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Brexit trade talks are set to continue into the weekend after it was reported an offer was made by the European Union to return up to 18% of fish caught in UK waters.

According to RTÉ News, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier is said to have briefed member states on the offer this morning, Friday 27 November.

The proposal to hand back 15-18% of fish caught in UK waters by EU fleets could be worth up to €117 million to the British fishing industry.

Fishing rights are among the three main stumbling blocks in the path to a trade deal between the UK and EU, as the end of the Brexit transition period looms less than five weeks from now.

TheJournal.ie reports that Barnier will head to London this weekend for face-to-face talks, with the UK’s lead negotiator David Frost saying a deal was still possible but it “must fully respect UK sovereignty”.

The news of the quota offer has come as a surprise to many in Brussels, with sources of one BBC journalist saying the figures involved were among many discussed in recent weeks and would be a “very high price to pay” for Ireland and other EU fishing countries.

RTÉ News has more on the story HERE.

Published in Fishing
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"Mayhem" at Holyhead port is what hauliers have claimed there will be when the Brexit transition period ends.

The north Wales ferryport is the second biggest "roll-on roll-off" port in the UK after Dover, carrying 1,200 lorries and trailers a day across the Irish Sea.

The Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA) said the first six months of 2021 would be "terrible" as the port is not ready to cope with the change.

But the port's owner, Stena Line, has said the process would be smooth.

The IRHA remain unconvinced as the deadline to agree a new UK-EU deal approaches and the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December.

It is concerned border-ready pre-boarding IT systems have not been tested for outbound travel.

The European Union is planning to enforce border controls on the Irish side from 1 January but inbound lorries into Wales will not face any checks by UK authorities until July 2021.

For much more BBC News reports here.

Published in Ferry

Cork’s new Brexit-busting Ro-Ro freight link with Zeebrugge will be the focus of discussion at a special webinar on Thursday 26 November.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the Port of Cork facilitated CLdN’s establishing a new direct shipping route from Cork to the Belgian port — bringing Europe closer and bringing SMEs within 550km of 60% of the EU’s purchasing power.

Gaining direct access to mainland Europe is increasingly important for businesses, as concerns grow over potential delays for companies sending products via the UK landbridge as Britain leaves the Single Market.

As Irish businesses re-evaluate their supply chains, finding business partnerships and sourcing products in these new markets may be daunting.

But support agencies such as Flanders Investment and Trade and the Enterprise Europe Network can assist with this process.

Flanders is also an ideal investment location for companies looking to get a foothold in Europe and reach clients in Belgium, its neighbouring countries and the European hinterland.

Book now to join the discussion to learn more about the new direct connections between Cork and Zeebrugge, and how this can be a first step for your business in bringing Europe closer. Speakers include:

  • Ambassador Pierre-Emmanuel De Bauw, Belgian Ambassador to Ireland
  • Conor Mowlds, Chief Commercial Officer, Port of Cork
  • Lieve Duprez, Chief Officer Shortsea, Port of Zeebrugge
  • Jacques Vanhoucke, Trade and Investment Commissioner, Flanders Investment and Trade

This event is being hosted by Cork Chamber and the Enterprise Europe Network in association with the Port of Cork, Belgian Embassy, Flanders Investment and Trade & Port of Zeebrugge.

Published in Port of Cork
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Ireland could see an influx after Christmas of visiting boaters from Northern Ireland seeking to secure the VAT and duty status of their vessels as the Brexit transition period ends.

The suggestion comes after the UK’s Royal Yachting Association earlier this week welcomed “greater clarity” on the position of the customs status of boats from the European Commission.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, British boaters resident in the UK and the EU alike have feared being left in limbo regarding the tax and duty status of their vessels — and facing hefty charges when selling on or even relocating across territories.

The situation could still see a depression of the used boat market in Great Britain as EU-based buyers may be dissuaded by significant import levies.

Addressing UK boaters’ concerns, Howard Pridding, the RYA’s director of external affairs, said: “The Commission is no longer saying that any boat lying in the UK at the end of the transition period will not be eligible for Returned Goods Relief (RGR) as the boat will not have been exported.

“Instead they have differentiated the advice based on where the boat is registered and where the owner is established.

“The Commission’s interpretation of the law provides important guidance, but the final decision on what actually happens when a boat is imported rests with the authorities in the country in which that import is taking place.”

Pridding also noted the European Commission has confirmed the RYA’s suspicions “that documentation (such as a T2L, customs opinion letter or other supporting documentation) issued by the UK before the end of the transition period will not be valid in the EU as of the end of the transition period.

“However, we would recommend that boat owners keep hold of such documents, as they may provide useful evidence of the boat’s history and could be helpful when dealing with customs authorities in the EU27 in the future,” he added.

Meanwhile, as talks continue, it’s also expected that UK boats in the EU will be given a year’s grace to return to Great Britain before losing their UK VAT-paid status.

The situation is less clear for boats currently lying in Northern Ireland, as the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol is still under negotiation.

Nevertheless, a source close to Afloat.ie has suggested Ireland might now “expect to see a lot of Northern Ireland boats” and even boats from Wales “come [to the Republic] after Christmas to be in the EU” and then return to Great Britain in the New Year in the hopes of retaining their current VAT and duty status.

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Brexit checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea should be “operational effective” on 1 January even if customs facilities at ports are not yet on the ground.

That was the message from a senior Stormont official who gave evidence to the Executive Office committee yesterday, Wednesday 21 October, as TheJournal.ie reports.

“If buildings aren’t fully complete then that doesn’t stand in the way of there being effective checks,” said Andrew McCormick, Stormont’s lead official on EU exit.

Extra checks will be required on animal-based products entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the EU is seeking to have 15 customs and veterinary staff working alongside UK officials at ports of entry to ensure the proper implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

However, officials warn that the new physical infrastructure needed will not be ready by the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December.

TheJournal.ie has more on the story HERE.

Published in Ports & Shipping

Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue has welcomed the resumption of Brexit trade deal talks by the EU and the UK which aim to close the gaps between the two sides, including on the key issues of fisheries, the level playing field and governance.

Addressing the the Brexit Stakeholder Consultative Committee today, Thursday 22 October, the minister again urged agri-food businesses to immediately take the practical steps necessary to prepare for the changes that Brexit will bring from 1 January next year.

“This meeting is being held at a critical time, given that there are only around 70 days until the economic Brexit becomes a reality for us all,” said Minister McConalogue.

“We have said this before, but it bears repeating … things will change on 1 January 2021, and we need to understand what this will mean and be ready for it. There will be additional delays and costs, and businesses need to factor this into their planning for the period from 1 January onwards.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs gave an update on the state of play of EU-UK negotiations and the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland — the full, effective and timely implementation of which remains vital.

The Department of Transport provided an update in relation to the issue of direct ferry connections to the continent. Minister McConalogue encouraged businesses to engage with ferry companies on direct services in order to avoid potential delays on the UK landbridge.

‘With just over two months until the end of the transition period, time is very short and action is required urgently’

Recognising the vulnerability of the agri-food and fisheries sectors in the event that no EU-UK agreement is reached in the coming weeks, the minister welcomed the Government’s recent budgetary provision for an overall contingency fund of €3.4 billion to address the twin challenges of Brexit and Covid-19.

“This contingency fund will be made available to assist our most vulnerable sectors,” the minister said. “In addition, we know that the EU will establish a €5 billion Brexit Adjustment Reserve for the Member States and sectors worst affected by Brexit.

“Clearly, Ireland and its agri-food and fisheries sectors are particularly exposed, and I look forward to seeing the Commission’s proposals in relation to how this fund will be administered.”

On fisheries, the minister noted his recent bilateral meetings with fisheries ministers from France, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands when he attended the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Luxembourg this week.

“As we reach a critical point in the negotiations, I highlighted that, now more than ever, it is vital that member states continue to remain united in order to protect the EU’s fishing industry and coastal communities.

“Unity, co-operation and solidarity between member states are vital at this critical juncture.”

Concluding, the minister said: “With just over two months until the end of the transition period, time is very short and action is required urgently. This is not something that can be left to the last minute, so I would appeal to businesses in the agri-food sector to take action now.”

Published in Fishing
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‘ACT now and Prepare to Switch’ — that’s the message to the logistics and maritime transport sectors from the IMDO as the prospect of a disorderly Brexit looms.

The two-part strategy for stakeholders begins with ACT, or Assess, Communicate, Trial.

As highlighted by the Government since 2018, Irish industry needs to assess supply chains to avoid disruption on the UK landbridge from 1 January 2021.

There is maritime capacity available on both existing and new services to transport goods directly to Continental Europe across different modalities (RO/RO, CON/RO, LO/LO), which represent reliable alternatives to the landbridge.

Now is also the time to communicate your requirements to shipping companies.

There are multiple options to avail of new routes and new services. If there is a level of demand, shipping companies have demonstrated that they will respond to exporters’ needs — the latest being CLdN, which has indicated it can “dramatically” increase its direct services to the Continent if need be.

The next step is trial — work now with your logistics provider or shipping companies to trial new options well in advance of any changes after the Brexit transition period ends.

Stakeholders should Prepare to Switch to direct services to the Continent to protect their route to market and avoid disruption on the UK landbridge. This is especially important if:

  • Your supply chain needs a lead in time to make alternative arrangements on the Continent;
  • Your produce is time-sensitive;
  • Customs procedures will cause unmanageable delays and costs to your business;
  • There is a risk to your business in switching routes and this needs to be trialled well in advance.

For more information on planning for Brexit, see gov.ie/Brexit

Published in Ports & Shipping

The Royal Yachting Association is hosting a free webinar this Wednesday 14 October at 4pm to share news on its latest lobbying activities over Brexit.

Representatives from the RYA’s cruising and legal and government affairs teams will cover the latest communications with the UK Government on the Brexit-related subjects that RYA members are most concerned about.

These including cruising access to the Schengen Area, the Return Goods Relief for boats, the validity of sailing qualifications in the European Union and changes to border controls.

Registration for this free one-hour webinar is open now.

Published in Cruising
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The Cabinet has heard that Dublin Port is not yet ready for the looming Brexit deadline and needs another inspection facility.

On Tuesday Ministers discussed how prepared Irish ports and airports are infrastructurally. The Cabinet was told that while airports were on target, and Rosslare Port is also prepared, an inspection facility is still needed in Dublin Port.

Minister were updated on the looming Brexit deadline and a number of “high-level risks” that have been identified, including potential delays and blockages at UK ports for Irish operators.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney is due to introduce a new Brexit omnibus Bill in the coming weeks to prepare Ireland for the changes that will arise at the end of the transition period.The Bill will consist of 21 parts under the remit of 11 Ministers.

The Irish Times reports also on the Climate Action Bill.

Published in Dublin Port

Post-Brexit fishing rights were high on the agenda at a “crunch” summit yesterday (Saturday 3 October) between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The Guardian reports on the EU’s warming to the idea of an annual agreement on share of catch, as mooted in the UK’s new negotiation paper — which offers a three-year transition period for EU fishing fleets — and following a fisheries deal reached with Norway last week.

Britain is now pushing that deal as a model for its post-Brexit relationship with the EU over fishing rights and quotas.

France remains opposed to the suggestion over fears that failure to reach agreement on annual allowable catches could destroy the livelihoods of its own coastal fishing communities.

But it’s understood Prime Minster Boris Johnson is hopeful that French President Emmanuel Macron — who is said to have isolated himself from other EU heads of state over his hardline stance on fisheries — will acquiesce to Britain’s new demands in order to secure a much-needed UK-EU trade deal.

The Guardian has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Fishing
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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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