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A guide to assist fishing skippers to meet landing obligation requirements has been published by the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).

A waterproof copy of the guide has been posted to all vessel owners with an electronic logbook onboard. One guide will be delivered for each 12 metre and over vessel.

The guide was compiled with input from the SFPA consultative committee.

Discarding is a term specifically used for catches of species which are not kept but returned to the sea.

The “landing obligation” is the term used by the EU to put an end to the wasteful practice.

Under the landing obligation requirements, all catch subject to Total Allowable Catch (TAC) limits must be retained, recorded, and landed, unless an exemption applies.

The SFPA’s guide offers detailed instructions on how discards can be recorded using ieCatch V3, the latest version of the Irish electronic logbook software.

Illustrated with step-by-step procedures, screenshots, and examples, it guides users through the process of logging a discard.

Welcoming the publication of the guide, SFPA executive chair Paschal Hayes said he was “encouraged that representatives from the Sea-Fisheries Protection Consultative Committee have partnered with the SFPA in the production and promotion of our Landing Obligation Exemptions Guide”.

“It is imperative for fishing vessel masters and owners to familiarise themselves with this guide to ensure accurate recording of discards and compliance with conditions for discarding under de minimis and high survivability,”Hayes said.

“Accurate reporting of discards plays a role in the sustainable management of our marine resources. The SFPA continues to ensure the implementation of the Landing Obligation through inspection, control activities and consultation with fishers, other control agencies and various stakeholders,”he said.

Sea-Fisheries Protection Consultative Committee chair Catherine McManus said the guide is “a practical example of the Consultative Committee, working with the SFPA”.

“ Promoting compliance with the Landing Obligation is important to ensure fishers are fully informed of their obligations and that the future sustainability of the sector is safeguarded. I want to thank my colleagues in the Consultative Committee who worked with the SFPA to progress this initiative,” McManus said.

The guide is accessible here

Published in SFPA
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The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and Marine Institute will host a workshop for industry this week on the requirements relating to sanitary surveys for shellfish harvesting areas and Ireland’s implementation of the relevant legislation.

The workshop will be held in person at FSAI’s head office in Dublin as well as online from 10am to 2pm this Thursday 8 February, and will include speakers from the SFPA, FSAI, Marine Institute, IFA-Aquaculture, CEFAS (UK) and AquaFact.

Keynote speaker will be Michelle Price-Howard from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries, Aquaculture and Science (CEFAS). Price-Howard works with CEFAS as principal scientist for seafood safety and is an environmental microbiologist with 20 years of experience in environmental assessment, water quality and food safety microbiology.

Price-Howard’s work has included environmental risk assessments for sanitary surveys of both aquaculture and wild-harvest shellfisheries for Food Standards Scotland. She has also been involved in providing training at EU and national level on the planning and conducting of sanitary surveys.

In addition, the SFPA will provide presentations on data management and shellfish classification as well as an update on the sanitary survey programme in Ireland.

There will also be an extended session to allow for a discussion on any topic relevant to sanitary surveys that participants may wish to raise. To help better plan the event, participants are asked to send questions or topics in advance if possible to Una Walton at [email protected].

In-person registration is now closed but the workshop can be accessed remotely via Microsoft Teams (Meeting ID: 340 075 071 736; Passcode: g33dRq) or by calling in (audio only) to +353 1 592 3998 with phone conference ID 397 409 122#.

Published in Aquaculture

The Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO) has moved to clarify its concerns about both the operation and oversight of the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).

IFPO chief executive Aodh O Donnell says his organisation’s primary interest is to ensure that Ireland has fit-for-purpose controls which are fair to everyone.

“Our current focus is on two main areas: inspections and accountability,” O Donnell says. “We are concerned that the information offered by the SFPA — in their annual report or on their website — does not offer sufficient transparency regarding the level of physical inspections, in particular.

These statistics provided by the SFPA appear to be based only on catches landed in Irish ports. They don’t appear to reflect the number or level of catches from Irish waters which are landed elsewhere.

“For example, the SFPA figures for 2022 show just 50 landings of catches from Norway vessels to Irish ports. Given the high level of Norwegian fishing opportunities in Irish waters, it’s likely that there are exponentially more Norwegian catches from Irish waters landed into other countries. This is the basis for our concern that the limited information from SFPA statistics may not reflect the full number of Norwegian or other foreign vessel catches in Irish waters.”

O Donnell adds that the IFPO also has ongoing concerns about the level of physical inspections carried out on Irish fishing vessels compared to foreign vessels.

“Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the SFPA to offer greater transparency on how controls and inspections are applied to all of those fishing in Irish waters. Otherwise, the Irish fishing industry has to question whether there is a level playing field in Irish fisheries controls,” he says.

O Donnell adds that in the interests of sustainability, there needs to be a more productive relationship between the SFPA and the fishing industry.

“But this is a challenge while there are so many unresolved issues, such as inspections, by-catches and concerns over the recording procedures in weighing system regulations,” he says. “The bottom line is that there needs to be greater independent oversight of the SFPA at Government level in Ireland and at present there is none.”

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the SFPA has launched a public consultation on its Statement of Strategy for 2024–2026 which will be open for submissions until Tursday 21 December.

Published in SFPA
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The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) sets out its strategic programme every three years and is currently preparing its Statement of Strategy for 2024–2026.

This will focus on what the SFPA wants to achieve during this period to ensure effective regulation of the shared marine resources surrounding Ireland.

As part of the process of developing the strategy (the current version can be viewed HERE), the SFPA says it welcomes the contribution of members of the public and stakeholders, especially those who fall within the its regulatory remit.

Views are sought specifically in relation to the following questions:

  • What matters should be considered in developing the SFPA mission, vision, and value statements?
  • What metrics should the SFPA use to measure performance and monitor achievement of strategic goals?

The SFPA says it will be grateful to receive your response together with any more general views you may have on its strategic direction and how it can best deliver on its remit.

Responses should be submitted by email to [email protected] by Thursday 21 December.

Published in SFPA
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Sea Fisheries Protection Agency (SFPA) officers recorded an 18% increase in fishing vessel inspection activity last year, the State regulator reports.

A total of 1,903 fishing vessel inspections were conducted in 2022, which marked an 18% increase in inspection activity from 2021, it says in its annual report.

“Throughout 2022, a total of 87 case files were opened as a result of 161 suspected sea-fisheries infringements. The figure of 161 represents the total of both food safety and sea-fisheries infringements,” it says.

“Points for serious infringements were applied in six out of seven cases put forward and one case had points applied to the master of a fishing vessel for the first time under new legislation,”it says, adding that “increased inspection and enforcement provide an effective tool to protect against illegal fishing activity”.

"A total of 1,903 fishing vessel inspections were conducted in 2022"

Officers also conducted 1,958 food safety official controls across 2,323 food premises under the authority’s remit.

The SFPA says it responded to 74 food incidents where there were “concerns regarding the safety or quality of food which required examination in the interests of public health”.

“ Seafood safety enforcement measures in 2022 ranged from informal advisory measures to the service of compliance notices, as well as to the commencement of criminal prosecutions for serious non-compliances,” it says.

“In 2022, two separate criminal prosecutions were commenced against food business operators for breaches of the regulations on food safety including on hygiene, temperature controls, pest control and traceability requirements,”it says.

The SFPA says 16 compliance notices were issued in 2022.

“2022 was a year of significant change within the SFPA with the appointment of a new authority and new senior management members across the organisation,”SFPA executive chair Paschal Hayes said.

“With renewed leadership and the substantial implementation of the 2020 Organisational Capability Review, the SFPA demonstrated its capacity as an effective, fair regulator and promoter of compliance with sea-fisheries and seafood safety law throughout the year,” he said.

Published in SFPA

Almost 46,000 fishing vessel landings were recorded at Irish harbours last year by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).

The total of 45,943 landings amounted to 267,200 tonnes, valued at €448,692,973, it says.

It says that 2,080 non-Irish vessels landed into Irish ports in 2022.

The data is derived from landing declarations and sales notes for all vessels landing into Ireland, plus Irish vessels landing outside Ireland provided to the SFPA by the sector, it says.

“Collecting and reporting data in relation to sea fisheries, as required under community law, is an important part of the SFPA’s mandate,” SFPA executive chair Paschal Hayes has said.

“ The SFPA uses the available data to help us monitor trends in fishing vessel landings, locations and species being caught. This information is also beneficial to key stakeholders as well as supporting our service delivery and workforce management,”he said.

Annual and quarterly statistics, including landings and inspections, are published on the SFPA website.

The statistics pages on the SFPA website provides fishers and members of the public with a “one stop shop” to access a range of useful data on fishing activity, including Quota Uptake which is available on a weekly basis, the SFPA says.

Published in SFPA

Seafood exporters to Britain have been warned of a delay in implementing export health certification.

The British government has confirmed that implementation of export health certification for goods, including fish and fishery products, from the EU to Britain will be delayed until January 31st, 2024.

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) says this means that “all of the proposed sanitary and phytosanitary controls changes for fish and fishery products consignments from Ireland to Britain, including export health certification and pre-notification requirements” will not go ahead on the scheduled date of October 31st, 2023.

“They are now scheduled to be implemented from January 31st, 2024 instead”, the SFPA says.

It says the British government has also published an updated version of their “Border Target Operating Model” which contains their plans for a new approach to importing goods that will “be progressively introduced from the end of January 2024”.

“The SFPA will continue to communicate further updates as and when required in this ever-evolving third country regulatory environment,”it says.

It says queries may be emailed to [email protected]

Published in SFPA
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Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) officers confiscated 48 live undersize crawfish off the southwest coast late last month.

The SFPA says that the crawfish were “returned safely to sea” after the discovery during a routine patrol.

It says that a file is currently being prepared for consideration by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Crawfish, also known as European spiny lobster or crayfish, are one of Ireland’s “most at risk” species and are listed as vulnerable and decreasing by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

They are also the highest-value crustacean species caught in Irish waters, achieving prices of €30 - €40 per kilo on landing, the SFPA says.

Crawfish are primarily caught in inshore waters around the south and southwest coast and are an important source of revenue for the inshore fleet during the summer months.

Protection of these valuable stocks depends on a range of legal measures enforced by the SFPA, just one of which is the “minimum conservation reference size”, it says, which stipulates a carapace size of 110mm.

It is prohibited for the master or person in charge of an Irish sea-fishing boat to cause or permit the boat or any person to have onboard, land, or tranship crawfish that fall below this minimum size.

Displaying or selling below the minimum size is also illegal.

Illegally removing immature animals from an already vulnerable stock is likely to result in further stock depletion, the SFPA says.

“Trade in undersized fish not only damages the stocks, but it also impacts the communities who depend on them,” the SFPA said.

“ Illegal fishing is unfair to the majority of inshore fishermen who fish sustainably and within regulations. The inshore patrols undertaken by the SFPA are a vital tool in our work to protect stocks,” it said.

“We encourage buyers at all stages of the food chain, restaurateurs, processors and consumers to be aware of the minimum size and please let us know if you are offered undersized fish for sale,” it said.

The SFPA confidential telephone line is on 1800 76 76 76, or it can be emailed at [email protected].

Published in SFPA

Information on European logbook requirements for commercial fishing vessels has been published by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).

A new fisheries information notice summarises key requirements for vessel masters and owners for vessels of ten metres overall length or more under two regulations - Council Regulation (EC) 1224/2009 and the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 404/2011.

This includes the mandatory information to be reported in the logbook and the requirements for the completion and submission of fishing logbooks, the SFPA says.

Logbooks must be updated every day, no later than midnight, immediately after the last fishing operation has been completed, before entering port, and at the time of any inspection at sea, it says.

Fishing vessels that are 10 metres overall in length and above, up to 12 metres overall length, are required to complete a paper logbook, while vessels of 12 metres in length overall and above must keep an electronic logbook, the SFPA says.

During autumn 2022, training was provided by the SFPA to owners and masters using electronic logbooks on the new version of ieCatch.

This involved an eight-week series of engagements with fishers, rolling out enhancements to the electronic recording and reporting systems (ERS) required for fishing vessels, and the provision of training on the use of the new system.

Training events were held during September, October, and November 2022 at various locations across counties Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Limerick, Meath, Waterford, and Wexford.

In addition, the SFPA ran training for masters new to electronic logbooks in April 2023 at various locations across counties Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Mayo, and Wexford.

The SFPA says that further details on the fisheries information notice can be obtained by emailing: sfpafood&[email protected]

Published in SFPA

Ten enforcement actions were served on seafood businesses during the second quarter of this year, the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) says.

The enforcement actions were issued by sea fisheries protection officers as a result of risk-based official controls of approved food business establishments, it says.

“No closure orders were issued over this period,” it says.

The SFPA has responsibility for food safety law enforcement across a range of 2,323 food business operators nationally.

It also confirmed that convictions were recorded against a food business operator for offences under the European Union (Food and Feed Hygiene) Regulations 2020.

Ó Catháin Iasc Teo of Dingle Co Kerry was fined a total of €4,500 at the district court at An Daingean in April 2023.

The SFPA says the defendant company pleaded guilty to charges for breaches of food safety law, including "the placing of unsafe bluefin tuna product on the market, failure to comply with food hygiene requirements and failures to ensure temperature control of bluefin tuna products".

“The case arose following an unannounced inspection of the premises in March 2021, which also resulted in the prevention of the bluefin tuna product being placed for retail,” it says.

Published in SFPA
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Aquaculture Information

Aquaculture is the farming of animals in the water and has been practised for centuries, with the monks farming fish in the middle ages. More recently the technology has progressed and the aquaculture sector is now producing in the region of 50 thousand tonnes annually and provides a valuable food product as well as much needed employment in many rural areas of Ireland.

A typical fish farm involves keeping fish in pens in the water column, caring for them and supplying them with food so they grow to market size. Or for shellfish, containing them in a specialised unit and allowing them to feed on natural plants and materials in the water column until they reach harvestable size. While farming fish has a lower carbon and water footprint to those of land animals, and a very efficient food fed to weight gain ratio compared to beef, pork or chicken, farming does require protein food sources and produces organic waste which is released into the surrounding waters. Finding sustainable food sources, and reducing the environmental impacts are key challenges facing the sector as it continues to grow.

Salmon is the most popular fish bought by Irish families. In Ireland, most of our salmon is farmed, and along with mussels and oysters, are the main farmed species in the country.

Aquaculture in Ireland

  • Fish and shellfish are farmed in 14 Irish coastal counties.
  • Irish SMEs and families grow salmon, oysters, mussels and other seafood
  • The sector is worth €150m at the farm gate – 80% in export earnings.
  • The industry sustains 1,833 direct jobs in remote rural areas – 80% in the west of Ireland
  • Every full-time job in aquaculture creates 2.27 other jobs locally (Teagasc 2015)
  • Ireland’s marine farms occupy 0.0004% of Ireland’s 17,500Km2 inshore area.
  • 83% of people in coastal areas support the development of fish farming
  • Aquaculture is a strong, sustainable and popular strategic asset for development and job creation (Foodwise 2025, National Strategic Plan, Seafood
  • Operational Programme 2020, FAO, European Commission, European Investment Bank, Harvesting Our Ocean Wealth, Silicon Republic, CEDRA)
    Ireland has led the world in organically certified farmed fish for over 30 years
  • Fish farm workers include people who have spent over two decades in the business to school-leavers intent on becoming third-generation farmers on their family sites.

Irish Aquaculture FAQs

Aquaculture, also known as aquafarming, is the farming of aquatic organisms such as fish, crustaceans, molluscs and aquatic plants, and involves cultivating freshwater and saltwater populations under controlled conditions- in contrast to commercial fishing, which is the harvesting of wild fish. Mariculture refers to aquaculture practiced in marine environments and in underwater habitats. Particular kinds of aquaculture include fish farming, shrimp farming, oyster farming, mariculture, algaculture (such as seaweed farming), and the cultivation of ornamental fish. Particular methods include aquaponics and integrated multi-trophic aquaculture, both of which integrate fish farming and plant farming.

About 580 aquatic species are currently farmed all over the world, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which says it is "practised by both some of the poorest farmers in developing countries and by multinational companies".

Increasing global demand for protein through seafood is driving increasing demand for aquaculture, particularly given the pressures on certain commercially caught wild stocks of fish. The FAO says that "eating fish is part of the cultural tradition of many people and in terms of health benefits, it has an excellent nutritional profile, and "is a good source of protein, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and essential micronutrients".

Aquaculture now accounts for 50 per cent of the world's fish consumed for food, and is the fastest-growing good sector.

China provides over 60 per cent of the world's farmed fish. In Europe, Norway and Scotland are leading producers of finfish, principally farmed salmon.

For farmed salmon, the feed conversion ratio, which is the measurement of how much feed it takes to produce the protein, is 1.1, as in one pound of feed producing one pound of protein, compared to rates of between 2.2 and 10 for beef, pork and chicken. However, scientists have also pointed out that certain farmed fish and shrimp requiring higher levels of protein and calories in feed compared to chickens, pigs, and cattle.

Tilapia farming which originated in the Middle East and Africa has now become the most profitable business in most countries. Tilapia has become the second most popular seafood after crab, due to which its farming is flourishing. It has entered the list of best selling species like shrimp and salmon.

There are 278 aquaculture production units in Ireland, according to Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) *, producing 38,000 tonnes of finfish and shellfish in 2019 and with a total value of €172 million

There are currently almost 2,000 people directly employed in Irish aquaculture in the Republic, according to BIM.

BIM figures for 2019 recorded farmed salmon at almost 12,000 tonnes, valued at €110 million; rock oysters reached 10,300 tonnes at a value of €44 million; rope mussels at 10,600 tonnes were valued at €7 million; seabed cultured mussels at 4,600 tonnes were valued at €7 million; "other" finfish reached 600 tonnes, valued at €2 million and "other" shellfish reached 300 tonnes, valued at €2 million

Irish aquaculture products are exported to Europe, US and Asia, with salmon exported to France, Germany, Belgium and the US. Oysters are exported to France, with developing sales to markets in Hong Kong and China. France is Ireland's largest export for mussels, while there have been increased sales in the domestic and British markets.

The value of the Irish farmed finfish sector fell by five per cent in volume and seven per cent in value in 2019, mainly due to a fall on salmon production, but this was partially offset by a seven per cent increased in farmed shellfish to a value of 60 million euro. Delays in issuing State licenses have hampered further growth of the sector, according to industry representatives.

Fish and shellfish farmers must be licensed, and must comply with regulations and inspections conducted by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority and the Marine Institute. Food labelling is a function of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. There is a long backlog of license approvals in the finfish sector, while the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine says it is working to reduce the backlog in the shellfish sector.

The department says it is working through the backlog, but notes that an application for a marine finfish aquaculture licence must be accompanied by either an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR). As of October 2020, over two-thirds of applications on hand had an EIS outstanding, it said.

The EU requires member states to have marine spatial plans by 2021, and Ireland has assigned responsibility to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government for the National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF). Legislation has been drawn up to underpin this, and to provide a "one stop shop" for marine planning, ranging from fish farms to offshore energy – as in Marine Planning and Development Management Bill. However, the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine confirmed last year that it intends to retain responsibility for aquaculture and sea-fisheries related development – meaning fish and shellfish farmers won't be able to avail of the "one stop shop" for marine planning.

Fish and shellfish health is a challenge, with naturally occurring blooms, jellyfish and the risk of disease. There are also issues with a perception that the sector causes environmental problems.

The industry has been on a steep learning curve, particularly in finfish farming, since it was hailed as a new future for Irish coastal communities from the 1970s – with the State's Electricity Supply Board being an early pioneer, and tobacco company Carrolls also becoming involved for a time. Nutrient build up, which occurs when there is a high density of fish in one area, waste production and its impact on depleting oxygen in water, creating algal blooms and "dead zones", and farmers' use of antibiotics to prevent disease have all been concerns, and anglers have also been worried about the impact of escaped farmed salmon on wild fish populations. Sea lice from salmon farmers were also blamed for declines in sea trout and wild salmon in Irish estuaries and rivers.

BIM says over 95% of all salmon farmed in Ireland are certified organic. Organically grown salmon are only fed a diet of sustainable organic feed. They are also raised in more spacious pens than traditional farmed salmon. The need to site locations for fish farms further out to sea, using more robust cages for weather, has been recognised by regulatory agencies. There is a move towards land-based aquaculture in Norway to reduce impact on local ecosystems. The industry says that antibiotic use is declining, and it says that "safe and effective vaccinations have since been developed for farmed fish and are now widely used". Many countries are now adopting a more sustainable approach to removing sea lice from salmon, using feeder fish such as wrasse and lumpsucker fish. Ireland's first lumpsucker hatchery was opened in 2015.

BIM says over 95% of all salmon farmed in Ireland are certified organic. Organically grown salmon are only fed a diet of sustainable organic feed. They are also raised in more spacious pens than traditional farmed salmon. The need to site locations for fish farms further out to sea, using more robust cages for weather, has been recognised by regulatory agencies. There is a move towards land-based aquaculture in Norway to reduce impact on local ecosystems. The industry says that antibiotic use is declining, and it says that "safe and effective vaccinations have since been developed for farmed fish and are now widely used". Many countries are now adopting a more sustainable approach to removing sea lice from salmon, using feeder fish such as wrasse and lumpsucker fish. Ireland's first lumpsucker hatchery was opened in 2015.

Yes, as it is considered to have better potential for controlling environmental impacts, but it is expensive. As of October 2020, the department was handling over 20 land-based aquaculture applications.

The Irish Farmers' Association has represented fish and shellfish farmers for many years, with its chief executive Richie Flynn, who died in 2018, tirelessly championing the sector. His successor, Teresa Morrissey, is an equally forceful advocate, having worked previously in the Marine Institute in providing regulatory advice on fish health matters, scientific research on emerging aquatic diseases and management of the National Reference Laboratory for crustacean diseases.

BIM provides training in the national vocational certificate in aquaculture at its National Fisheries College, Castletownbere, Co Cork. It also trains divers to work in the industry. The Institute of Technology Carlow has also developed a higher diploma in aqua business at its campus in Wexford, in collaboration with BIM and IFA Aquaculture, the representative association for fish and shellfish farming.

© Afloat 2020

At A Glance - Irish Aquaculture

  • Fish and shellfish are farmed in 14 Irish coastal counties
  • Salmon is the most popular fish bought by Irish families. 
  • In Ireland, most of our salmon is farmed, and along with mussels and oysters, are the main farmed species in the country.
  • The industry sustains 1,833 direct jobs in remote rural areas – 80% in the west of Ireland
  • Every full-time job in aquaculture creates 2.27 other jobs locally (Teagasc 2015)
  • Ireland’s marine farms occupy 0.0004% of Ireland’s 17,500Km2 inshore area.
  • 83% of people in coastal areas support the development of fish farming

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