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A BIM scientist has welcomed two recent reports in the scientific journal Nature recording how fisheries management and marine conservation have helped to reduce overfishing.

A recent Nature paper entitled “Rebuilding marine life” says that “substantial recovery of the abundance, structure and function of marine life could be achieved by 2050, if major pressures—including climate change—are mitigated”.

Writing in the current issue of The Skipper, Dr Ronán Cosgrove, BIM Fisheries Conservation Manager, says measures on management and conservation since the 1980s have boosted recovery to the point where two-thirds of large-scale commercial stocks are exploited at sustainable rates.

Cosgrove says that the number of marine species at risk of extinction has decreased while populations of marine mammals such as humpback whales and several seal species have significantly increased.

"The number of marine species at risk of extinction has decreased"

While it’s a case of much done and much more to do on the latter, climate change is the “critical backdrop against which all future rebuilding efforts will play out”, he says.

Drawing of the modified 100mm T90 codend by Dr Matthew McHughDrawing of the modified 100mm T90 codend by Dr Matthew McHugh

“Threats such as increased ocean warming, acidification, sea level rises, and ancillary impacts will need to be dealt with through effective mitigation of greenhouse gases and development of carbon capture and removal technologies,”he says.

Cosgrove says the latest edition of the Marine Institute Stock book includes a positive assessment of Irish fisheries.

The number of sustainably fished stocks rose from 33 in 2020 to 35 in 2021 with gradual progress towards long-term sustainable utilisation of the resource base since 2012, he says.

He attributes this to a variety of management measures and increasingly high-quality scientific advice from the institute.

Gear selectivity also helps develop sustainable fisheries, he says, such as increases in mesh sizes and introduction of large square mesh panels to reduce mortality in some fisheries.

Cosgrove records how BIM’s latest gear collaboration with industry has further boosted the performance of the highly selective T90 codend, a key gear measure in the Celtic and Irish Seas. The work was supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

“Due to increased mesh openings, T90 consistently reduces catches of small fish. Thanks to increased water flow through the open meshes, greater quantities of larger market sized fish are swept into and retained in the codend,” he explains.

Testing of a new four-panel 100 mm T90 cod end design was led by BIM’s Daragh Browne, working with an Irish seiner and Cathal Boyle and colleagues at Swan Net Gundry.

The gear modification has been trialled in Canadian and Icelandic fisheries and was successfully tailored to the Irish seine net fishery with extensive design input from Swan Net Gundry, he says.

“Haddock is a key target species for seiners with additional monthly quotas allocated to this fleet,” he notes.

“Conducted on a self-sampling basis due to Covid restrictions, a comparison of the new T90 codend compared with a standard two-panel T90 codend demonstrated a 70% reduction in small grade haddock, and 157% and 133% increases in medium and large-grade haddock. Very few undersize fish occurred in either gear as expected with 100 mm T90 codends,”Cosgove says.

“While price data have yet to be analysed, large haddock are worth substantially more than small haddock meaning the new gear greatly assists in maximising the value of available quota,”he says.

Major reductions in small fish also reduces fishing mortality - leading to improved sustainability of the haddock stock.

The Nature papers are here

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-020-00668-1

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2146-7

The MI stock book is available at www.marine.ie.

Cosgrove’s full report in The Skipper is here

https://theskipper.ie/good-news-for-fisheries-sustainability/

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Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue today announced a support scheme for the inshore fisheries sector to assist inshore fishers in adjusting to the impacts of Brexit on their businesses. The Brexit Inshore Fisheries Business Model Adjustment Scheme delivers on a recommendation of the Report of the Seafood Task Force – Navigating Change (October 2021). The scheme will be implemented under de minimus rules and is proposed for funding under the EU Brexit Adjustment Reserve.

Announcing the Scheme, Minister McConalogue said: “The Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and the UK had significant negative impacts for our fishing industry. Our inshore fishers have been particularly and uniquely impacted by logistical and route to market difficulties as exporters of live shellfish and other highly perishable seafood products. These difficulties have added costs to the business model of our inshore fishers and in reducing the shelf life of these highly perishable products have impacted negatively on the sector.

“I am announcing today a forward-looking support scheme to assist inshore fishers in adjusting their business model to the post Brexit market environment. The scheme will take the form of a suite of four online training modules to be made available by BIM, specifically tailored to the inshore fishing sector, with a payment to owners of inshore fishing vessels to assist them with the costs of undertaking the training and subsequently adjusting their business and marketing plans. The scheme will be open to owners of fishing vessels under 18 metres in length, registered in the polyvalent, polyvalent potting and specific segments. As recommended by the Seafood Task Force, these one-off payments will be €2,700 for owners of vessels under 8 metres in length and €4,000 for owners of vessels between 8 metres and 17.99 metres in length”.

The Scheme will operate from January to March 2022 and will be administered by Bord Iascaigh Mhara. Further details will be available from BIM in due course here

For vessel owners to be eligible, they must demonstrate that they were actively fishing during the period January to June 2021. The scheme will specify requirements in this respect.

Seafood Task Force

In March 2021, Minister McConalogue set up the Seafood Sector Task Force to examine the implications for the Irish Fishing industry and coastal communities particularly dependent upon it arising from the Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement, agreed between the European Union and the UK. The Task Force, chaired by Aiden Cotter, was charged with recommending initiatives that could be taken to provide supports for development and restructuring, so as to ensure a profitable and sustainable fishing fleet and to identify opportunities for jobs and economic activity in coastal communities dependent on fishing.

Minister McConalogue received the Task Force report on 11 October 2021. The report recommended 16 support schemes at a total estimated cost of €423 million. The recommendations include voluntary decommissioning schemes for the white fish fleet and inshore fleet to restore those fleets to viability, supports for temporary cessation of fishing activities, capital investment in seafood processing enterprises, in aquaculture enterprises and in publicly owned marine infrastructure, and investment to diversify the economies of our coastal communities through a community led local development initiative through the seven Fisheries Local Action Groups. These stakeholder recommendations are being urgently examined across Government with particular regard to available funds, eligibility of the recommended measures for funding under the EU Brexit Adjustment Reserve and with regard to State Aid rules and the Public Spending Code.

Brexit Inshore Fisheries Business Model Adjustment Scheme

The scheme announced today delivers on recommendation 2.5.2 (inshore short-term support). The four training modules to be delivered through the scheme are as follows:

Module 1 - Adjusting your Seafood Business Plan post Brexit
This module will provide participants with the core skills, understanding and tools to adapt their own professional business plan to develop or stabilise their seafood operation which is needed as a result of the new market conditions due to Brexit.

Module 2 - Reaching new customers - tailored digital skills for inshore fishing businesses
This module will raise awareness of the opportunities that exist for inshore fishers to reach customers directly online and engage participants so that they develop a new interest in digital skills training to help them further their business interests online.

Module 3 - Alternative Market Opportunities for your Inshore Catch

This module will provide inshore fishers with knowledge on alternative markets and how they can exploit them as well as how to direct sell their catch.

Module 4 - Understanding your Market and Maximising the Return from your Inshore Catch
This module will provide the inshore sector with an overview of the market for inshore species, the market requirements for these species and the characteristics of good and bad product. It will provide information on how inshore fishers can improve the quality of product provided to the market and the economic benefits from doing so.

Demonstration of fishing activity

For vessels to be eligible, they must demonstrate they were actively fishing in 2021 as follows:

For vessels greater than or equal to 10 metres in length, they must demonstrate that they were active during January to June 2021 through logbook data showing a minimum of 30 days fishing activity.

For vessels under 10 metres in length, they must demonstrate that they were active during January to June 2021 through Sales Notes data showing landings of a minimum value of €1,000. If an error has been made by a fisherman or his/her agent or customer and Sales Notes have not been uploaded to the SFPA Sales Notes system for whatever reason, the applicant should arrange for the error be corrected appropriately. Applicants who feel they have a valid reason for not having their catch recorded on the Sales Notes system may submit an appeal to BIM. In the case of such appeals, where Sales Notes data cannot demonstrate the requisite fishing activity, certain verified sales invoices may be accepted by BIM. These must demonstrate compliance with the following statutory requirements:

  • Maximum quantity of 30 kg per week to a final consumer or to a local retail establishment supplying directly to the final consumer.
  • Maximum value of €50 per day per final consumer.
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The Minister for the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D., today welcomed the agreement between the EU and the UK on Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for shared stocks in 2022. This agreement covers all our whitefish stocks including Haddock, Cod, Whiting, Monkfish, Prawns, Sole and Plaice and other stocks including Horse Mackerel and Herring.

The Minister said: “Negotiations with the UK on the fishing quotas began in early November and have proven very difficult, particularly in relation to stocks in the Celtic Sea. The negotiations commenced on the basis of the scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) but there were significant differences between the parties on how the scientific advice should be applied in mixed fisheries. Throughout this process, I worked closely with Commissioner Sinkevičius to protect Ireland’s key interests in these negotiations. I thank the Commissioner and his negotiating team for their hard work over the last number of weeks.”

The Minister for the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.DThe Minister for the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D

The Minister added that: “I had sought that the quotas should be set following the scientific advice and had pressed this point in relation to certain key stocks where the UK took a different position. However, taking account of the need for fishers to have certainty for the coming year, and in the context of what were very difficult and prolonged negotiations and widely diverging views on some stocks, I am satisfied that the Commissioner delivered a balanced overall agreement. Like all agreements, it involved compromises. This agreement will support the sustainable management of our shared stocks and enable fishermen to plan their activities for the year ahead. The agreement sets sustainable quotas for the stocks of interest to Ireland and by-catch only quotas for vulnerable stocks in mixed fisheries.”

Preliminary Analysis of 2022 TACs for EU stocks shared with UK

The quotas above have not been formally adopted by the Commission yet and are based on Department’s analysis only of IE’s quota for 2022 for stocks shared with the UK.  Hague Preferences have been included for the relevant stocks – Hague Preferences must be agreed and adopted by Council.  The table above only includes the stocks shared with the UK only.The quotas above have not been formally adopted by the Commission yet and are based on the Department of the Marine's analysis only of IE’s quota for 2022 for stocks shared with the UK. Hague Preferences have been included for the relevant stocks – Hague Preferences must be agreed and adopted by Council. The table above only includes the stocks shared with the UK only.

The Minister added: “Having this agreement in place before the end of the year will provide much needed stability and certainty for the fishing industry. My priority now is to ensure that the Hague Preferences, which increase Ireland’s quotas for our traditional stocks such as Cod, Whiting, Sole and Plaice, when the TAC is set at a low level, are applied to the relevant stocks in the final EU Regulation that gives effect to this agreement. The EU/UK Agreement determines the overall level of the EU share for the coming year and there is then a further internal EU step required to determine the detailed national quotas for each stock. That work is under way but will take more time.”

The Presidency of the EU Council has clarified that the formal regulation on fishing opportunities for 2022 – including the amendment containing the final quotas – will be finalised by the Council’s legal and linguistic experts, following which it will be formally adopted by the Council and published in the Official Journal. The provisions will apply retroactively as of 1st January 2022.

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Post Brexit negotiations between the EU and UK on fishing quotas for shared fish stocks, which commenced in early November were still deadlocked ahead of the EU Council of Fisheries Ministers that commenced on Sunday and finished early this morning. In light of that situation, Fisheries Ministers decided to set provisional fish quotas for EU fishers for the first quarter of 2022 in the event that an agreement is not reached before the end of the year.

Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue said, “It is regrettable that the negotiations with the UK on fish quotas for shared stocks, which started on 11 November, could not be concluded ahead of the Council. These negotiations with the UK have proved to be very difficult and it is in Ireland’s interest that the EU is not rushed into an unacceptable deal. To avoid any disruption to our fleets, we have agreed provisional fish quotas for the first quarter of 2022. The EU remains committed to securing a balanced and sustainable agreement with the UK.”

The Council of Ministers agreed to set provisional quotas for the EU industry, to the end of March, at the level of 25% of the 2021 quotas. Given the seasonal nature of certain fisheries, Minister McConalogue ensured that the quotas made available for those fisheries that take place predominantly in the first three months of the year meets the seasonal patterns of these fisheries. The final outcome was that the full 2022 annual quotas for mackerel, blue whiting and Norwegian herring were agreed as well as 70 per cent of the full year quota for Horse Mackerel.

In addition, Minister McConalogue ensured that half of the quota for Prawns on the Porcupine Bank to the West of Ireland and 85% of the whiting stock in the Celtic sea is available in the first quarter, to reflect the seasonality of these important fisheries.

Minister McConalogue said, “I was pleased that Commissioner Sinkevičius accepted our request to provide for our seasonal fisheries by providing adequate quota to enable the Irish fishing industry to pursue these economically important fisheries from the beginning of January. The Council also agreed to my request to apply the Hague Preferences, which benefit Ireland when stocks are at low levels.”

In respect of the actions by Norway and the Faroes Islands, in unilaterally setting unacceptably high quotas for mackerel for 2021, Minister McConalogue said “I asked the EU to work with like-minded partners to secure fair and balanced mackerel shares for coastal states in 2022. I made clear that the EU must be prepared to take all appropriate measures if Norway and Faroes again set such unsustainable quotas for 2022. This level of overfishing resulting from these inflated unilateral quotas will, in short time, deplete this stock which is economically very important for our own fishing fleet. ”

Minister McConalogue also welcomed the commitment secured from the Commission to examine and produce proposals, by the 31st of March next year, on the allocation and distribution of an EU mackerel quota historically linked to an agreement with Norway. The Minister said “I was satisfied that the Council agreed that the mackerel quota in question has been suspended, pending the outcome of a thorough assessment involving the Commission and Member States. I will continue to engage actively on the issue and look forward to examining the Commission proposals.”

The Council will finalise the list of all provisional TACs and Quotas agreed in the coming days

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The RNLI Aran lifeboat and Port of Galway came to the aid of a French fishing vessel yesterday which lost its anchor during Storm Barra.

The 28-metre Ferreira Martinez was one of three French vessels sheltering from the storm in the North Sound, lying between the Aran island of Inis Mór and Leitir Mealláin in south Connemara.

The vessel, which is registered in Bayonne, broke down and was taken under tow by one of the other fishing vessels, Playa du Tuya. Initially, it was planned to tow it to Bantry in west Cork but the Irish Coast Guard nominated Galway as a port of refuge.

Port of Galway harbourmaster Capt Brian Sheridan (who shot the above video of the safe arrival into Galway Port) said that the RNLI Aran lifeboat launched and stood by during the tow into Galway.

The port took over operations from the Aran lifeboat when the tow was off Salthill, and guided both French vessels into the docks last night.

The 28-metre Ferreira Martinez was one of three French vessels sheltering from the storm between the Aran island of Inis Mór and Leitir Mealláin in south ConnemaraThe 28-metre Ferreira Martinez was one of three French vessels sheltering from the storm between the Aran island of Inis Mór and Leitir Mealláin in south Connemara

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An internationally-renowned team of Spanish artists has been creating a large mural in the Lithuanian home base of the EU Environment and Oceans commissioner this week to inspire action on climate breakdown.

The Boa Mistura team of artists have been commissioned by the European non-governmental organisation Our Fish, which campaigns to end overfishing and to restore a healthy ocean ecosystem.

Work began this week on the 300 square metre fresco, named “Heartbeat of the Ocean”, on the entire wall of a nine-storey apartment building in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius.

“We chose Vilnius for the mural, as it is the home city of the European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius,”Our Fish programme director Rebecca Hubbard explained.

“His mission to rebuild healthy fish populations and thriving ecosystems will not only ensure the oceans’ abilities to continue supporting life on the planet by providing all of us with oxygen and food – it will also contribute to sustaining the oceans’ protective powers against the worst effects of climate change,”she said.

 The renowned team of Spanish artists Boa MisturaThe team of Spanish artists Boa Mistura

The European Commission is currently preparing an action plan to conserve fishery resources and protect marine ecosystems.

It is “crucial for this plan to set out a pathway for reducing the devastating impact of overfishing on marine life and for bolstering the ocean's capacity to store carbon”, Hubbard said.

“This pathway should outline a transition from destructive bottom trawling towards sustainable fisheries that will also benefit the marine environment and support the livelihoods of our coastal communities,”she said.

Four members of the Boa Mistura team are employed on the mural, with a heart made of different marine species reminding the public that “every heartbeat of the planet comes from the bottom of the sea”..

The Boa Mistura team’s work is visible on buildings or streets in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Germany, France, USA, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, South Africa, China, and in other countries.

The mural with the slogan “Save the ocean to save the climate” is expected to be completed in the next fortnight.

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The Workplace Relations Commission has directed that over 20,000 euro in compensation be paid to an Egyptian fisherman employed on an Irish vessel for breaches of his working time and payment of wages legislation.

Egyptian national Ali Rezk (63) was awarded the sum for breaches on the part of his employer, fishing vessel owner and retailer Seán Doran.

Rezk was employed under the atypical work permit scheme, and worked as a fisherman from December 22nd, 2016 to August 15th, 2019.

Legal representatives for Rezk claimed that he was not paid in accordance with the National Minimum Wage Act, he was not paid for hours that he worked, he was not compensated for public holidays and he did not receive the correct holidays.

In his response to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), Seán Doran stated that the boat did not operate to full throttle, and the hours were based on work and call outs.

He said the fish catch was very limited, so the hours worked were much less than the hours that are claimed, and “boredom” was factor on this boat due to the small amount of work.

He said there was plenty of rest available as it was a small boat, and Rezk was facilitated with his religious practices and food.

He said Rezk “stopped working for prayers”, he was “a sports fan and he was given time to watch the football matches” and this “was not a profitable business and the prawn vessel "washed its face".

Doran stated that while Rezk was on shore they couldn’t put him in the shop because of his poor English.

He said Rezk was given three to six hours work per day in the factory and was paid for eight hours, was always welcome in the restaurant and not charged for food except for cigarettes and the lotto.

Doran said that the company had up to ten trawlers and never had any labour issues.

Doran said that no records were kept for the vessel, an issue which the WRC inspector drew attention to in his ruling.

Noting the “conflict of evidence” in the case, the WRC inspector said there was a duty to maintain records of hours of work under S.I. No. 709/2003 – European Communities (Workers on Board Sea-Going Fishing Vessels) (Organisation of Working Time) Regulations 2003.

“Based on the claim as presented by the complainant, I find, on the balance of probabilities, that the complainant worked an average of 17 hours a day while at sea and eight hours day while on shore,” the WRC inspector said and this exceeded 72 hours per week as is provided by SI 709/2003.

“I find that this is an industry that is subject to some very challenging weather conditions and the safety of fishermen is of paramount importance,” the WRC inspector said.

He said that it is “essential that fishermen are protected against working excessive hours which may cause them to make errors in their work which could negatively impact on their safety and that of their colleagues”.

He found Rezk was due over €5,364 in addition to a smaller amount for public holidays for unpaid hours, and he should be paid another €15,000 compensation by his employer for breaches of his rights “which is to serve as an effective, dissuasive and proportionate deterrent”.

Rezk had also claimed he was not paid in accordance with national minimum wage legislation, but the WRC said the claim was not well-founded as he did not seek a written statement of his hourly pay.

The International Transport Federation (ITF) said it had a mixed reaction to the WRC decision, due to restrictions in the current legislation.

ITF fisheries campaign lead Michael O’Brien said that under the current Workplace Relations Act 2015, the “cognisable period” that the WRC can retrieve unpaid wages for is normally only the six months prior to a complaint being submitted, or twelve months in extenuating circumstances.

In this instance, the WRC adjudicator was limited to compensating Rezk just over €5,500 for just the final six and a half months of the total 33 months that the fisher was employed aboard the vessel, O’Brien noted.

“If we are to end the routine exploitation of fishers the law needs to provide for 100% retrieval of unpaid wages and entitlements,” O’Brien said.

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It’s been seven years since herring were landed in Bangor on Belfast Lough, but the Fairwind whose home port is Kilkeel on the Mourne coast in south Down, landed its catch in the harbour last week. The crew transferred the fish from the net to the boat by brailing.

Hand brailing is when fish are concentrated alongside the fishing vessel, and a brailing net is used to lift them aboard. The iron hoop of the brail net is first dipped into the net, drawn through the fish, and pulled up again.

It's been many years since herring have been landed in Bangor. The last time was in 2014 when a large fishing vessel with a refrigerated seawater system transferred herring ashore via a pump into road tankers.

"It’s good to see smaller vessels availing of herring quota and the traditional method of brailing being used to land"

“However,” says Harbour Master Kevin Baird “ It’s good to see smaller vessels availing of herring quota and the traditional method of brailing being used to land. There are herring shoals at this time of the year (winter herring) and sometimes they do come into Belfast Lough but are more usually caught in the seas off the Mournes”.

Herring was fished from harbours all along the Down coast with the Mourne ports of Kilkeel and Annalong emerging as key centres in the mid-19th century with Ardglass which had first developed as a fish harbour in the Middle Ages, becoming a herring poet then as well.

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Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue is expected to present a memo on the Government’s seafood task force report to Cabinet this week.

Mr McConalogue is requesting that the Cabinet notes the report, while he awaits a review on its recommendations.

The task force report, published in early October, is recommending just over €423 million be given to the Irish fishing industry to help weather the impact of Brexit.

Highlights include awarding €66 million for a whitefish decommissioning scheme, €6 million to reduce the inshore fleet, and €3.7 million to remove inactive or off-register inshore vessels.

It also recommends €90 million for seafood processors, and a series of short term measures, including a €12 million annual tie-up of polyvalent vessels over two years.

It recommends an €8 million liquidity scheme for the pelagic sector, support for scallop vessels and vessels hit by exclusion from the Rockall squid fishery, and investment in aquaculture.

It also recommends investment in small scale public marine infrastructure, community-led local development, inshore marketing and processing capital.

"Its final report says the Irish seafood sector is “in the eye of the storm”

The proposed whitefish decommissioning scheme aims to remove 60 vessels of around 8,000 GT and 21,000 Kw at a premium of up to €12,000 per gross tonne, including “appropriate” payments to crew and scrapping costs.

The taskforce report was established by McConalogue earlier this year to examine the implications of the EU/UK Trade & Cooperation Agreement (TCA) for the fishing industry and coastal communities.

Its final report says the Irish seafood sector is “in the eye of the storm”.

Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue: The Seafood Taskforce has met 14 times and received 72 submissions from its members, and a further 27 through public consultation, since it began meeting last MarchMarine Minister Charlie McConalogue: The Seafood Taskforce has met 14 times and received 72 submissions from its members, and a further 27 through public consultation, since it began meeting last March

It says that the end of the Brexit withdrawal period has brought about the biggest change and disruption in EU-British relations in 50 years, across all aspects of trade and society.

The Irish fleet has lost access to 15% of its annual quota, including stocks of prawn, monkfish, and haddock, while Brexit has also hit Ireland’s €80m worth of seafood exports to Britain.

It says Irish seafood imports from Britain, valued at €219 million in 2018, have been disrupted, while vital seafood export routes, primarily the ’land-bridge’ via Britain, have been curtailed.

It also says established Irish/British links at scientific and policy levels in EU and ICES have been lost.

The task force has met 14 times and received 72 submissions from its members, and a further 27 through public consultation, since it began meeting last March.

An interim report published in June recommended establishment of a voluntary, temporary cessation scheme running to December 2021 as a first step.

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The Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue T.D. met virtually today with the members of the National Inshore Fisheries Forum (NIFF).

Minister McConalogue welcomed those representatives from the six Regional Inshore Fisheries Forums who were attending the NIFF for the first time, noting that the process of renewing Forum membership has been working well.

“I am delighted with the level of commitment that people have shown in engaging with the Forums because, without that commitment, this initiative would not have emerged as the influential voice for the inshore sector that it has become,” the Minister said.

The Minister discussed issues, that are important to the inshore sector, with the Forum members, including the recommendations in the final report of the Seafood Sector Task Force. The Minister thanked the NIFF for its participation in the Task Force and the valuable contributions it made to those discussions.

The Minister said, “I am urgently examining the Task Force report with a view to quickly implementing a comprehensive response to the impacts of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement on our fishing sector and coastal communities.”

The Minister and inshore representatives also discussed a range of other topics including the “hook and line” mackerel fishery and the sustainable management of the brown crab fishery, which is one of the most important stocks for inshore fishers and for the seafood sector.

The meeting included contributions from Bord Bia, the Marine Institute and Bord Iascaigh Mhara. The Minister thanked all those attending for their constructive engagement throughout the meeting.

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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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