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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogueMinister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue

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

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

"The EU already threw Ireland under the bus"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The full report can be viewed here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Temporary Tie-Up 2021 (recommended by the interim taskforce report) €10m
  • Inshore Fisheries Business Model Adjustment Scheme €3.7m
  • Inshore Marketing Scheme € 1m
  • Brexit Adjustment Local Authority Marine Infrastructure Scheme €35m
  • Blue Economy Enterprise Development Scheme €25m
  • Seafood Capital Processing Support Scheme €45m
  • Temporary Tie-Up 2022 Scheme €24m
  • Brexit Co-operative Transition Scheme € 1m
  • Brexit Sustainable Aquaculture Growth Scheme €20m
  • Voluntary Whitefish Decommissioning Scheme €60m
  • Total expenditure of Seafood Taskforce Scheme announcements to date €224.7m
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Significant “negative impacts” of Brexit on the British fishing industry have been highlighted in a video released by the British All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Fisheries.

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

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

"The British fishing industry was let down by Brexit"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The closing date for applications is November 18th.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The quick action of a crew member on a Donegal fishing vessel probably saved the life of his skipper when his arm was trapped by a trawl door, an investigation has found.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) report into the incident involving the whitefish trawler FV Marliona has noted that the trawl door was not secured adequately and that it was in the wrong position.

This made it prone to movement from side to side. At the time of the incident, the vessel was taking a slight roll, adding to this movement, the MCIB report notes. These factors, along with fatigue, were probable causes.

The incident occurred on the afternoon of February 3rd, 2021, when the Marliona was alongside Greencastle harbour, Co Donegal.

During a repair procedure, the skipper’s left arm became trapped by a trawl door, causing severe damage to his arm.

First aid was administered by another crewmember and the bleeding was stopped. The skipper was transferred by ambulance to hospital for his injuries, and his arm was saved. He was released the same day, but continued to receive treatment and only returned to work in May 2021.

The “FV Marliona” is a white fish trawler that mainly fishes to the west and north of Donegal.

On February 3rd, 2021 the vessel had been fishing off the west coast of Donegal and had returned to the port of Greencastle, Co Donegal to unload its catch and repair its fishing gear. Its registered owner is Marliona Fishing Ltd.

In its analysis, the report noted that during the repairs, the trawl door was lower than normal, and so the skipper had to reach down lower to grab the chain-link.

It said “the absence of a risk assessment for this operation and the incorrect positioning of the trawl door were causative factors”, and the unstable trawl door and the vessel’s roll trapped the skipper’s arm.

It said that the casualty was “in serious risk of bleeding out in a short time, but due to the quick action of crewmember B he got critical attention that probably saved his life”

The crew member had recently completed a three day first aid course which was a “major factor”, the MCIB report said.

The report concluded that the operation should have been done on the quay wall, i.e., the door should have been landed onto the quay and the chain-link removed there.

It said that time sheets were inspected for the vessel, and inconsistencies were noted, but the MCIB “can make no finding about compliance or non-compliance with the regulations as that is within the jurisdiction of the Marine Survey Office.

“ Irrespective of whether there was or was not compliance with the regulations, it cannot be discounted that fatigue may have been a contributory human factor, it said.

“It is likely that another human factor was that of time pressure to effect the repairs during a limited time in port before the next fishing trip,”it said

The report made eight recommendations, including recommending that the Minister for Transport should issue a marine notice reminding fishing vessel owners and operators of the great importance of safety and risk assessments, and that these assessments and methodology are communicated fully and should involve interpreters if required.

Recommendations also included calling on the Minister for Transport to review existing health and safety training of fishers in light of this report.

It said the Minister for Transport should ensure that the Marine Survey Office has the capacity for the audit of working time to ensure compliance with relevant regulations, and to ensure adherence to the requirements in S.I. No. 591/2021 EU (Minimum Safety and Health Requirements for Improved Medical Treatment on Board Vessels) Regulations 2021.

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The “Spatial Squeeze” is a term you can expect to hear quite a lot about in the immediate future.

It’s all to do with the increasing competition for space in the offshore sector. Wind energy developers require space for wind-generating turbines, and those who already use that space find themselves pushed out.

Irish fishing organisations are expressing concern about developers choosing sites for windfarms “in the best fishing areas".

The Irish Sea could become an area of difficulty.

“Mutual respect must be given. For large wind farm developers, most of the first phase of applications for wind farms is in the rich Irish Sea fishing and spawning grounds,” according to the major fish producer organisations who said in a recent statement that: “Unfortunately, international experience indicates that the co-location of Offshore Wind with trawl fisheries is not possible. At present, we are experiencing a gold rush approach, as developers compete for space. We must defend our communities. The correct pathway must involve the recognition of traditional pre-existing fishing rights.”

The Norwegian marine insurance representative organisation. Det Norske Veritas (DNV), founded in Oslo in 1864, has issued a study of increasing demand for ocean space – ‘Ocean’s Future to 2050.’ This identifies growth in offshore wind power as a key driving force leading to a nine-fold increase in demand for ocean space by the middle of the century. By then, it predicts, “offshore wind will require ocean space equivalent to the landmass of Italy.

“The growth will be particularly pronounced in regions with long coastlines and presently have low penetration of offshore wind. Demand for ocean space is set to grow fifty-fold in the Indian Subcontinent and thirty-fold in North America and the Middle East. In all other regions, the demand for marine space should grow between five-and eight-fold.”

The Seafood Offshore Renewable Energy Group was set up by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, “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.”

While there is general agreement, it seems – and public support about the future importance of wind energy all may not be going smoothly in getting agreement between the various interests.

Lack of enough information has been identified as a particular problem. The Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation is on the group, and its representative is Enda Conneely, who is my Podcast guest:

Podcast below

Published in Tom MacSweeney

Fishing and seafood organisations said last night that they were “hopeful”’ that a national fuel aid scheme is about to be sanctioned by Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue.

In a joint statement, the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO) and Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) said they believed the minister now recognised that escalating fuel costs are causing serious difficulties for the industry.

EU funding is already in place to support such a scheme, but to date, Ireland had failed to implement one, they pointed out.

IFPO chief executive Aodh O Donnell said ‘’the survival of the entire fishing sector is at stake”.

IFPO chief executive Aodh O DonnellIFPO chief executive Aodh O Donnell

“Following a meeting with the Minister this evening (October 20th), we believe he appreciates the urgency of the situation and will act soon,” he said.

“We thank him for the meeting, have collectively made our case and would welcome an early decision,” he said.

“The European Union has allocated unused funds in the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) to cover the additional fuel costs. Other member states responded to this some months ago and received the EU funds,” he said.

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

“The aid measures helped them reduce fuel costs by up to 30 %. But Ireland lagged behind on this aid, which created an uneven competitive landscape, as we still face higher fuel costs,”he said.

IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy said that some Irish vessels fishing off the southwest coast now land elsewhere.

“They have had compelling economic reasons to land their Irish caught fish at French ports to avail of cheaper fuel,” Murphy said.

“The French draw down and distribute approved EU funding,” he said.

“We have urged the minister for action for the last six months. We must implement a similar scheme in Ireland if we are to survive,” Murphy said.

O'Donnell said that forcing the Irish fleet to land catches elsewhere has put them in a “lose-lose situation” as the marine economy “loses the supply of valuable raw material, and this creates losses in onshore coastal employment”.

“The economic spin-off is benefitting our competitors in France, a market traditionally supplied by fish caught by Irish vessels. Fish caught in Ireland a processed on our shores has a valuable premium in these markets,” he said.

“Losing quotas under Brexit already posed a challenge. Forcing our vessels to land these valuable quotas in France because of cheaper fuel is a body blow to the marine economy and with a further hollowing out of supply for processing,” O’Donnell said.

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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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