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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, has extended the deadline of its National Seafood Survey by two weeks in an effort to increase response rates. The survey is designed to highlight the importance of fishing to families and their wider communities in Ireland.

More than one in ten (14%) of Ireland’s 1400 under 10m inshore fishing vessel owners have already completed the survey. All remaining under 10-metre vessel owners now have an opportunity to complete the survey until Monday, 8 February 2021.

Vera O’Donovan, Regional Development Officer, BIM spoke of the importance of inshore fisheries to coastal communities in Ireland and said:

“There are many competing interests for the marine resource. It's vital that inshore fisheries can co-exist in the marine space and have their economic and social contribution to rural society acknowledged fully.”

Inclusion of under 10-metre vessel data will help to provide a more accurate account of the economic contribution that the inshore sector brings to coastal communities and to inform both National and EU policymakers. 

A copy of the survey and a freepost envelope for its return was posted to every under ten-metre fisher in Ireland in December. The survey can also be completed online and emailed to [email protected]. For more details or to download a copy of the survey click here

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Bord Iascaigh Mhara’s role in certifying the Irish mussel industry as “sustainable” has earned it an “Ocean Hero” award from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

The MSC, based in Britain, is an international non-profit organisation which sets “globally recognised, science-based standards for sustainable fishing and seafood traceability”.

The MSC UK Ocean Hero award “recognises and rewards” fisheries and organisations that have “demonstrated exemplary leadership in the field of seafood sustainability and made a unique contribution to furthering the sustainability of fisheries”.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) holds three MSC mussel certificates in both the Republic and Northern Ireland.

The Northern Irish and Irish rope grown mussel fisheries were certified in 2019, and the Irish bottom grown mussel fishery achieved certification in 2013.

The blue MSC label on a seafood product certifies that comes from a wild-catch fishery which has been independently certified to the MSC’s science-based standard for environmentally sustainable fishing.

The label can be found on more than 100 species of seafood in 100 countries

“BIM is an example of vision, commitment and dedication in its push for making the Irish mussel industry 100% MSC certified and sustainable,” MSC senior fisheries outreach manager for Britain and Ireland Katie Keay said.

“Environmental and social sustainability underpins the seafood industry on the island of Ireland,” BIM chief executive Jim O’Toole said.

"This MSC award recognises the collaboration and cross-industry efforts of the bottom grown and rope mussel operators for a sustainable future,” he said.

The Irish mussel industry was valued at €11.7 million in 2018 according to the BIM Business of Seafood report.

The mussel industry in Ireland produces more than 15,000 tonnes of mussels a year. This method of mussel farming was introduced in the 1980s predominantly along the west coast of Ireland.

The Cornish Fish Producers Organisation (CFPO) was highly commended in the “Ocean Hero” category at the MSC awards for its management of the hake gill net fishery.

The CFPO podcast for fishermen, named “ Fathom”, kept its fishing industry informed of developments throughout the Covid-19 lockdown in Britain.

It also teamed up with Seafood Cornwall’s #FishToYourDoor initiative, which brought together fish merchants and customers to support Cornish fishermen through the Corona virus crisis.

Published in Aquaculture
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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, is to host a webinar on Wednesday 9th September 2020 at 2 pm on how the role of cultural values can be integrated more in small-scale fisheries management.

The webinar, which will be chaired and facilitated by BIM and organised by the Cabfishman project, will address the role of cultural values in the management of small-scale fisheries in the Northeast Atlantic and how these values can be more adequately accounted for.

Commenting on the Cabfishman project and webinar, Richard Curtin, Senior Economist with BIM said, “The Cabfishman project is an important international project with partners from Spain, Portugal, France and the UK, addressing common issues facing the small-scale fleets along the Atlantic. A crucial element of the project is the assessment of cultural heritage associated with the sea, fishing and the small-scale fleets and how to value that contribution so it can be accounted for in decision-making and policies and that is something which we are going to explore in this webinar.”

“One of the tasks of the project is to collate examples of cultural heritage and to create an open-access library of these examples that can be added to overtime. From an Irish perspective, we have collated over 400 examples, ranging from artwork by Paul Henry and others, traditional craftsmanship such as currach making, to ancient fishing knowledge such as ‘marcanna na tallamh’.”

This webinar, organised by the Cabfishman project, financed through the INTREREG Atlantic Area Programme, aims to address several questions via the following presentations:

Speakers and topics:

  • Evaluating the cultural services of small-scale fisheries in the Atlantic Area – David Castilla (University of Huelva)
  • Do small-scale fisheries need yet another research project? From output to outcome through stakeholder involvement – Marta Ballesteros (CETMAR Foundation)
  • Do cultural values play a role in Small Scale Fisheries Management? – Norah Parke (Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation)

The webinar is open to the public to attend and fishers, managers, officials, and those with an interest in the future co-management of small-scale fisheries in Ireland are actively encouraged to attend. To register for the free event visit here

Published in Dublin Bay
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The Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) National Fisheries College of Ireland in Castletownbere, Co. Cork is piloting the Skipper Full Certificate of Competency as an online course, commenced this week (6th May 2020). The Skipper Full Programme will be conducted as a nine-week online course, followed by three weeks in situ in Castletownbere once the college can open for the new academic term in accordance with COVID restrictions.

This is a popular full-time course, designed for fishermen with a Second-Hand Full Certificate of Competency, and 12 months sea time in that capacity, who wish to gain further qualifications in skippering a vessel. The course delivers tuition in a range of core navigation and safety skills that will aid successful participants to obtain a Skipper Full Certificate of Competency.

BIM took the decision to pilot the training online as it will allow students the opportunity to complete their studies this year. Speaking after the online pilot was announced, Ian Mannix, Skills Development Services Manager, BIM said, “We felt it was important in the current difficult circumstances that students should have the option to continue their training, supported by BIM and embracing new technologies and teaching methods. We are actively looking at what other programmes we can introduce online to support our students’

BIM Skills Development unit is one of BIM’s five organisational units and is focussed on enhancing the attractiveness and viability of careers in the seafood sector. This is achieved by creating fully recognised and accredited pathways for lifelong learning and career progression, featuring recognition of prior learning and portable modular qualifications.

Capt. Shane Begley, College Principal, National Fisheries College of Ireland, Castletownbere spoke of the students’ reaction saying, “Currently we have four students enrolled on the pilot programme and I’m heartened to see how quickly they have adapted to online learning. It’s fantastic to be able to facilitate their ongoing training and we look forward to providing similar support with some of our other courses”.

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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s seafood development agency and the Irish Forum on Natural Capital co-hosted a breakfast seminar Exploring Natural Capital Solutions for the Marine Environment today in the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin. Natural Capital is the available stock of renewable and non-renewable resources that support human life. Natural Capital Accounting applies a measurable value to natural capital in economic and/or ecological terms.

The aim of the seminar, supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, was to raise awareness and understanding of Natural Capital Accounting and to explore how it might be used by the seafood and other marine sectors.

Speaking at the event, Jim O’Toole, CEO BIM said:

“ The Irish seafood sector depends on natural resources. BIM is constantly exploring new ways to help the industry improve its performance in a way that is sustainable. This focus on the protection of our marine environment will safeguard coastal communities reliant on the sector into the future.”

Jane Stout, Chair of the Irish Forum on Natural Capital and Professor in Ecology in Trinity College Dublin spoke of the similarities between ecology and economics. She said:

“We need to bring nature into decision making. We need to recognise that nature is the fundamental stock that underpins all of our activities. This language of natural capital brings the language of nature into the language of business. It’s not about putting a price on nature. We can put a price and monetary value on nature but that’s not the whole story. It doesn’t tell us about nature’s wider contribution to the ecosystem.”

Earlier this year, BIM commissioned The Institute for the Development of Environmental-Economic Accounting (IDEEA Group) to undertake a feasibility study of the Irish seafood sector to explore whether natural capital accounting could be applied.

Carl Obst and Mark Eigenraam of the IDEEA were among the speakers at today’s event, that included economists and environmental scientists. Speaking at the seminar, Carl Obst said:

“Natural capital accounting recognises and accounts for our relationship with and dependence on the environment. By adopting the United Nations System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) BM is providing national leadership in the seafood sector in Ireland.”

Published in Fishing
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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s seafood development agency, and the Irish South and West Fishermen’s Producers Organisation (ISWFPO) co-hosted a net management workshop in Castletownbere, West Cork this month. The aim of the day-long event, attended by a cross -section of the Irish seafood sector and auxiliary industries, was to track the ‘journey’ of fishing gear from its initial entry into the market to its end of life or ‘retirement’. The workshop also looked at ways to better analyse and understand the source of marine litter brought ashore by the Irish catching fleet today.

New plastics and circular economy polices underpin emerging trends in sustainability. They require member states to minimise the impact of plastics on the environment and to increase the opportunities for used plastics to be recycled and retained instead of ending up on a landfill.

As of October 2019, a total of 224 fishing vessels are registered to Fishing For Litter (FFL). The national programme, where fishing vessels voluntarily collect and take ashore all marine litter they collect during normal fishing activities at sea, forms part of the wider Clean Oceans Initiative. The application of circular economy principles is key to the new national initiative to reduce marine waste so that fishing vessels can develop new ways to record, log and make an inventory of gear and marine waste. To date, 49 vessels are registered to Fishing for Litter in the port of Castletownbere. This represents one fifth of the national fleet.

“The local determination to demonstrate their fishing gear management is outstanding. Other key stakeholders such as the harbour management, net makers are also behind the objective and are keen to help communicate and validate the responsible approach taken by the large majority in Castletownbere”, said Patrick Murphy, CEO, ISWFPO.

The EU Commission is currently developing new ways to monitor and report fishing gear, from being placed on the market to its retirement. The Commission is also exploring ways to better analyse marine litter. The final report will be available in July 2020.

BIM’s establishment of the Fishing for Litter programme in 2015, supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, has given Ireland a head start. The state agency for the development of the seafood sector is also working on ways to improve the characterisation of waste and marine litter. Progress in this area will ultimately lead to stronger insights about marine waste. BIM has also been handling end of life gear aspects since 2006. However, the new EU directives and polices on plastics will give a new impetus to addressing end of life gear.

“Demonstrating the responsible management of our gear at its end of life is a priority. A full trawl gear could have up to a 10-year life span and is an expensive key piece of equipment. We are keen to work with BIM to identify how best to monitor and record our gear efficiently and to demonstrate this objectively”, explained ISWFPO chairman, Damien Turner.

In September 2015, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It comprises 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). BIM was recently appointed an SDG champion for four of the goals, two of which are particularly relevant where plastics and marine waste are concerned; SDG 14( Life Below Water; a target of which is to help prevent and reduce marine pollution) and SDG12( application of environmentally sound management of all waste through their life cycle).

“The aim of the Champions programme is to raise awareness of the SDGs and to show through the example of the Champions that everyone in society can make a contribution to achieving the 17 Goals. The catching sector is a key contributor to ensuring that we can improve the outcomes for Life Below Water and maximise the lifecycle and recoverable costs of plastics used by the catching sector, the Clean Oceans Initiative will be instrumental in delivering on these SDGs ”, explained Catherine Barrett, BIM.

Representatives from two EU funded projects, ‘Blue Circular Economy’ and ‘Circular Seas’, tasked with creating opportunities for end of life fishing gear, also attended the workshop in Castletownbere.

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Ireland’s first accredited fishmonger qualification has been launched today in the fishing port of Howth, Co Dublin. Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s seafood development agency, has developed the Certificate in Fishmonger Skills accredited by nationally and internationally recognised Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI).

Ian Mannix, BIM described how the aim of the training is to retain and attract talent into the industry. He said:

“ Today’s consumer has come to expect their fishmonger to have a broad knowledge of seafood. They want them to be able to advise them when they are at the counter. This new programme will provide solid, fully certified training to anyone working in seafood retailing; practical skills they can then apply in the industry Moreover, improved skills in the workplace will ultimately lead to better sales and better retention of staff.”

The new training combines practical and classroom learning and includes modules on seafood labelling, nutrition and food safety. The programme also includes hands-on demonstrations in fish fileting and culinary skills and is aimed at existing staff in seafood retailing or those interested in pursuing a career in the industry.

Master fishmonger, Hal Dawson is one of the trainers on the new programme. He has worked in the seafood industry since 1972. He said:

“ The new course will provide professionalism within the industry. Having this qualification on your cv, will give fishmongers a real advantage.”

The value of seafood retail sales in 2018 was €297 million according to the BIM Business of Seafood report. Sales of loose fish experienced the sharpest increase (+8%) in comparison to pre-packed (+1%). Salmon remains the number one fish species bought by consumers in Ireland. However, there has been a marked increase in demand for lesser-known species owing to higher awareness of sustainability and provenance.

Laura Desmond, National Sales Manager, Oceanpath, completed the pilot fishmonger skills programme in 2018. She spoke of how the training has given her more experience in grading fish quality and food safety and said:

“ I started out in sales and engineering and made a switch to the fish business when my mother passed away in 2010. I now manage Reid’s Fish Market and Oceanpath. I love the freedom of my job. I’m in my car, and get to share my passion and knowledge of seafood to fishmongers working in the different stores.”

I can go into any of our stores now and ensure we’re selling the best quality fish.

The Certificate in Fishmonger Skills is taking place in Dublin and Cork early 2020. To find out more or to request an application form, please email seafoodskills.ie or go towww.bim.ie

Published in Fishing
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A marine garden containing almost 30,000 cubic litres of Atlantic seawater and brimming with sea life from different types of seaweeds to fish species native to Irish waters has been named the overall winner in the concept garden category at Bloom 2019 today. As previously reported by Afloat, the Bord Iascaigh Mhara sponsored garden, Aquamarine, supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, was designed by wife and husband team Liat and Oliver Shurmann and highlights the need to protect Ireland’s marine environment against plastic waste.

BIM MARINE GARDEN WINS GOLD AT BLOOMGold Bloom winners - l-r, Tara McCarthy, CEO Bord Bia; Jim O’Toole, CEO BIM; Liat Shurmann; Oliver Shurmann and Gary Graham, Manager Bloom, Bord Bia Photo: Julien Behal

Jim O’Toole, CEO BIM said: “ Marine, human and all other life is contingent upon a marine environment that’s clean and free from pollution and plastics. Every item of plastic that surrounds the garden at Bloom is a real example of marine litter that has been collected by fishermen and members of the wider fishing and seafood industry in Ireland. Sustainability is central to BIM’s strategy and it’s the driving force for men and women working in the seafood industry in Ireland.”

The fish species and water will be returned to the sea when Bloom ends on Monday and all of the materials used in the garden have been either salvaged or recycled and will be reused.

Oliver Shurmann spoke about the design of the marine garden and said: “It’s designed to look like a scientific cross-section of a landscape with layers of plastics visible underneath it. That’s what we [Liat and I] wanted to achieve. We wanted to create an atmosphere and to combine something beautiful with something that was repulsive. This will shock people. Children will see this and wonder, ‘what are we doing?’”

The garden has been designed to highlight the problem of plastics in our oceans as part of the Clean Oceans Initiative that was launched by the Minister for Agriculture, Food the Marine, Michael Creed earlier this year.

Catherine Morrison, Sustainability and Certification Manager at BIM, spoke of how the marine garden aims to raise awareness of the impact plastic is having on the marine environment and how fishermen and fish farmers in Ireland are working together to address the problem. She said:

“ It’s hard to quantify how much plastic is in our oceans but the average adult in Ireland uses roughly 60kg of plastic every year, one of the highest rates of any country in the European Union. Not all of the plastic ends up in the oceans, but the plastic that does causes a problem.” 

Aquamarine is open to visitors each day of Bloom from Thursday 30th May until Monday 3rd June.

Published in Fishing
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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s seafood development agency, is returning to Bloom next week with a marine garden that highlights the need to protect our marine environment against plastic waste. The concept garden, supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, resembles a giant rockpool and has a fishing net suspended over it to demonstrate the active role the fishing and wider seafood sector in Ireland are taking to reduce plastics in our seas.

The marine garden is entirely underwater and brimming with sea life from different types of seaweeds to fish species native to Irish waters. It is the first time an underwater garden has been at Bloom or indeed any international festival of its kind.

“ Ireland is an island nation. We’re surrounded by water and almost half of us live 5km or less to the coastline. We need to work together to protect this precious resource. Sustainability must underpin our actions. Bord Iascaigh Mhara is proud to be leading a number of key projects with women and men in the fishing and wider seafood sector to reduce and reuse plastic from our marine environment and to stop it from getting there in the first place.”

BIM has been tasked to have every Irish registered fishing trawler participating in its Fishing for Litter scheme under the major new national Clean Oceans Initiative by the end of 2019. Fishing for Litter is an entirely voluntary scheme that involves fishermen collecting plastics and any other waste they haul up in their nets when out fishing and taking it ashore. BIM then works with harbour masters to manage the waste that is collected and recycled or disposed of in a responsible way.

Fishing for Litter currently operates in 12 of Ireland’s main fishing ports. To date, more than 330 tonnes of marine waste has been collected by fishermen participating in the scheme.

The garden, designed by Oliver and Liat Shurmann, of Mount Venus nurseries contains 27,000 cubic metres of sea water. All of the materials used in the garden have been salvaged or recycled and will be reused after the event.

Oliver Shurmann spoke of the inspiration behind the garden and said:

“We thought we could take a cross section of a marine landscape, say a rockpool, and highlight that as something so incredibly valuable, clean and undisturbed hence the name of the garden Aqua Marine”

Aquamarine is open to visitors each day of Bloom from Thursday 30th May until Monday 3rd June.

Published in Marine Science
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Bord Iascaigh Mhara has acquired a new inshore survey vessel for monitoring the state of mussel bed stocks on the south-west and east Irish coastlines.

The 12m-long survey vessel, named T Burke II, was built by Cork company Safehaven Marine.

The Wildcat 40 vessel is one of 19 built by Safehaven and in service worldwide, and has a maximum speed of 26 knots and 18 knots operational speed. It is fitted with crane gear to deploy sonar equipment and a bottom sampling dredge.

Safehaven Marine says its seakeeping abilities were demonstrated during rough weather trials off the south coast in 50-knot winds and five-metre seas during Storm Gareth.

It will be deployed by BIM in Dingle Bay, Co Kerry, and on the east coast from Wexford’s Carnsore Point to Carlingford, Co Louth.

The Irish mussel industry was valued at 11.7 million euro to the economy in 2018, and almost 14,000 tonnes of mussels were produced in Ireland last year.

Bottom grown mussels made up 4,800 tonnes of that total.

The sector has had Marine Stewardship Council accreditation – the “gold standard” for sustainable fisheries – since 2013. The bottom grown mussel industry is almost “entirely export-led”, according to BIM, and employs almost 200 people, directly and indirectly.

Its potential was highlighted during the recent Supreme Court action by four mussel fishermen over the “voisinage” agreement north and south of the border.

The T Burke II was launched by Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine Michael Creed in Kinsale, Co Cork on Monday morning with Olivia Moylan Burke.

Ms Burke is the wife of the late Dr Tomás Burke, formerly technical officer with BIM, after whom the boat is named.

Speaking at the launch, Mr Creed said that the surveys conducted by the vessel would form “an integral part of the management of the seed mussel fishery, which has been awarded the prestigious MSC sustainability certification”.

This accreditation “opens up access for our Irish mussels into the very best markets in the EU and further afield”, Mr Creed said.

BIM chief executive Jim O’Toole said the surveys conducted by BIM’s technical officers would “provide invaluable data to help drive the growth of this important sector”, while also minimising its carbon footprint.

Published in Marine Trade
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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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