particular,” it said.

The proposal also introduces flexibility mechanisms to facilitate the quick implementation of new measures.

This includes a simplified procedure for amending the operational programmes of member states; retroactive eligibility of expenditure as of February 24th, 2022 for these measures; and the possibility of reallocating the fixed amounts initially reserved for certain EMFF measures (i.e. control and enforcement, data collection) to the new crisis-related measures.

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In its annual Business of Seafood Report, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) announced that the Irish seafood economy grew by 15% in 2021, to €1.26bn.

Despite the dual challenges of Brexit and Covid-19, the industry recovered from the trading difficulties experienced in 2020, with a growth in GDP of 15.3% year-on-year – the highest value seen since 2016. This growth was driven by strong exports to the EU and Asia increasing the total value by 11% - to €674m.

Foodservice purchases of seafood in Ireland increased by 12% in 2021, following from a decline of 53% in 2020. Domestic consumption grew by 3% to €418 million, while the seafood balance of trade (exports – imports) also grew by 45%, driven by the strong export growth, particularly in EU markets. Overall investment in the sector increased during 2021 to €454 million (+8%), showing renewed confidence.

BIM Seafood report 2021 infographic

BIM chief executive Jim O’Toole said that the sector had proven to be highly resilient and innovative:

“The key insights from this report are the sector’s success in both identifying and driving opportunities in different markets along with an increase in value for some categories.

While Brexit, and the additional impacts of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement [agreed between the EU and the UK] reduced quotas for key species, Government support along with private investment helped mitigate some of these impacts.

“The industry continues to adapt, for example in the seafood-tech sector there are now over fifty companies employing more than 700 people from disciplines including engineering, fintech and marketing and we have seen turnover more than double in the past few years.

“Although we have seen significant growth last year there are further challenges now being encountered with cost increases for fuel, energy, and materials as a result of the conflict in Ukraine. Support to the industry to help withstand this economic shock will undoubtedly be required.”

Domestic hospitality sector

Seafood consumption grew by 3% in 2021, driven by a partial recovery in the domestic hospitality sector. For much of 2021 the hospitality sector was severely hampered in its operations due to Covid-19 health restrictions, but it did grow by 12% as these eased into the summer. Normal operating conditions should see strong growth and recovery in 2022.

Supply and demand on the international markets

While the volume of produced Irish organic salmon remained stable in 2021, the value decreased by 14%. This was due to increased international supply of organic salmon by competitor countries such as Norway and Scotland.

The reopening of the food service sectors internationally led to strong price growth in shellfish species such as crab, lobster, shrimp and razor clams - with prices increasing over 20%.

The impact of Brexit

Under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement there were substantial transfers of fish quotas from the EU to the UK. Ireland was heavily impacted by these quota transfers resulting in a reduction of volumes landed by Irish vessels of 7%. Despite this, total value of Irish landings grew by 2% driven by higher prices.

Brexit also introduced a change in trading patterns. Previously the UK had been the main source of seafood imports into Ireland. During 2021 there has been a shift away from sourcing from the UK. The EU is now the main import market for the first time, with the value of imports from the UK dropping by 57%.

Investment in the sector

In 2021, Government investment in the seafood sector continued to grow, amounting to €232 million, an increase of 11%. Support from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) along with national investment programmes contributed to a wide range of projects across all parts of the industry.

Private investment, after falling quite significantly in 2020, increased by €23 million (+5%), totalling €221 million, reflecting the ambition of the sector as it emerged from many challenges.

Employment in the seafood sector

Employment in the sector also remained stable in 2021 despite the hurdles encountered. A total of some 16,650 people were employed directly and indirectly, an increase in overall employment of 1%. This comprised 8,700 employed directly in fisheries, aquaculture and processing, with a further 8,000 in downstream employment in ancillary and support sectors.

Rising Costs – the new challenge

The price of marine diesel has increased by almost 150% since the start of the Ukrainian crisis, while the price of materials and equipment has also increased steeply. Coming so soon after the economic shocks of Covid-19 and Brexit, the resilience of the sector is going to be tested to the full during 2022 and beyond.

It will require a collective effort from the industry, backed with financial and technical support, to withstand this new challenge and remain profitable.

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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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