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#ferries - It was an important milestone for ferry operator, Stena Line as its major new fleet investment programme involved the ‘launching’ ceremony of the first of its next generation RoPax vessels that took place in China yesterday, 16th January.

The first new vessel will be named Stena Estrid which took to the water for the first time at the Avic Weihai Shipyard. The newbuild is scheduled to enter service on the Dublin to Holyhead route in early 2020 and represents the first of three new E-Flexer vessels bound for Irish Sea routes by 2021.

Stena Line CEO Niclas Mårtensson said: “Today the first of our new generation vessels achieved a very important milestone for Stena Line. The Stena Estrid successfully completed her ‘float out’ manoeuvre from dry dock at the Avic Shipyard and now enters a busy phase of works ahead of her Irish Sea launch early next year.”

All three vessels that are being built for the Irish Sea will be larger than today’s standard RoPax vessels at 215 meters long with a freight capacity of 3,100 lane meters and the space to carry 120 cars and 1,000 passengers. This represents a significant multi-million investment by Stena Line and underscores its commitment to its Irish Sea operations and its determination to deliver the best possible freight and travel experience. Stena Line has a strong belief that Irish Sea ferry transportation will continue to grow and it remains a key strategic business region for the company.

“Stena Estrid will bring many benefits to ferry users including speedy and efficient loading/unloading operations plus further development of our Scandinavian inspired facilities including our restful and bespoke Hygge Lounge and the latest upgrade of our premium product, the Stena Plus concept. The new ships will be spacious, light and make use of panoramic views. This is a very exciting time for our business and I’m proud that as Europe’s largest ferry company, Stena Line continues help shape the industry for the next generation of freight and leisure customers,” concluded Niclas Martensson.

In addition to the three Irish Sea bound E-Flexer vessels, Stena Line has also ordered a further two E-Flexer RoPax vessels with a larger design, to be deployed within Stena Line’s network in 2022. These larger ships will be 240 meters long with a total freight capacity of 3,600 lane meters, and passenger capacity of 1,200. Stena Lines sister company Stena RoRo is managing all the E-Flexer building projects that are ongoing on Avic Weihai Shipyard.

Published in Ferry

Later this week Andrew Doyle, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, will lead Irish participation in Qingdao, China at the Seafood Expo, one of the largest seafood fairs in the world.

Irish seafood exports to China have grown rapidly to over €28 million last year, and there is potential for further growth. Up to 12 Irish seafood companies will be represented on the Origin Green Ireland stand.

This trade visit follows technical meetings to discuss meat market access held by DAFM officials in Beijing on Friday, and the Trade Mission to Indonesia and Malaysia led by Marine Minister Michael Creed, who also addressed the Our Ocean Conference in Bali last Monday.

“Market development, including understanding, accessing and growing new markets, is a key theme of our shared Food Wise 2025 strategy, and an important response to the challenges posed by Brexit,” Minster Doyle said.

Earlier in the week the minister will attend the CIIE (Chinese Import and Export Expo) in Shanghai. This Chinese government-led expo, to be opened by President Xi Jinping, is intended to serve as a showcase for China’s commitment to international trade.

The Irish delegation will be led by Heather Humphreys, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation and will feature a significant presence from Bord Bia and a total of 11 Irish meat and dairy companies.

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#Canoeing: Ireland's Jenny Egan finished third in the canoe marathon World Cup race over 26.2 kilometres in Shanghai today. This was the final race of the International Canoe Federation series in Shaoxing and Shanghai. Egan took a silver and a bronze in the first and second races. The three medals brings her tally of medals in marathon events this year to six. 

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#Canoeing: Jenny Egan took bronze at the canoe marathon World Cup in Shanghai in China. Kristina Bedek of Serbia won the 3.6 kilometre K1 race, with Lizzie Broughton of Britain and Egan filling the next two slots in a close finish. Egan had taken silver on Monday at the World Cup in Shaoxing.  

 Ireland also had another good finish in Shanghai. Barry Watkins took fourth in the men’s race.   

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#Canoeing: Jenny Egan took a silver medal at the  ICF Marathon World Cup in Shaoxing, China. Anna Adamova Koziskova of the Czech Republic won a sprint finish with the Ireland athlete at the end of the 26.2 kilometre race. Lizzie Broughton of Britain was third.

 This World Cup is new on the international circuit and while the top marathon canoeists have been invited, not all have travelled. Unusually for this discipline, there has been prize money for competitors.

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#SeafoodExports - Food and Marine Minister Michael Creed and his Chinese counterpart have agreed an export certificate which will permit the resumption of live crab exports to the critically important Chinese market.

The Irish seafood sector has been extremely anxious to resolve a number of certification issues which have hampered the trade, and exports are expected to resume in the very near future, according to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).

The agreement was one of a number of issues settled between Minister Creed and Zhi Shuping, China’s minister with responsibility for the Chinese Quarantine and Inspection Service, during their meeting in Dublin this week at which they signed a landmark protocol for seafood, beef and thoroughbred horse exports.

The meeting on Tuesday (18 April) was the second formal bilateral meeting of the two ministers and comes after Minister Creed’s discussions with Minister Zhi in Beijing last September.

Commenting on the meeting, Minister Creed said: “China is now such an important partner for Ireland on agri-food issues and is our third largest trading partner in this sector,” said Minister Creed on the meeting, adding that the protocol signing “marks the culmination of intensive political, technical and diplomatic engagement with the Chinese authorities.

“I look forward to moving forward with the next steps as quickly as possible”

Irish agri-food exports to China have increased from some €240 million in 2012 to €780 million in 2016, a three-fold increase. This makes China the third largest market for Ireland’s agri-food sector in value terms after the UK and US for last year.

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#VOR - Hong Kong will host the Volvo Ocean Race for the first time when the event visits in February 2018 during the 13th edition.

In a press conference today (Wednesday 13 April), VOR organisers announced a unique collaboration with the Hong Kong Sailing Federation to bring the race to Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour.

It is set to be the largest world-class sailing event ever staged in Hong Kong, already one of the world’s most prestigious sailing destinations.

The world’s premier offshore race will transform the old airport in Kai Tak, and introduce residents of Hong Kong to a wide range of race-related activities geared to educate as well as entertain both existing fans and newcomers to the race.

An in-port race will also be held in the port before the boats leave for the next leg.

Anthony Day, Council Member of the Hong Kong Sailing Federation, said: “This will go down in history as a milestone event for Hong Kong sailing and will provide a wonderful platform for us to engage more Hongkongers in the sport of sailing."

Antonio Bolaños Lopez, acting CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race before Mark Turner takes up the role later this year, added: “I am thrilled that the race is visiting one of the most beautiful ports in the world for the first time.

"We are delighted to welcome Hong Kong to the Volvo Ocean Race family and know that we will have a stopover that will be one of the highlights of the 2017-18 edition.

“I would like to pay special tribute to the Hong Kong Sailing Federation and the Hong Kong government for making our dreams of bringing the race here a reality.”

Hong Kong brings the confirmed list of stopovers so far for the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 edition to nine, which includes Alicante, Auckland, Cape Town, Cardiff, Newport in Rhode Island, Lisbon, Gothenburg and The Hague, which will host the finale after a successful pit-stop on the final leg of the 2014-15 race.

The Hong Kong stopover will mark the fourth time the Volvo Ocean Race has visited China, after Qingdao in the 2008-09 race and Sanya in the 2011-12 and 2014-15 competitions.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

#Seafood - Following a meeting today (5 November) with Chinese Vice Minister Niu Dun, who has responsibility for fisheries, Marine Minister Simon Coveney opened the largest ever Irish pavilion at the China Seafood & Fisheries Expo, which takes place in Qingdao this week.

Speaking at the event, Minister Coveney said: “Ireland has some of the finest seafood in the world, with a superior offering that is sustainably harvested from the pure, clean waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

"Business development and trade show events such as these are invaluable in building awareness of our high quality produce to an influential, targeted trade audience.

"China continues to be a growing market for Irish seafood and with exports increasing by over 300% since 2011 to reach €18 million in 2013. This strong trend in Irish exports to the region is continuing in 2014 with sales for the first 6 months up 56% compared to the same period last year.”

Organised by Bord Bia, Ireland’s stand will include representatives from a record 11 Irish seafood companies between today and Friday 7 November at the largest trade show in China, with more than 25,000 visitors expected from over 100 countries. 

In 2013, China's seafood trade surpassed €20 billion in value, cementing its position as the world's leading seafood trading country. Growing incomes and increased urbanisation have helped fuel a massive growth in demand for imported seafood.

China currently accounts for one quarter of the world’s seafood consumption, and the United Nation’s FAO projects that China will need an extra 16 million tonnes of seafood by 2020 to meet growing demand.

Minister Coveney added: “The strong Irish representation from both the pelagic and shellfish sectors in Qingdao today demonstrates the commitment of both industry and government to deepen ties and strengthen relationships with our Chinese customers.”

Traditionally, the Chinese market has been important for the Irish seafood industry predominantly for the sale of pelagic species such as boarfish, which was launched in China this year after a successful presentation at the 2013 expo.

However, in the last three years, significant effort has been invested by Irish processors and Bord Bia to identify and develop opportunities for premium shellfish in this growing market for seafood, notably for shellfish such as live and processed brown crab, langoustines, scallops and razor fish.

Bord Bia chief executive Aidan Cotter said: “The strong and sustained growth in exports in recent years demonstrates the continued success of Ireland’s leading shellfish processors in penetrating this valuable market. Exports of shellfish to China, for example, increased in value by over 200% between 2012 and 2013, while exports to Hong Kong increased by 117% during the same period.

"Bord Bia has ambitious plans to further grow the share of Irish seafood into China and has a number of programmes in place to assist Irish seafood processors in identifying, profiling and targeting new customers that are willing to pay a premium for quality seafood from Ireland.” 

Through its trade development programme, Bord Bia says it has been very successful in encouraging high-end retail and foodservice Chinese customers to visit Ireland to meet with Irish seafood processors on a one-to-one basis. 

These itineraries have been described as very effective in generating new business for the sector, providing Irish companies with an excellent opportunity to showcase their processing facilities and also allowing the customers to see first hand the world-class environment in which Irish seafood is produced. These visits can provide a guarantee to Chinese customers on traceability, sustainability and food safety, all key issues of growing concern to the Chinese consumer.

“Irish seafood has enjoyed ongoing and increasing market access to China," said Dr Susan Steel, chair of the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority. "International trade in food is based upon a reciprocated trust in food safety systems. The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority, as regulator, verifies the safety and sustainability of Irish seafood and we welcome this Chinese confidence in the robustness of the assurance systems we implement."

During the last three years, Bord Bia has welcomed more than 25 Asian customers to Ireland on customised itineraries. Many of these visits have delivered new business for Irish seafood processors, and in March 2015, as part of its Marketplace International event, Bord Bia will host an additional 17 Asian customers on a visit to Ireland.

The buyers will meet with Ireland’s leading seafood processors, and Bord Bia has set a target of securing €7 million worth of new business for the seafood sector arising from this event.

In September 2013, over €4 million worth of new business was secured with a range of Asian seafood customers who travelled to Ireland to attend Bord Bia’s Global Sustainability Conference.

Going into 2015, to build on the momentum and further increase exports of premium Irish seafood to China, Bord Bia will concentrate its promotional efforts on increasing awareness of new species from Ireland such as brown crab and Irish prawns. 

Targeting premium chefs, media and key opinion-formers, Bord Bia will co-ordinate a series of cookery demonstrations in Beijing and Shanghai, focusing on introducing recipes for these species that are new to the Chinese market. 

The campaign will assist the Irish processing sector to sell in their ranges to distributors servicing the premium restaurants and hotels in these two key locations. In addition, Chinese consumers will be educated and informed through a comprehensive programme of in-store tastings with a number of supermarket retail chains.

Published in Fishing
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#IslandNews - Residents of the Aran Islands are currently in China accompanied by the mayor of Co Galway for a worldwide competition that's doubling as an opportunity to market the West of Ireland as a tourism destination.

The delegation from Inis Oírr are in the southeast coastal city of Xiamen representing Ireland in the 'sustainable communities' category of the Pride of Place competition, according to Galway Bay FM.

Published in Island News
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#VOR - It's been confirmed that a Chinese team will race in the 12th edition of the Volvo Ocean Race.

The new Team Dongfeng, backed by automaker Dongfeng Commercial Vehicle and run by international events and marketing firm OC Sport, will set sail with the rest of the fleet from Alicante in the 2014-15 race.

It also marks the third entry for China in the round-the-world yachting challenge, following the Discover Ireland-backed Team Sanya in the last edition of the VOR that concluded in Galway in exciting fashion, and the joint Chinese-Irish entry Green Dragon in the 2008-09 race.

Headed by team director and VOR veteran Bruno Dubois, Team Dongfeng is expected to be more than just a nominal Chinese entry, with plans for a significant number of Chinese sailors among its final race crew.

They will follow in the wake of Chinese sailing pioneers Guo Chuan, who crewed Green Dragon in 2008-09, and Team Sanya's 'Tiger' Teng Jianghe in last year's race - not to mention success for Chinese sailing at the London Olympics with gold in the women's Laser Radial for sailor of the year Xu Lijia, despite Ireland's own Annalise Murphy's stellar performance in the buildup to the medal race.

“Our priority is the recruitment and training of the Chinese sailors," said Dubois. "This is very clearly the biggest challenge we have – to condense many years of experience of the average Volvo Ocean Race crew into just 10 months.

“But equally this process is at the heart of the project, we want to leave a real legacy that will both motivate the Chinese to want to embrace the sport of sailing, and be able to develop the talent so that, ultimately, a future campaign could be 100% Chinese.”

Team Dongfeng will surely receive a warm welcome when the fleet visits the Chinese port of Sanya, returning as a stopover in the 2014-15 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race after its debut on the calendar in the last running.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race
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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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