The European Commission has expressed “deep concern” about Ireland’s ability to monitor continued commercial fishing activity at sea during the Covid-19 pandemic.
As The Sunday Times reports today, a letter from the EU maritime directorate’s acting director-general Bernhard Friess has questioned how Ireland can meet legal obligations to control and check landings if physical inspections have to be reduced as a result of the virus.
Inspectors with the State’s Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) in some fishery harbours had already stopped undertaking physical checks of landings after the Health Service Executive (HSE) Covid-19 guidelines were introduced last month.
However, they now fear the department will use the EU letter to pressurise them into resuming inspections in wheelhouses and fish holds - putting both themselves and fishing crews at risk of infection.
In his letter, Mr Friess says the European Commission “recognises the challenges presented by the Covid-19 crisis”.
However, he says it “expects member states’ competent authorities to adapt to the new situation and introduce the necessary measures and resources to ensure control, inspection and enforcement of all activities relevant to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)”.
Asked to respond to the EU concerns, the SFPA told The Sunday Times that it is “continuing to maintain its sea-fisheries and seafood safety regulatory services, with some modifications to ensure the health and safety of its staff and industry colleagues, in line with Government guidelines and HSE advice”.
The SFPA acknowledged the “significant challenges” for the fishing industry, and said it was “ extremely confident “ it had “ stepped up to the mark in inspection numbers” and had “ put in place a protocol on boardings”.
You can read more on The Sunday Times here