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The European Commission has put forward a “concrete and specific package of measures” to ensure Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) compliance that will see some Irish fishing fleet quotas slashed by thousands of tonnes, as The Irish Times reports.

The move announced today (Monday 15 February) follows a formal inquiry into the State’s application of CFP rules, the findings of which were delivered to Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue before Christmas.

It’s understood that overfishing of quotas for mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting between 2012 and 2016 will be subject to a “payback procedure” in future quotas.

And weighing of catches will now have to be done upon landing at the quayside instead of later in processing facilities, after investigators found suspected incidences of tampering with weights in a 2018 audit.

The State’s failure to implement the penalty points system for CFP infringements is also the subject of infringement proceedings by Brussels.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

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The first and second leg of 2020’s Irish Anglerfish and Megrim Survey will be carried out from next weekend off the West, South West and South Coasts of Ireland by the Marine Institute, in fulfilment of Ireland’s Common Fisheries Policy obligations.

As with previous years, IAMS 2020 — which will run from Sunday 23 February to Wednesday 18 March — is a demersal trawl survey consisting of approximately 110 otter trawls (60 minutes) in ICES areas 7b, 7c, 7g, 7h, 7j and 7k.

The survey will be conducted by the RV Celtic Explorer (Callsign: EIGB) which will be towing a Jackson demersal trawl during fishing operations and will display appropriate lights and signals.

Commercial fishing and other marine operators are requested to keep a three-nautical-mile radius area around the tow points (indicated below) clear of any gear or apparatus during the survey period outlined above.

Further details of the survey, including co-ordinates of the survey stations, are included in Marine Notice No 07 of 2020, a PDF of which is available to read or download HERE.

IAMS 2020 survey stations

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The Government have authorised the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to arrange for the referral of the General Scheme of the Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2020 to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine for pre-legislative scrutiny prior to its submission to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel for drafting.

The main purpose of the proposed legislative amendments is to provide for a points system for masters (skippers) of fishing vessels for serious infringements of the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy, as required by EU Council Regulation 1224/2009.

The draft amending legislation would resolve some typographical errors in the Sea-fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006 and introduce other miscellaneous and technical amendments.

The General Scheme has been published on the Department’s website and submitted to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine for pre-legislative scrutiny.

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Marine Minister Michael Creed last week welcomed agreement reached between the European Union, Norway, the Faroe Islands and Iceland regarding the blue whiting fishery for 2020.

“This agreement provides welcome stability in this important fishery for Irish fishermen,” he said in London last Friday (25 October).

“There will be a small increase compared to 2019 with a quota of approximately 38,500 tonnes in 2020 for Ireland.”

The total allowable catch of 1,161,616 tonnes agreed between the parties is fully in line with the scientific advice provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES).

Minister Creed added: “In these uncertain times, stability for our fisheries sector is always welcome.

“The agreement reached following the negotiations this week, in which Ireland was an active participant, will provide a quota worth approximately €11.5 million for our fishermen next year.

“This follows the international negotiations two weeks ago which agreed to a 41% increase in the mackerel quotas for 2020 in line with the scientific advice, giving Ireland a mackerel quota of over 78,000 tonnes worth over €80m directly to our catching sector for 2020.”

The minster also acknowledged the assistance provided on the Irish delegation by the Marine Institute and fishing sector representatives.

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The annual Anglerfish and Megrim Survey has begun off the West South West and South Coasts of Ireland in fulfilment of Ireland’s Common Fisheries Policy obligations.

The purpose of this project is to carry out annual survey for relative annual abundance and distribution of anglerfish and megrim. However, other species of national
importance will also be sampled, along with physical and chemical oceanographic parameters.

IAMS 2019 runs till Monday 25 March. The demersal trawl survey consists of around 110 otter trawls (of 60 minutes each) in ICES areas 7b, 7c, 7g, 7h, 7j and 7k as indicated the map below.

MN 06 of 2019 IAMS 2019

Fishing in 2019 will take place within a three-nautical-mile radius of all positions indicated.

The survey will be conducted by the RV Celtic Explorer (Callsign: EIGB). The vessel will display all appropriate lights and signals during the survey and will also be listening on VHF Channel 16. The vessel will be towing a Jackson demersal trawl during fishing operations.

Commercial fishing and other marine operators are requested to keep a 3nm area around the tow points clear of any gear or apparatus during the survey period. For more details see Marine Notice No 6 of 2019, a PDF of which is available to read or download HERE.

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#Fishing - The European Union, Norway and the Faroe Islands have agreed to a 20% reduction in mackerel quotas in the North East Atlantic for 2019.

The news for Ireland’s single most valuable fishery was the outcome of international fisheries negotiations which concluded in Bergen, Norway yesterday (Thursday 29 November).

Marine Minister Michael Creed — who described the negotiations, which also took place in Clonakilty earlier this month, as “challenging” — added: “The reductions reflect the available scientific advice that the abundance of this stock has declined. This level of reduction is seen by all parties as essential to ensure that the stock is fished sustainably.”

The minister also confirmed that agreement was reached on a two-year extension of the sharing arrangement between the three main parties. “This provides a welcome degree of stability for this hugely important fishery. Irish fishermen will now have a quota worth over €55m directly to our catching sector for 2019,” he said.

“While the quota for Ireland is less than that of recent years, those quotas were unusually high by historical standards. The quota of 55,000 tonnes achieved today is in line with our historical average quota.

“We must continue to be cautious with this crucially important stock. As always, industry representatives, in particular Sean O’Donoghue of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, were extremely helpful to the Irish negotiating team.”

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Marine Minister Michael Creed welcomed today’s (Wednesday 7 November) resumption on Wednesday of important international negotiations on 2019 mackerel quotas for the stock in the North East Atlantic.

The negotiations, involving 11 EU and non-EU countries, are being hosted on behalf of the EU by the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine in the National Seafood Centre in Clonakilty, Co Cork and follow on from an initial round of negotiations in London in October.

“Mackerel is our single most important fishery economically and the negotiations this year are especially challenging given that the new scientific advice is for a reduction in quotas of 61%,” Minister Creed said.

“There are concerns from the scientific community about the quality of that advice but we need to take full account of all of the available information, the sustainability of the stock and the socio-economic importance of the mackerel fishery to peripheral coastal communities.

“These negotiations will be very difficult. The proposed 61% cut in the mackerel quota for 2019 would be very significant for our fishing industry along the western seaboard, particularly in Donegal, Galway, Kerry and Cork.

“Ireland is committed to the long-term sustainability of this stock and has worked hard to date to get a more graduated response to the scientific advice, taking account of the fact that this will be subject to a full review and quality assurance early in early 2019.”

Delegations from Ireland, the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Greenland and the Faeroe Islands will try and reach an agreement on the total allowable catch (TAC) for mackerel for 2019.

Up to 50 international delegates are expected in West Cork for the three-day negotiations. Officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, supported by scientists from the Marine Institute, will represent Ireland at these negotiations.

Minister Creed added: “I am pleased that Ireland, on behalf of the EU, is hosting this second round of Mackerel negotiations in the National Seafood Centre in Clonakilty. The fact that these negotiations are being facilitated by my department in Ireland underlines the economic importance of this stock to the Irish fishing industry.

“Mackerel is the single most valuable stock for the Irish fleet, and indeed the EU as a whole, and it is very much in our interests that we secure agreement at international level on management arrangements and catch levels for this stock.”

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#Fishing - Marine Minister Michael Creed noted yesterday’s (Thursday 17 May) issue by the EU Commission of a Letter of Formal Notice as a first step in formal infringement proceedings being taken against Ireland for not implementing the new penalty points systems for sea fishing boat skippers and license holders.

The EU provisions for points for skippers is general in nature and requires primary legislation, while the provisions for licence holders are set down in detail in the EU Regulations and may be implemented by means of secondary legislation through a Statutory Instrument.

In relation to the points system for licence holders, on 20 March this year Minister Creed signed into law the European Union (Common Fisheries Policy) (Point System) Regulations 2018 (SI No 89 of 2018), which establishes a point system that will apply to the licence holder of a sea fishing boat when a serious infringement of the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy is detected within Ireland’s 200-mile exclusive fishery zone by all fishing vessels, both Irish and foreign.

This Statutory Instrument replaces a previous regime which was struck down by the Supreme Court following a successfully challenge by the fishing industry.

“The new SI has taken on board the Supreme Court judgements and also satisfies Ireland’s legal obligations under the Common Fisheries Policy and will address the infringement proceedings issued by the EU Commission on this matter today,” Minister Creed said.

In addition, the minister intends to submit in the near future a Memorandum to Government seeking approval for the drafting of a bill to provide for inter alia the separate EU points system for skippers, and forward the general scheme for consideration to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine in the context of pre-legislative scrutiny.

Noting the receipt of the EU Commission’s formal notice, the minister said it “indicates that Ireland has two months to submit observations and I look forward to furnishing the commission with a detailed response advising that a system applying points to licence holders has been put in place already, and that I am working to introduce primary legislation in respect of masters of fishing vessels as a matter of urgency.”

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#MarineNotice - The Marine Institute’s annual Irish Anglerfish and Megrim Survey (IAMS) for 2018 is scheduled to resume today, Tuesday 10 April.

After January's survey off the West and South Coasts, this month's survey will be carried out till Saturday 21 April off the North and North West Coasts of Ireland in fulfilment of Ireland’s Common Fisheries Policy obligations.

The IAMS is a demersal trawl survey consisting of approximately 50 otter trawls of 60 minutes duration in ICES area 6a. Fishing will take place within a three nautical mile radius of the positions indicated in Marine Notice No 15 of 2018, a PDF of which is available to read or download HERE.

Survey operations will be conducted by the RV Celtic Explorer (Callsign EIGB), which will display all appropriate lights and signals during the survey and will also be listening on VHF Channel 16.

The vessel will be towing a Jackson demersal trawl during fishing operations. The Marine Institute requests that commercial fishing and other marine operators keep a three nautical mile area around the tow points clear of any gear or apparatus during the survey period outlined above.

Specifics of any fishing gear or other obstructions that are known and cannot be kept clear of these survey haul locations can be notified using the contact details provided in the Marine Notice.

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#Fishing - A new study points at Ireland has one of Europe’s worst offenders for overfishing, as The Irish Times reports.

The study from the New Economics Foundation was based on the outcomes of EU fisheries negotiations, evaluating total allowable catches, or TACs, against the prevailing scientific advice.

And it found that Ireland “topped the league table” for setting or advocating for quotas above what was deemed sustainable by experts. 

That’s according to the report’s author Griffin Carpenter, who added that this practice “harms the environment, is short-sighted politics, and goes against the objectives of the CFP.”

Ireland joined the UK, Netherlands and Denmark among the “worst offenders in terms of the total tonnage of [total allowable catch] set above advice”, according to the report.

Birdwatch Ireland agreed with the study’s findings, lambasting Ireland as “among the most environmentally irresponsible fisheries nations in Europe” and warning of a catastrophe for the industry when the deadline to end overfishing under the CFP approaches in less than two years’ time.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

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Irish Fishing industry 

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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