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In its annual Business of Seafood Report, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) announced that the Irish seafood economy grew by 15% in 2021, to €1.26bn.

Despite the dual challenges of Brexit and Covid-19, the industry recovered from the trading difficulties experienced in 2020, with a growth in GDP of 15.3% year-on-year – the highest value seen since 2016. This growth was driven by strong exports to the EU and Asia increasing the total value by 11% - to €674m.

Foodservice purchases of seafood in Ireland increased by 12% in 2021, following from a decline of 53% in 2020. Domestic consumption grew by 3% to €418 million, while the seafood balance of trade (exports – imports) also grew by 45%, driven by the strong export growth, particularly in EU markets. Overall investment in the sector increased during 2021 to €454 million (+8%), showing renewed confidence.

BIM Seafood report 2021 infographic

BIM chief executive Jim O’Toole said that the sector had proven to be highly resilient and innovative:

“The key insights from this report are the sector’s success in both identifying and driving opportunities in different markets along with an increase in value for some categories.

While Brexit, and the additional impacts of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement [agreed between the EU and the UK] reduced quotas for key species, Government support along with private investment helped mitigate some of these impacts.

“The industry continues to adapt, for example in the seafood-tech sector there are now over fifty companies employing more than 700 people from disciplines including engineering, fintech and marketing and we have seen turnover more than double in the past few years.

“Although we have seen significant growth last year there are further challenges now being encountered with cost increases for fuel, energy, and materials as a result of the conflict in Ukraine. Support to the industry to help withstand this economic shock will undoubtedly be required.”

Domestic hospitality sector

Seafood consumption grew by 3% in 2021, driven by a partial recovery in the domestic hospitality sector. For much of 2021 the hospitality sector was severely hampered in its operations due to Covid-19 health restrictions, but it did grow by 12% as these eased into the summer. Normal operating conditions should see strong growth and recovery in 2022.

Supply and demand on the international markets

While the volume of produced Irish organic salmon remained stable in 2021, the value decreased by 14%. This was due to increased international supply of organic salmon by competitor countries such as Norway and Scotland.

The reopening of the food service sectors internationally led to strong price growth in shellfish species such as crab, lobster, shrimp and razor clams - with prices increasing over 20%.

The impact of Brexit

Under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement there were substantial transfers of fish quotas from the EU to the UK. Ireland was heavily impacted by these quota transfers resulting in a reduction of volumes landed by Irish vessels of 7%. Despite this, total value of Irish landings grew by 2% driven by higher prices.

Brexit also introduced a change in trading patterns. Previously the UK had been the main source of seafood imports into Ireland. During 2021 there has been a shift away from sourcing from the UK. The EU is now the main import market for the first time, with the value of imports from the UK dropping by 57%.

Investment in the sector

In 2021, Government investment in the seafood sector continued to grow, amounting to €232 million, an increase of 11%. Support from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) along with national investment programmes contributed to a wide range of projects across all parts of the industry.

Private investment, after falling quite significantly in 2020, increased by €23 million (+5%), totalling €221 million, reflecting the ambition of the sector as it emerged from many challenges.

Employment in the seafood sector

Employment in the sector also remained stable in 2021 despite the hurdles encountered. A total of some 16,650 people were employed directly and indirectly, an increase in overall employment of 1%. This comprised 8,700 employed directly in fisheries, aquaculture and processing, with a further 8,000 in downstream employment in ancillary and support sectors.

Rising Costs – the new challenge

The price of marine diesel has increased by almost 150% since the start of the Ukrainian crisis, while the price of materials and equipment has also increased steeply. Coming so soon after the economic shocks of Covid-19 and Brexit, the resilience of the sector is going to be tested to the full during 2022 and beyond.

It will require a collective effort from the industry, backed with financial and technical support, to withstand this new challenge and remain profitable.

Published in Fishing
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The Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation has advised its members not to sign up to the Irish Fishing Master Register.

“This is akin to what happened in South Africa in the 1950s and also in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s which is the creation of a Register for an ethnic minority.” said the CEO of the Organisation, Patrick Murphy.

The Board of Directors of the South West FPO told members that they had not yet seen the legislation applicable to what the Minister stated in his communication as the Act is not yet published, but that it is their belief “that this is utterly discriminatory to Irish citizens and it should be challenged. We are currently seeking professional and legal advice.

It has advised its members to “hold off from signing on to the Register or providing the information sought until we have an opportunity to see the actual legislation and its details.”

Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue announced that from May 3, upon the commencement of the Sea-Fisheries (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2022 the Irish Fishing Master Register will be set up “to bring Irish legislation in line with EU Council Regulation 1224/2009, which established a community control system for ensuring compliance with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and establishing a level playing field across the EU on fisheries control.”

“Under the Act, it will be an offence for anyone to lawfully take charge of a sea fishing boat unless registered on the IFMR, whether owner of the boat or not. “It will also be an offence for a registered sea fishing boat licence holder to knowingly employ someone as a master who is not registered as such on the IFMR.”

The Act defines a ‘Master’ as the ‘Master, Skipper or other people for the time being in charge of the boat.”

All Masters must be registered on the IFMR upon the commencement of the act on 3 May 2022.

Published in Fishing

The Unfair Trading Practices Enforcement Authority want to hear the views of primary food producers about any Unfair Trading Practice related issues they face within the food supply chain, including whether buyers are treating them fairly and lawfully in compliance with Unfair Trading Practices Regulations.

This is an invaluable opportunity for fishers to be heard on this important issue.

Visit www.utp.gov.ie to complete the short online survey by 15th March.

All results received will be processed anonymously by a market research company and the survey findings will be made available in the coming weeks.

Published in Fishing

Ireland‘s unique opportunity to help Europe reduce its dependence on Russian oil could be hampered by a severe skills shortage for developing offshore renewable energy, industry experts have warned.

And unless the Government moves quickly on establishing a stakeholder liaison group, offshore wind and the fishing industry are on a “collision course”, a conference at the National Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI) was told.

Ireland can be a leading wind and wave energy supplier, but it will only capture just over 20 per cent of jobs required unless the Government co-ordinates specific training, Wind Energy Ireland chief executive Noel Cunniffe said.

Wind Energy Ireland chief executive Noel CunniffeWind Energy Ireland chief executive Noel Cunniffe

Cunniffe was speaking at the event hosted by Simply Blue Energy, on the theme of “Our Offshore Renewable Energy Opportunity – Is Ireland Ready” which dealt with maritime qualifications and certification.

His organisation, which represents the wind energy industry, has urged development of specialist marine apprenticeship schemes and a skills plan for renewable energy involving schools and universities, he told the conference at the NMCI hosted by Simply Blue Energy.

This was echoed by Dr Alan Power of the Government’s expert group on future skills needs, who said that marine careers are a “significant growth area”.

To meet the Government’s five GW target for offshore wind by 2030, a range of key occupations will be required including engineers, ecologists, marine biologists, hydrologists, and people with construction and technical skills, Power said.

Marine operators and ship crew, wind turbine technicians and experienced professions in transport and logistics will also be required, he said.

Marine renewable expert Prof Tony Lewis of University College Cork recalled a similar discussion on skills shortages in oil and gas 40 years ago when the Kinsale gas field was being developed.

Prof Tony Lewis of University College CorkProf Tony Lewis of University College Cork

“We missed that opportunity then,” he said, urging a coordinated approach with an “enterprise focus” to ensure Ireland could supply the required expertise without losing out to foreign companies.

Mark de Faoite of Údarás na Gaeltachta said renewable energy jobs could also help to sustain Gaeltacht areas, but a holistic approach to skills and training was required by all Government departments and agencies.

Mark de Faoite of Údarás na GaeltachtaMark de Faoite of Údarás na Gaeltachta

However, offshore wind and the fishing industry are on a “collision course”, with fears about the impact on fishing now greater than the impact of Brexit, John Lynch, chief executive of the Irish South and East Fish Producers’ Organisation said.

“There is no question that we do require renewable energy and it is a great opportunity,” Lynch said, but it had “got off to a bad start”.

He described how renewable energy companies came to meetings with fishers with “a presentation, a map” but with “pre-determined sites” in inshore coastal areas.

“We had no input into the position of those sites,” he said, and “co-existence would have been far easier” if there had been prior consultation.

Even if fishing was allowed near an offshore wind farm, the risk of snagging gear, accidental damage to equipment and the risk of prosecution over same would pose serious challenges and could cause insurance problems, Lynch explained.

Co Waterford vessel owner Caitlín Uí Aodha said “the hunters are being hunted off their grounds”.

“We want to be green, but we need you to understand fishing is not just a job, but a way of life, a tradition, a heritage,” Uí Aodha said, emphasising the need for seafood protein suppliers to survive.

“I am not convinced that those involved in this [renewable] industry are there to look after me..you’re there to make money,” she told renewable energy representatives at the conference.

In his opening address, Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue acknowledged delays in establishing an offshore renewable energy/seafood liaison forum, and recruitment was ongoing for a chairperson.

Attracta Uí Bhroin of the Irish Environmental Network identified delays in marine spatial planning by Government as being critical.

Ireland is required to extend its network of marine protected areas, but any attempt to co-locate offshore wind farms in protected areas cannot be a “box-ticking exercise” in relation to protected of the marine environment, she said.

Published in Power From the Sea

Green Party MEP Grace O’Sullivan has welcomed this week’s High Court judgment which will see the European Court of Justice being asked to rule on a missed deadline set for sustainably set fish quotas in European waters.

Environmental group Friends of the Irish Environment CLG (FIE) brought the case to the High Court over the alleged failure by the Irish State to meet a legally defined deadline of ending overfishing of all stocks by 2020.

FIE, which was supported by the legal non-governmental organisation (NGO) Client Earth, claimed the main goal of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) was to restore and maintain fish stocks above sustainable levels.

The European Commission had set a target of 2015 for sustainable levels for all fish stocks to be achieved - or by 2020 at the latest.

FIE claimed the European Commission has set total allowable catches for national fleets, for a wide range of fish stocks, at unsustainable levels in 2020.

It said it would have “profound negative consequences for the marine environment and the sustainability of European fishing activities”.

In his judgment on February 8th, Mr Justice Barr said that while the court was satisfied that the issues between the parties in relation to the 2020 Regulation and the fisheries management were “moot”, given the fact that time had passed, it was likely to be a “live issue” in respect of other regulations issued by the EU Council in the future.

“Accordingly, it is desirable that a decision be reached on the general legality of such regulations in terms of their compliance with Article 2(2) of the CFP,” he said.

He also said that the case raised issues of “general public importance” for two reasons.

“Firstly, the application raises issues in relation to the conservation of fish stock, which are of fundamental importance to the citizens of the EU and secondly, the issues raised

herein have enormous ramifications for the fishing industry in the member states of the EU,” Mr Justice Barr said.

Mr O’Sullivan, who is Green Party spokesperson on the marine and a member of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee, welcomed the ruling.

“Time after time, member states, including Ireland, have exceeded the scientific advice provided for sustainable fishing levels,” she said.

“In the North Atlantic alone, around 46% of Northeast Atlantic total allowable catches (TACs) could be considered ‘unsustainable’ in 2020,” she said.

“ This goes against the EU’s own legal commitment to end overfishing and is extremely damaging to our marine environment, not to mention the fishing communities that depend on healthy stocks,” she said.

Ms O’Sullivan said it was significant that this first challenge came from Ireland, as the European Commission recently expressed concern that “Ireland continues to be the most expensive member state in which to make an environmental claim before the courts”.

“The European Union has set many ambitious goals recently, in light of the European Green Deal and the Environment Action Programme to 2030. But if we do not act on the science, then our efforts to end the climate and biodiversity crises will be pointless,” she added.

Published in Fishing

The announcement by Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue that he is establishing a Common Fisheries Policy Review Group is being seen as a response to increased pressure from the fishing industry for a strong level of preparation for changes in the CFP.

The Policy which has been blamed for causing severe damage to the Irish fishing industry, because of the bigger size of quotas it allocated to foreign vessels in Irish waters, while keeping Irish quotas much smaller.

The ten-year review of the CFP has to be completed by December 2022. However, this review does not imply major changes being made in the Policy.

In fact, on his visit to Ireland last October, EU Commissioner for Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius, said: “We’ll do a review, and we will be listening to stakeholders’ concerns, and we’ll look at certain changes, but I cannot promise we will be reopening the CFP.”

The general attitude in the Irish industry is that only a thorough review of the Policy can address the Irish fleet’s reduced access to quotas and the impact of Brexit, as well as the refusal of other EU countries to agree to “burden-sharing” of the Brexit impact. The initial response to the Minister’s announcement is that it is a “needed, welcome and positive move, needed to get a strong Irish position established about the CFP,” industry sources told Afloat.

"a forum of key stakeholders to produce a report to inform Ireland's position"

Commissioner Sinkevičius acknowledged that the review will have to take Brexit into account. He added that climate change, pollution and sustainable fishing would also be included.

EU Commissioner for Fisheries Virginijus SinkevičiusEU Commissioner for Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius

“The seafood sector has faced challenges over the recent past, arising in particular from Brexit,” said Minister McConalogue in announcing the Review Group. It will be, he said, “a forum of key stakeholders to produce a report to inform Ireland's position during the course of the CFP review. This forum will be able to draw on the expertise in my own Department, the Marine Institute and BIM, to provide the necessary policy, scientific and technical support.”

It will be chaired by Mr John Malone, former Secretary General of the Department of Agriculture. Mr. Malone will be assisted by a steering committee comprising Mr Micheal O Cinneide, former Director of the Marine Institute and Environmental Protection Agency and Mr Donal Maguire, former Director in BIM.

The Group will involve representatives of stakeholders, including Producer Organisations, National Inshore Fisheries Forum, the Aquaculture industry, Co-Ops, and the Seafood processing industry. It will also include representatives of environmental NGOs. Its purpose is to examine the issues that arise for Ireland in the context of the CFP Review, to advise the Minister on priorities for the negotiations and to identify strategies most likely to influence the outcome of the review.

The Minister is seeking from the Group recommendations in relation to the CFP Review, to focus on supporting the social and economic health of our fisheries dependant coastal communities, economic development in our sea-food sector, delivering long term sustainability of fish stocks and maximising protection of habitats and the marine environment.

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) Regulation (Regulation EU 380/2013) provides that the European Commission will report to the European Parliament and the Council on the functioning of the CFP by the end of 2022. The European Commission has launched an online questionnaire as part of its public consultation on the preparation of this report. The Commission has stated that it intends to close its consultation process with a stakeholder event before the summer of 2022.

The Minister has asked the Review Group to complete its work by June to ensure that Ireland’s priorities are clearly set out and inputted into the formal Commission process.

Minister McConalogue said that he is issuing invitations to the relevant Stakeholder organisations for nominations to the Group and expects the Group to get to work once all nominations to the Group are in place.

Those being invited to be part of the Group have been named as:

  • Fishing and Aquaculture representatives - One representative each from: Irish South and East Fish Producers Organisation; Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation; Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation; Irish Fish Producers Organisation; Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation;
  • National Inshore Forum; Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association; IFA Aquaculture.
  • Co-Ops: 2 representatives
  • Environmental NGOs: 2 representatives
Published in Fishing

The International Transport Workers' Federation says it is handing in a study Maynooth University conducted on migrant fishing crew to a Government review today.

The study by Maynooth University’s law department on the experiences of non-EEA workers in the Irish fishing industry will be submitted to the Government's review of the Atypical work permit scheme.

Michael O’Brien, who is the federation’s fisheries campaign lead for Ireland, says the study is a “devastating critique of the failures of the Atypical scheme since its inception six years ago”.

He says it makes a number of recommendations that, if implemented, would “go far in liberating migrant fishers, both documented and undocumented, from below minimum wage employment and precarious status in the state”.

The study collated testimony from migrant fishers of “ongoing abuses in the sector”, O’Brien said.

The Government announced that an inter-departmental group, headed up by the Department of Justice, would carry out the review of the Atypical work permit scheme.

Read the submission here

Published in Fishing

The EU’s fisheries commissioner has paid tribute to Irish fishermen for their role in shifting the location of Russian military exercises outside the Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

In a tweet, Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said that “Irish fishermen got their diplomatic game on! “

“They managed to stop Russian military exercises that would undermine their activities and marine life,” he said.

“ Real custodians of the sea on duty! The world could use more of you!” the commissioner, who holds the environment, oceans and fisheries portfolio, tweeted.

He was responding to a report on Irish Central headlined “Irish fishermen defeat the Russian navy”.

The Russian ambassador to Ireland has credited both the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) and the Irish government with its decision to relocate planned military exercises outside the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

In a statement on Saturday, Ambassador Yuriy Filatov said that the Russian Federation’s defence minister Sergey Shoigu has decided “as a gesture of goodwill” to relocate exercises on February 3rd to 8th to an area outside the Irish EEZ.

The military exercises had been planned to take place some 240 km off the Irish southwest coast, within the Irish EEZ.

This had led to serious concerns among fishermen about the impact on their economic activity, while environmental groups expressed fears about the impact on marine life, including cetaceans.

North American news network CNN has described the latest development as a victory for Irish fishermen.

“Russians blink after Irish fishermen’s vow to block Navy war games,” CNN said in a headline to the report by CNN correspondent Donie O’Sullivan, broadcast live from Castletownbere, Co Cork on Saturday.

IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy, who met the Russian ambassador to Ireland over the issue last week along with Irish Fish Processors’ and Exporters’ Association chief executive Brendan Byrne, has stated that Irish fishing vessels were not protesting, but were asserting their right to fish their quota on their traditional grounds.

The breakthrough on Saturday was confirmed by Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney,m who said that he had written to his counterpart, the Russian Federation’s defence minister, this week, “to request a reconsideration of naval exercises off the Irish coast”.

“This evening I received a letter confirming the Russian exercises will be relocated outside of Ireland’s EEZ. I welcome this response,” Coveney tweeted.

"We don’t know where they plan to have military exercises, but it certainly won’t be in international waters that Ireland has responsibility for,” Mr Coveney told RTÉ News.

Ireland would try be a voice for compromise to help avoid a war between Russia and Ukraine describing any conflict as potentially being the largest land war in Europe since the second world war, he said.

Published in Naval Visits
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Two fishing industry organisations have sought to clarify what they describe as “confusion” in some media outlets over their talks with Russian ambassador Yuriy Filatov on the forthcoming Russian military exercises off the south-west Irish coast.

Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (ISWFPO) chief executive Patrick Murphy and Irish Fish Processors and Exporters’ Association (IFPEA) Brendan Byrne issued the statement on Friday morning, the day after what they described as a “successful and positive meeting” with the ambassador in Dublin.

The Irish Times reported that the Russian embassy has disputed claims by Irish fishing industry representatives that the ambassador gave them “an absolute guarantee” that their fishing grounds will not be affected by the military exercises 240 km off the Cork coast.

“There was no discussion of guarantees of any kind,” the embassy’s spokesman Nikita Isakin said in a statement.

However, Murphy and Byrne said that they were " referring to the areas known as the Porcupine Bank and the Porcupine Sea Bight - fishing grounds immediately north and northwest of the area in which the naval drill is scheduled to take place in early February".

“The confusion has arisen in that some media outlets believed the traditional fishing grounds and the naval drill area to be one and the same area,” they said.

“ This is not the case, they are two specific areas that adjoin one another, “ they said.

“The Russian Ambassador made it clear to the fishing delegation that the naval exercises would only take place within the exclusion zone as notified to Ireland, therefore it is self-evident that no impact or intrusion will occur into the areas known as the Porcupine Bank and the Porcupine Sea Bight,” they said.

“Both the IS&WFPO and the IFPEA are again at pains to stress that fishing activity is guaranteed to be uninterrupted or negatively impacted in the traditional fishing grounds of these two areas namely the Porcupine Bank and Porcupine Sea Bight. The naval drills and exercises will take place within the notified area south of these traditional fishing areas,” Murphy and Byrne said.

“Both the fishing vessels and the Russian Navy can co-exist for the duration of these exercises at safe distance apart while both go about their respective tasks and routines,” the fishing industry organisations said.

Published in Naval Visits
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The Russian Embassy in Ireland has described as “constructive” and “positive” the outcome of discussions with two Irish fishing industry organisations in relation to proposed Russian military exercises next week in the Porcupine Seabight off the south-west Irish coast.

Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFO) chief executive Patrick Murphy and Irish Fish Processors’ and Exporters’ Association (IFPEA) Brendan Byrne also said the 50-minute discussion with Russian ambassador to Ireland Yuriy Filatov was very positive.

Byrne, who said he was “very surprised” by the wealth of knowledge of the ambassador about issues relating to the Irish fishing industry, said it was agreed that there would be a “buffer zone” between Russian vessels and fishing trawlers when military exercises are underway.

Russian ambassador to Ireland Yuriy FilatovVery positive - Russian ambassador to Ireland Yuriy Filatov

This is subject to approval from Moscow, Murphy confirmed, adding he was very happy with the meeting.

Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFO) chief executive Patrick MurphyIrish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFO) chief executive Patrick Murphy

“We have now come to an accommodation where there is a pathway for coexistence for the naval exercises and for our fishing fleet,” Byrne said.

Both men praised the level of communication with the Irish industry which, they said, was better than anything they had experienced from their own government.

Earlier, Murphy had expressed anger at publication by the Department of Transport of a marine notice – without advance consultation with the fishing industry - warning of “serious safety risks” posed by military exercises 240 km off the Cork coast from February 3rd to 8th.

The marine notice said the Russian Federation “has indicated that the exercises will include the use of naval artillery and launching of rockets”.

Non-governmental organisations have expressed serious concerns about the impact on marine wildlife, while military sources that the Russian Federation had selected the sea area as the “EU’s back door”, with risks posed to vitally important undersea communication cables.

International news networks covering the Ukraine crisis have reported on the Irish dimension, focusing on the stance taken by the Irish fishing industry.

Commenting on the row on January 26th, before the meeting between the Russian ambassador and Irish fishing industry representatives, North American television commentator Rachel Maddow of MSNBC noted that there was not much that Ireland could do about the military exercises. See clip below.

Maddow referred to Ireland’s weak defence capability – “no offence, but they don’t have much of a navy” and the “lack of a military radar".

She referred to Irish concerns about a Russian “spy ship”, the Yantor, which turned up off the Donegal coast last August.

“You know what Ireland does have to defend itself in this instance....it has very annoyed fishermen,” Maddow commented.

Maddow then played recent RTÉ news reports with the IS&WFPO, recorded before the organisation’s meeting with the Russian ambassador.

“The whole world, to Vladimir Putin’s great delight ...the whole world is on tenterhooks, waiting to find out whether Russia is going to start another war,” Maddow said.

“Irish fishermen on the other hand are heading out to actively stop it and fish for mackerel while they’re at it. God bless them, every single one of them,” Maddow said.

The Irish Times reported last night that the Russian embassy disputed claims by Irish fishing industry representatives that the ambassador to Ireland gave them “an absolute guarantee” that their fishing grounds will not be affected by the military exercises.

“There was no discussion of guarantees of any kind,” the embassy’s spokesman Nikita Isakin said in a statement released to The Irish Times.

Published in Naval Visits
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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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