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Commercial Fishing News from Ireland
Blackhead Lighthouse in Carrickfergus
A Northern Ireland fisherman who landed a blue lobster last week says it was a “one in two million” shot, as Belfast Live reports. Stuart Brown made the marine wildlife discovery of his lifetime on Friday (3 February) while hauling…
Malin Head Coast Guard and Arranmore Lifeboat (above) responded to the incident off the Donegal coast
A post-mortem investigation will be performed on the body of a fisherman who drowned on Saturday evening (February 4th) off the coast of Donegal. The man, who was in his late 30s, fell overboard from a boat off the northwest coast…
The new Ros an Mhíl development will be accessible to large vessels such as Naval Service vessels, Marine Institute research vessels, marine survey vessels and marine leisure craft
Deep-water quay works have begun this week at Ros an Mhíl Fishery Harbour Centre in Co Galway, just weeks after the contractor was announced for the €30 million project. As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the new Ros an Mhíl development…
File image of the RV Celtic Explorer, one of the Marine Institute’s two active research vessels
The first and second legs of this year’s Irish Anglerfish and Megrim Survey (IAMS 2022) will be carried out from Saturday 11 February to Tuesday 7 March. Surveys will be conducted to the West, Southwest and South Coasts of Ireland…
Caroline Bocquel is the new Chief Executive Officer of Bord Iascaigh Mhara
Caroline Bocquel has been named CEO of Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland's Seafood Development Agency. Marine Minister McConalogue welcomed the selection of the new CEO and said, "I am delighted to announce that Caroline Bocquel has been named as BIM's…
Castletownbere Fishery Harbour Centre, where €5.1m will be invested in 2023 including the Dinish Wharf Works
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, today announced the allocation of €37.3m for capital projects in 2023 in Ireland’s six state-owned Fishery Harbour Centres at Killybegs, Ros an Mhíl, An Daingean, Castletownbere, Dunmore East and Howth…
The 26m Pesorsa Dos was detained last Saturday (January 21) by the LE George Bernard Shaw, but it took several days to haul its gear before it could be escorted into Castletownbere, Co Cork yesterday (Thurs Jan 26)
A German-registered Spanish vessel which was involved in a confrontation off the Scottish coast over two years ago has been detained by the Naval Service off the southwest coast. The 26m Pesorsa Dos was detained last Saturday (January 21) by…
“The smaller inshore vessels that work from the hundreds of piers dotted along the rugged Irish coastline are the beating heart of rural coastal communities,” say the National Inshore Fishermen's Association
The National Inshore Fishermen’s Association (NIFA) has warmly welcomed its recognition as an EU seafood producer organisation (PO). The sanction by Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue was hailed by NIFA chair Michael Desmond. Desmond said it came after a “long battle”…
Herring from the Irish Sea
Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue is launching a consultation process on a review of the 2012 Herring Management Policy. It will focus on the quantity of herring set aside from the southern North-West herring stock (Herring 6A South) for smaller/inshore fishing…

The inshore fishing sector is a vital part of Ireland's coastal economies and communities
The Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D., today announced the recognition of the National Inshore Fishermen’s Association (NIFA) as an EU Producer Organisation. Announcing the recognition of the NIFA as a Producer Organisation, Minister McConalogue said,…
Mowi is the world's largest supplier of farm-raised salmon
Norwegian aquaculture multinational Mowi has identified “challenging biology” as the reason for lower farmed fish harvests in Ireland last year. As The Sunday Independent reports, the company attributes higher than normal sea temperatures, along with naturally occurring harmful phytoplankton and…
The North Western Waters Advisory Council mission is to provide strategic advice from the stakeholders (fishing industry and civil society) to the European Commission and the Member States on sustainable fisheries management
The North Western Waters Advisory Council (NWWAC) is seeking “well-informed” and “sustainably minded” organisations to join its members. In “an unpredictable political landscape and with the effects of climate change underway, the range and complexity of marine and fisheries management…
The Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) is seeking a meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar over Fishing Fleet Decommissioning Terms following its Limerick forum this week
Fishing industry representatives are seeking a meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar amid widespread dismay over the details of offers made under the Government’s fleet decommissioning scheme. The meeting is being sought by the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation…
EU Fisheries Control Agency officials recently met Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) counterparts to discuss “best practices” in fisheries conservation and control measures. An EFCA delegation visited Killybegs, Co Donegal and Castletownbere, Co Cork, along with SFPA headquarters in Clonakilty,…
The vessels will fly the Portuguese flag and will be deployed primarily for fisheries patrols but will have coast guard functions
The European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) has chartered three new patrol vessels and an aircraft for monitoring and control in European waters. All three vessels will fly the Portuguese flag, and will be deployed primarily for fisheries patrols but will…
Aerial view of Tory Island off the Donegal mainland
Two fishermen were rescued on Monday morning (16 January) after their vessel sank off Tory Island in Co Donegal. A multi-agency rescue operation was launched after a Mayday signal from the 36-foot crabbing boat shortly before 6am on Monday. However,…

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