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Commercial Fishing News from Ireland
Howth Harbour in County Dublin is one of five additional Irish ports where fishing vessels on the British register can land from February 1st
Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue has come to the rescue of Donegal islanders with fishing boats registered in Northern Ireland who were blocked from landing into their nearest port by the Brexit deal. Northern Irish vessels and boats owned by…
Back to the Source: Saving Europe's Biodiversity Starts in the Ocean
A coalition of environmental groups says there are “key marine policy gaps” in the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy 2030. “Tangible and binding” actions must be taken to ensure the proposed biodiversity strategy ensures “the long-term health” of oceans, the group of…
New Panel of Surveyors to Ensure Compliance with Code or Practice for Small Fishing Vessels
The Department of Transport has re-established a panel of surveyors to conduct surveys of small fishing vessels of less than 15m for compliance with the relevant Code of Practice, which was recently under review. The panel was established three weeks…
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson posing with a crab caught in Orkney last year
A crisis in Scotland’s fishing industry since the end of the Brexit transition period has only worsened as a leading logistics provider has called a halt to deliveries of fresh seafood to the EU amid a raft of delays. As…
File image of a fishing boat in Howth Harbour on the Irish Sea
Ireland’s fishing fleet stands to lose more than a quarter of the quota of its largest fishery in transfers to the UK under the recent Brexit trade deal. And the quota share for herring caught in the Irish Sea will…
Seven men died when their dredger, the Solway Harvester, was caught in a storm off the Scottish coast on January 11th, 2000.
Fishing communities on both sides of the Irish Sea have marked the 20th anniversary of the sinking of a scallop dredger with the loss of seven lives off the Isle of Man. The Celtic League non-governmental organisation has also marked…
Paddy Mulvany's Kristel Patrick which fishes for 40 per cent of the year in the Celtic Sea, primarily for prawns
Marine minister Charlie McConalogue’s department has been criticised for its “chaotic” handling of a permit system for Irish fishing vessels to British waters after Brexit.  Only a fraction of the entire Irish fleet has been given permits to continued access…
Increased Risk of Scottish Enforcement for Irish Fishing Vessels at Rockall
There remains an increased risk of enforcement action being taken by Scottish fisheries control authorities against Irish fishing vessels operating in the waters around Rockall at present according to a  joint statement by the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Agriculture,…
Greencastle on County Donegal's Inishowen peninsula
The BBC has reported that fishermen in the north-west are saying that Post-Brexit restrictions on where Northern Ireland boats can land their catch in the Republic of Ireland have "created a hard border on the island", A new Irish government…
Howth RNLI Rescue Fishing Trawler & Crew After Running Aground
Howth RNLI launched the all-weather lifeboat to rescue a fishing trawler, six people, onboard after it ran aground on rocks in Balscadden Bay, at Howth in County Dublin. The RNLI pagers sounded at 4.12 pm on Thursday 7th January to…
Up to 30 per cent of whitefish, including haddock, caught by Killybegs and Greencastle vessels is taken around Rockall.
Sinn Féin has criticised the Government’s handling of a seven-year-old agreement with Britain on Rockall after an Irish fishing vessel was inspected by a Scottish patrol earlier this week. Sinn Féin fisheries and marine spokesman Pádraig MacLochlainn was reacting to…
A screenshot from BIM's Brexit Hub page
Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s seafood development agency is today urging every seafood business who trades with or through Great Britain, no matter how small his or her operations, to continue to familiarise themselves with the impacts any new rules…
File image of Rockall in the North Atlantic
The Department of Foreign Affairs has confirmed it is in contact with UK officials after a Donegal trawler was prevented from fishing around Rockall. RTÉ News reports on the incident yesterday (Monday 4 January) in which the Greencastle-based Northern Celt…
Kilmore Quay skipper Will Bates
As details emerge on the full negative impact of Brexit on the Irish fishing industry, two Wexford skippers have called for the appointment of a dedicated minister for marine.  Scallop skippers Will Bates and Seamus Molloy who fish from Kilmore…
Howth RNLI launched the all-weather lifeboat off the Baily lighthouse on Dublin Bay
Howth RNLI launched the all-weather lifeboat to rescue a fishing trawler with steering problems just off Skerries in North Dublin. The RNLI pagers sounded at 3.02 am on Wednesday 30th December to reports of a fishing vessel in difficulty south-east…
EU Has Created "New Fisheries Policy" with Brexit, Irish Fishing Leader Says
A “Brexit concession” by the EU to Britain on fish stocks should be extended to all coastal states including Ireland, according to a leading Irish industry organisation. The Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) says that the EU…

Ireland's Commercial Fishing 

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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