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Commercial Fishing News from Ireland
There are fears there will be overfishing of sprat will again occur this winter. Sprat are the target fish for the seasonal pair trawling fishery in Irish waters
Birdwatch Ireland says it is “deeply concerned” at a refusal by the Court of Appeal to continue the Government’s interim ban on large vessels fishing inside the six nautical mile zone. The stay was applied for by Minister for Marine…
The study will focus on current issues facing the Irish fishing industry including recruiting and retaining crew
Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency is inviting Ireland’s fishing industry to take part in a survey of the labour force as part of a study on current issues facing the industry including recruiting and retaining crew. The…
Marine Ireland Industry Network logo
An upcoming webinar hosted by the Marine Ireland Industry Network aims to highlight ‘Ireland’s Blue Edge in Innovation’. The showcase of Irish marine clusters and technology companies will be hosted on the GoToWebinar platform on Thursday 30 September from 11am…
File image of Dingle Harbour
Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue has continued his series of visits to some of Ireland’s main fishing ports, spending yesterday and today (Thursday 16 and Friday 17 September) in Co Kerry. The minister met with fishers, fishing organisations and other stakeholders…

Chief Executive of the Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation, Sean O'Donoghue
The Minister for the Marine will definitely "seek to address the imbalance in the quota transfers under the Trade & Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and United Kingdom." So says Fianna Fail's MEP, Billy Kelleher, in a statement from…
File image showing an example of mussel seed
Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue has signed a new Statutory Instrument that permits fishing for mussel seed within the State’s exclusive fishery limits. SI No 461 of 2021 — Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction (Mussel Seed) (Opening of Fisheries) Regulations 2021 —…
Successful conservation policies for marine mammals, such as seals pictured above, has increased the potential for conflict with small scale fishing communities
New research led by the University of Oxford says that successful conservation policies for marine mammals have increased the potential for conflict with small scale fishing communities. The study published in the journal Conservation Letters says that management has to…
File image of the Dawros River in Letterfrack
The State agency responsible for the protection of freshwater fish and habitats is investigating an incidence of farmed salmon recovered from the Connemara Fishery. Officers from Inland Fisheries Ireland’s (IFI) Western River Basin District in Galway were alerted by anglers…
Built in 2021, Windroos from Zeebrugge is 38 metres long and 9 metres wide. She is sailing under the flag of Belgium.
Just christened by the Flemish Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries last month the new state-of-the-art beam trawler, Z.98 Windroos, from Zeebrugge is the first of the new generation of Belgian beam trawlers to arrive in Ireland. Fishing for sole, plaice,…
The scheme will help mitigate the impacts of quota cuts on the fishing fleet
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has announced the launch of a Brexit Temporary Fishing Fleet Tie-up Scheme. The scheme will help mitigate the impacts of quota cuts on the fishing fleet arising from the Trade and…
The aim of the EU scheme is to save part of the Irish reduced fishing quota for other vessels, while the beneficiaries temporarily suspend their activities
The EU has approved a 10 million euro scheme to support the Irish fishery sector affected by Brexit and the consequent reduction in quota shares. The 10 million euro funding under State aid rules is separate to the 5 billion…
”File
The Department of Transport has issued a new Marine Notice on the correct use of lifejackets or personal flotation devices (PFDs) on fishing vessels. It follows the report earlier this month from the Maritime Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) into the…
The detention by the LÉ William Butler Yeats (above) was in relation to
A Spanish registered fishing vessel has been detained by the Naval Service within Irish waters.  The detention by the LÉ William Butler Yeats was in relation to "alleged breaches of fishing regulations", the Defence Forces press office said. It did…
The Belgian registered trawler had tied up in Cobh
In Cork Harbour, the master and crew of a Belgian-registered trawler are self-isolating on board the fishing vessel in Cobh (last night, 24 Aug) pending the outcome of Covid-19 testing. As RTE News reports, the crew of the 'Vaya Con…
The beam trawler Mary Kate was bought in the Netherlands in 2007, with the Gaffneys borrowing €620,000 for the purchase
Irish MEP Sean Kelly has called on the government to “rethink” its refusal to assist an Arklow fishing family after it lost substantial funds over a vessel bought abroad which proved to be dangerously unstable. As the Times Ireland reports,…
BIM’s higher diploma in business in fisheries and aquaculture
Applications are being sought for a business diploma with a “salty air taste” run by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) and the Institute of Technology (IT) Carlow. The closing date is September 3rd for prospective participants in BIM’s higher diploma in…

Irish Fishing industry 

The Irish Commercial Fishing Industry employs around 11,000 people in fishing, processing and ancillary services such as sales and marketing. The industry is worth about €1.22 billion annually to the Irish economy. Irish fisheries products are exported all over the world as far as Africa, Japan and China.

FAQs

Over 16,000 people are employed directly or indirectly around the coast, working on over 2,000 registered fishing vessels, in over 160 seafood processing businesses and in 278 aquaculture production units, according to the State's sea fisheries development body Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

All activities that are concerned with growing, catching, processing or transporting fish are part of the commercial fishing industry, the development of which is overseen by BIM. Recreational fishing, as in angling at sea or inland, is the responsibility of Inland Fisheries Ireland.

The Irish fishing industry is valued at 1.22 billion euro in gross domestic product (GDP), according to 2019 figures issued by BIM. Only 179 of Ireland's 2,000 vessels are over 18 metres in length. Where does Irish commercially caught fish come from? Irish fish and shellfish is caught or cultivated within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but Irish fishing grounds are part of the common EU "blue" pond. Commercial fishing is regulated under the terms of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983 and with ten-yearly reviews.

The total value of seafood landed into Irish ports was 424 million euro in 2019, according to BIM. High value landings identified in 2019 were haddock, hake, monkfish and megrim. Irish vessels also land into foreign ports, while non-Irish vessels land into Irish ports, principally Castletownbere, Co Cork, and Killybegs, Co Donegal.

There are a number of different methods for catching fish, with technological advances meaning skippers have detailed real time information at their disposal. Fisheries are classified as inshore, midwater, pelagic or deep water. Inshore targets species close to shore and in depths of up to 200 metres, and may include trawling and gillnetting and long-lining. Trawling is regarded as "active", while "passive" or less environmentally harmful fishing methods include use of gill nets, long lines, traps and pots. Pelagic fisheries focus on species which swim close to the surface and up to depths of 200 metres, including migratory mackerel, and tuna, and methods for catching include pair trawling, purse seining, trolling and longlining. Midwater fisheries target species at depths of around 200 metres, using trawling, longlining and jigging. Deepwater fisheries mainly use trawling for species which are found at depths of over 600 metres.

There are several segments for different catching methods in the registered Irish fleet – the largest segment being polyvalent or multi-purpose vessels using several types of gear which may be active and passive. The polyvalent segment ranges from small inshore vessels engaged in netting and potting to medium and larger vessels targeting whitefish, pelagic (herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting) species and bivalve molluscs. The refrigerated seawater (RSW) pelagic segment is engaged mainly in fishing for herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting only. The beam trawling segment focuses on flatfish such as sole and plaice. The aquaculture segment is exclusively for managing, developing and servicing fish farming areas and can collect spat from wild mussel stocks.

The top 20 species landed by value in 2019 were mackerel (78 million euro); Dublin Bay prawn (59 million euro); horse mackerel (17 million euro); monkfish (17 million euro); brown crab (16 million euro); hake (11 million euro); blue whiting (10 million euro); megrim (10 million euro); haddock (9 million euro); tuna (7 million euro); scallop (6 million euro); whelk (5 million euro); whiting (4 million euro); sprat (3 million euro); herring (3 million euro); lobster (2 million euro); turbot (2 million euro); cod (2 million euro); boarfish (2 million euro).

Ireland has approximately 220 million acres of marine territory, rich in marine biodiversity. A marine biodiversity scheme under Ireland's operational programme, which is co-funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and the Government, aims to reduce the impact of fisheries and aquaculture on the marine environment, including avoidance and reduction of unwanted catch.

EU fisheries ministers hold an annual pre-Christmas council in Brussels to decide on total allowable catches and quotas for the following year. This is based on advice from scientific bodies such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. In Ireland's case, the State's Marine Institute publishes an annual "stock book" which provides the most up to date stock status and scientific advice on over 60 fish stocks exploited by the Irish fleet. Total allowable catches are supplemented by various technical measures to control effort, such as the size of net mesh for various species.

The west Cork harbour of Castletownbere is Ireland's biggest whitefish port. Killybegs, Co Donegal is the most important port for pelagic (herring, mackerel, blue whiting) landings. Fish are also landed into Dingle, Co Kerry, Rossaveal, Co Galway, Howth, Co Dublin and Dunmore East, Co Waterford, Union Hall, Co Cork, Greencastle, Co Donegal, and Clogherhead, Co Louth. The busiest Northern Irish ports are Portavogie, Ardglass and Kilkeel, Co Down.

Yes, EU quotas are allocated to other fleets within the Irish EEZ, and Ireland has long been a transhipment point for fish caught by the Spanish whitefish fleet in particular. Dingle, Co Kerry has seen an increase in foreign landings, as has Castletownbere. The west Cork port recorded foreign landings of 36 million euro or 48 per cent in 2019, and has long been nicknamed the "peseta" port, due to the presence of Spanish-owned transhipment plant, Eiranova, on Dinish island.

Most fish and shellfish caught or cultivated in Irish waters is for the export market, and this was hit hard from the early stages of this year's Covid-19 pandemic. The EU, Asia and Britain are the main export markets, while the middle Eastern market is also developing and the African market has seen a fall in value and volume, according to figures for 2019 issued by BIM.

Fish was once a penitential food, eaten for religious reasons every Friday. BIM has worked hard over several decades to develop its appeal. Ireland is not like Spain – our land is too good to transform us into a nation of fish eaters, but the obvious health benefits are seeing a growth in demand. Seafood retail sales rose by one per cent in 2019 to 300 million euro. Salmon and cod remain the most popular species, while BIM reports an increase in sales of haddock, trout and the pangasius or freshwater catfish which is cultivated primarily in Vietnam and Cambodia and imported by supermarkets here.

The EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983, pooled marine resources – with Ireland having some of the richest grounds and one of the largest sea areas at the time, but only receiving four per cent of allocated catch by a quota system. A system known as the "Hague Preferences" did recognise the need to safeguard the particular needs of regions where local populations are especially dependent on fisheries and related activities. The State's Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, based in Clonakilty, Co Cork, works with the Naval Service on administering the EU CFP. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine and Department of Transport regulate licensing and training requirements, while the Marine Survey Office is responsible for the implementation of all national and international legislation in relation to safety of shipping and the prevention of pollution.

Yes, a range of certificates of competency are required for skippers and crew. Training is the remit of BIM, which runs two national fisheries colleges at Greencastle, Co Donegal and Castletownbere, Co Cork. There have been calls for the colleges to be incorporated into the third-level structure of education, with qualifications recognised as such.

Safety is always an issue, in spite of technological improvements, as fishing is a hazardous occupation and climate change is having its impact on the severity of storms at sea. Fishing skippers and crews are required to hold a number of certificates of competency, including safety and navigation, and wearing of personal flotation devices is a legal requirement. Accidents come under the remit of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, and the Health and Safety Authority. The MCIB does not find fault or blame, but will make recommendations to the Minister for Transport to avoid a recurrence of incidents.

Fish are part of a marine ecosystem and an integral part of the marine food web. Changing climate is having a negative impact on the health of the oceans, and there have been more frequent reports of warmer water species being caught further and further north in Irish waters.

Brexit, Covid 19, EU policies and safety – Britain is a key market for Irish seafood, and 38 per cent of the Irish catch is taken from the waters around its coast. Ireland's top two species – mackerel and prawns - are 60 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, dependent on British waters. Also, there are serious fears within the Irish industry about the impact of EU vessels, should they be expelled from British waters, opting to focus even more efforts on Ireland's rich marine resource. Covid-19 has forced closure of international seafood markets, with high value fish sold to restaurants taking a large hit. A temporary tie-up support scheme for whitefish vessels introduced for the summer of 2020 was condemned by industry organisations as "designed to fail".

Sources: Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Marine Institute, Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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