Seven Irish fishing organisations have condemned what they described as “blockades” in two south-west harbours, and said that such protests were “alarmist” and “unnecessary” writes Lorna Siggins
The seven groups, including the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, the Irish Fish Producer’s Organisation, and Irish South and East Fish Producers’ Organisation, said that they enjoyed cordial relationships with French and Spanish counterparts, and there was a need to maintain a seafood supply to both Irish and European markets.
The statement was also supported by four fishing co-ops in Castletownbere, Co Cork, Clogherhead, Co Louth, Galway and Aran in Rossaveal, Co Galway and Foyle Fishermen’s co-op in Co Donegal.
The statement was welcomed by Minister for Marine Michael Creed, who said it was “vital for all of us at this time to keep critical food supply lines, such as fishing activity, open and functioning through this period”.
The Department of Transport is requiring all vessels entering Irish ports to furnish a maritime declaration of health at least 24 hours ahead of arrival, and entry may be refused in a case of incomplete reporting.
“In responding to the COVID 19 crisis, Government action has been informed by the primacy of the need to protect public health, guided by the advice of medical professionals in our public health authorities,” Mr Creed said.
“ It is critically important that all of our actions continue to take place on this basis. Such advice does not extend to the selective closure of parts of the single market that are critical to maintaining the food supply chain in Ireland and elsewhere in the European Union. It is vital for all of us at this time to keep critical food supply lines, such as fishing activity, open and functioning through this period. I welcome the commitment of Irelands fishery organisations to this endeavour.”
Speaking in a personal capacity, south-west fishing industry representative Patrick Murphy said a lack of communication by the authorities had prompted the protests, which were fuelled by fear.
“I won’t condemn any communities for expressing their fears, in the absence of proper communication,” Mr Murphy said.
He said the seven organisations and Mr Creed were now needlessly “escalating” a situation which could have been avoided with proper communication.
“This is nothing to do with sentiment against French and Spanish, but concern about perceived lack of controls in fishery harbours,” Mr Murphy stressed.
Separately, there had been growing concerns about activities of German-registered Spanish and other Spanish flagged vessels off the coast over the last few months, he noted.
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