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Seven members of Arklow RNLI have been honoured for their roles in a challenging and exhausting service, almost seven hours in duration, which saw a crew of three people, onboard a nine-metre yacht rescued. For his exceptional display of seamanship in the service, a Signed Letter of Thanks from the Chairman of the Institution was awarded to Arklow RNLI Coxswain Brendan Dillon. For their teamwork in challenging sea conditions and their part in completing a highly effective service, individual Chief Executive Commendations were awarded to 2nd Mechanic Eddie McElheron and volunteer crewmembers Austin Gaffney, Geoffrey Kearns, Trevor Conroy, Craig O’Reilly, Daniel Downey.

As Afloat reported, the rescue was carried out on 4 August 2020, 24 nautical miles east-southeast of Arklow. The 9-metre yacht, Infinite Jest was on passage from Newlyn, in England to Largs, in Scotland, and was experiencing very poor weather and rough sea conditions, with the crew of three people, suffering from exhaustion and seasickness. It was a demanding service, also involving a tow from the lifeboat, which lasted over three hours, in winds up to Force 8, with upwards of 5-metre swells, at night. The service itself lasted nearly seven hours.

On launching in Force 7 conditions, at 6.58 pm that evening, the Coxswain of Arklow lifeboat, Brendan Dillon, headed towards the last reported position of the yacht, Infinite Jest, immediately feeling the effect of the conditions as they left the shelter afforded by land. On receiving an updated position from the Coast Guard, he adjusted his course to cross the Arklow Bank, to intercept the yacht. In doing this, while operating in such challenging sea conditions, he enabled the lifeboat to significantly reduce their time to reach the casualty vessel.

On successfully crossing Arklow Bank, the lifeboat’s primary navigation system was non-operational, with only the secondary GPS fully functional. The Coxswain requested the Navigator, Trevor Conroy, to calculate their position using speed and direction. In Force eight winds and a five-metre swell, the Arklow lifeboat Ger Tigchelaar arrived on scene at 8.20pm, having successfully located the casualty vessel.

The yacht, which was sailing with only her jib set, was instructed to take up a course behind the lifeboat, to be escorted to Wicklow Harbour, as the nearest safe port. After an hour on this course the yacht’s skipper informed the lifeboat, by VHF Radio, that it was proving difficult to maintain their course under sail and they were making poor headway. The Coxswain then asked the skipper if they could take in their sail and use their engine to maintain their course, behind the lifeboat, until they were closer to land.

Arklow RNLI brings the distressed yacht alongside at Wicklow Harbour in August 2020 Photo: RNLI/Tommy DoverArklow RNLI brings the distressed yacht alongside at Wicklow Harbour in August 2020 Photo: RNLI/Tommy Dover

As darkness was falling, the lifeboat took the yacht under tow, as the crew were exhausted and suffering from seasickness. Three members of the Arklow Lifeboat crew, led by Austin Gaffney, passed a heaving line to the casualty vessel. In very challenging conditions, the tow was established with the lifeboat maintaining radio contact with the yacht every 15 minutes, providing technical guidance, encouraging the tired crew to hydrate, offering support and informing them of progress to safe harbour. Wicklow RNLI was also placed on standby to launch if required, with their shore crew ready to receive both vessels into Wicklow Harbour.

As the lifeboat neared the Harbour, the crew of the yacht informed them that due to crew exhaustion, they could not make the berth under their own power and would require further support. The Coxswain requested Eddie McElheron to board the yacht in full protective equipment to assist. The lifeboat arrived at Wicklow Harbour at 12.55 am with the Infinite Jest on an alongside tow.

In recognising Coxswain Brendan Dillon’s role in commanding the lifeboat during such a challenging rescue, RNLI Chair Stuart Popham said he ‘showed excellent leadership qualities and sound decision making under the pressure of knowing what a precarious situation the casualty was in, and the risks presented to his lifeboat and crew. Throughout, he led by example, extolling the core values of the RNLI in all his actions.’

In awarding the lifeboat crew for their actions on the service, Mr Popham added, ‘This was a demanding service. The sea conditions, towing at night and crew transfer all presented risk and challenges. The crew demonstrated courage and resilience throughout. The deck crew on the Lifeboat performed faultlessly, showing skill, teamwork and a high degree of professionalism.’

The presentations were made during Arklow RNLI’s sold-out fundraising event ‘Dan’s Hurry to the Curry, which was held at the Arklow Bay Hotel after an absence of a few years due to the pandemic. The awards were presented on the night by RNLI Trustee and Chair of the Irish Council, Mr John Killeen.

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Skerries RNLI towed a razor-clam fishing boat with two men on board to safety on Tuesday afternoon (31 January) after they suffered mechanical failure near Rockabill lighthouse.

The volunteers in Skerries launched the Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat Louis Simson shortly after 1.30pm. They were paged following a notification from Dublin Coast Guard that a fishing vessel had broken down and required assistance near the Rockabill lighthouse.

The all-weather lifeboat from Howth RNLI was also tasked and their volunteers set off from Howth towards the vessel.

Skerries RNLI proceeded towards the position indicated by the stricken vessel, and following a short search of the area quickly located the boat some four miles northwest of Rockabill.

It emerged that the fishers had suffered a major mechanical failure and were unable to make any headway under their own power.

Due to the sea conditions, and the potential hazard to other vessels in the area, the lifeboat helm decided that the safest course of action was to tow the fishing boat back to the nearest safe port in Skerries.

An astern tow was established and the lifeboat proceeded towards Skerries with Howth RNLI standing by and providing escort in case the conditions deteriorated any further or the tow parted.

In the calmer water outside the harbour in Skerries, the fishing boat was taken into an alongside tow before being carefully manoeuvred against the pier.

Conditions at the time had Force 5-6 northwesterly winds with a slight to moderate chop.

Speaking about the callout, Gerry Canning, volunteer lifeboat press officer for Skerries RNLI said: “This was a job well done in challenging conditions by the volunteers here in Skerries and also the volunteers from Howth.

“We would remind anyone going to sea to ensure that they have all the safety equipment they need. And where possible carry a VHF radio as mobile phone signal can be unreliable when you are further from the shore.”

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Flying Fifteen sailor John MacAree was part of a major fundraising effort in aid of Wicklow RNLI by the members of Swim Smooth Ireland, who presented a cheque for more than €10,000 at the weekend.

The swimming club’s big charity swim took place on Saturday 10 December at the Killashee Hotel in Naas, where members swam 5km or 10km in the pool where they regularly train, as the Wicklow People reports.

Smooth Swim Ireland chose the Wicklow lifeboat as their fundraising recipient as Wicklow Harbour is a used for some of the members’ training during the summer months.

On Sunday morning (29 January) the lifeboat team said they were delighted to welcome Maxine Stain from Swim Smooth Ireland along with members of the swimming squad to present a cheque for €10,640 to Wicklow RNLI.

Karen Boyle of Wicklow RNLI’s fundraising branch accepted the donation on behalf of the RNLI — before some of the swimmers took the opportunity for a cold-water dip in the harbour.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

The Ballycotton RNLI fundraising calendar 2023 kicks off in style with a ‘Wild West’ entertainment-filled evening at the Blackbird, Ballycotton on Friday 3rd February from 7.30 pm until late.

Dust off your cowboy hat and pull on your dancing boots for what is going to be one wild shindig. RNLI hungry outlaws can enjoy a lip-smacking hog roast and selection of salads by the The Spitting Pig Company all washed down with a complimentary drink on arrival. When your belly is full you can line dance the night away to music by Ryan Phoenix band followed by a lively country music disco with DJ Mossie. The RNLI will also be holding a raffle on the night to help raise vital funds to support the local station.

Ballycotton RNLI fundraising calendar 2023 kicks off in style with a ‘Wild West’ entertainment-filled evening

Tickets cost just €35 and are available on Eventbrite

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This year will see the welcome return of the annual Dunmore East RNLI Open Water Swim in County Waterford, which will take place on Sunday, 28th May 2023.

Hundreds of swimmers will be taking to the water starting from the slip at the Waterford Harbour Sailing Club in Dunmore East. There will be three swim options with distances of 1600m, 800m and 500m. The first swim will start at 11.30 am.

Hundreds of swimmers starting from the slip at the Waterford Harbour Sailing Club in Dunmore East for the RNLI open water swim Hundreds of swimmers starting from the slip at the Waterford Harbour Sailing Club in Dunmore East for the RNLI open water swim 

With growing awareness of the health benefits of swimming and the recognition that open water swimming can provide an additional workout and also a mental health boost, Dunmore East RNLI will once again host this significant event that will see people take part in a rewarding swim challenge in a safe environment whilst also supporting the important work of the RNLI.

Speaking at the launch, chair of the fundraising branch at Dunmore East RNLI, Margaret Barry, said, ‘I can’t believe that it’s been six years since our last swim event, and we are excited to be relaunching for 2023. An event like this provides essential funds for our volunteer lifeboat crew to continue vital life saving work here in Dunmore East. We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the country with a stunning coastline, and it is the perfect location for a swim!’

Registration will be available online from Wednesday, 1st of February via Eventbrite.com.

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Dun Laoghaire Harbour RNLI lifeboat rescued a woman and her dog who became cut off from the shore by the incoming tide on Sunday afternoon (29 January) at Sandymount Strand on Dublin Bay.

The volunteer crew were alerted shortly after 3 pm by the Irish Coast Guard following a mobile phone call from the woman who was forced to stand her ground on a sandbank while the tide came in all around her and her dog.

The volunteer crew launched the inshore lifeboat within 10 minutes of receiving the call and arrived at the scene by 3.20 pm.

The lifeboat, helmed by Alan Keville and with two crew members onboard, immediately made its way to the scene. A westerly wind brought choppy sea conditions on the bay with waves of over one metre on the rising tide.

The walker and her dog were out for their beach stroll when they got into difficulty, and the tide came in across Sandymount Strand. Arriving on scene, the helm brought the inshore lifeboat to its minimum depth, and two volunteer RNLI crew Moselle Hogan and Andrew Sykes, waded the short distance to the sandbank and rescued the woman and her dog, bringing them safely aboard the lifeboat and onto the beach at Poolbeg where they were met by the Coast Guard.

Following the call out, Dun Laoghaire RNLI Helm Alan Keville said: ‘We would like to commend the dog walker for doing the right thing by calling 999 and raising the alarm immediately. Time is always of the essence in these situations.

‘We would remind visitors to the coast to always be aware of local tide times before planning a walk. The tide comes in and out twice in each 24-hour period, and while tide times can be predicted, they can also vary at each location and change daily. A beach or coastal area may appear a safe place for a walk, but an incoming tide can quickly leave you stranded.’

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On Saturday, 28 January, Valentia Marine Rescue Sub Centre activated the pagers of Crosshaven RNLI Lifeboat volunteers in Cork Harbour to assist with a medical evacuation.

A fisherman became ill on board the Portuguese crewed 12M fishing vessel and required immediate evacuation to hospital.

The pagers were activated at 10.22 pm, and the lifeboat with James Fegan in command and with the crew, Susanne Deane, Jon Bermingham and Alan Venner were quickly underway to intercept the casualty vessel as it headed for Cork Harbour.

In slight seas, the lifeboat achieved 28 knots towards the vessel and met with the boat about 4 miles south of Roches Point.

James Fegan transferred command of the lifeboat to Alan Venner before going onboard the fishing vessel to assess the casualty and moving him to the lifeboat for a speedy return to Crosshaven. The lifeboat arrived back in Crosshaven at 11.30 pm and was met by the National Ambulance Service, who conveyed the patient to Cork University Hospital.

As the crew were Portuguese speakers with little English, the Valentia MRSC controller interpreted via radio relay with the lifeboat crew. Fortunately, the RNLI also had a Portuguese-speaking crewman, Jeff Lacerda, at Crosshaven, who could interpret for the Paramedics when the casualty was handed over to NAS.

The RNLI shore crew were Dave Venner, Ian Venner, Conor Barry, Jeff Lacerda and DLA Hugh Tully.

Commenting on the service, James Fegan said the evacuation went like clockwork, in no small measure due to the Valentia MRSC controller and Jeff Lacerda being able to communicate with the casualty vessel and casualty.

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NFU Mutual agents and staff in East Antrim recently nominated Larne RNLI to receive a donation of more than £3,000 from its national £1.92m Agency Giving Fund.

The leading rural insurer has launched this fund, now in its third year, to help local frontline charities across Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The Agency Giving Fund forms part of NFU Mutual’s £3.25m funding pledge for both local and national charities in 2022, to help tackle the ongoing effects of the pandemic and assist with recovery.

To ensure these donations reach all corners of the UK and are directed where they’re needed most, NFU Mutual’s agents, with over 295 offices nationwide, have been given the opportunity to nominate local charities to receive a share of the fund

Allan Dorman, Larne RNLI lifeboat operations manager said: “As the charity that saves lives at sea, we are very grateful for this generous donation which will help us continue to power our lifesaving work.

“The average annual training cost for each individual crew member is £1,400. The funds raised will enable us to kit out a volunteer crew member with the essential kit they need when they respond to their pager and prepare to go to someone’s need at sea.

“As a charity we are reliant on voluntary donations such as this to do our work, without which we would not be able to provide our 24/7, 365 days a year on call service.'

Richard Lee of NFU Mutual added: “We chose to nominate Larne RNLI as our chosen charity because here in County Antrim we have so much coastline and the RNLI is keeping our waters safe.

“They, like many others, have been hampered with fundraising activity due to the pandemic so to be able to make this donation was a no-brainer for us.

“To visit the station on their weekly training night and have the opportunity to see how our donation will be used was a great, interesting way to spend an evening!”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Following a two-year break due to the pandemic, Galway RNLI’s Sample Our Soup fundraiser will return to the streets of Galway on Saturday 11 February.

The fundraiser — which sees proceeds raised go towards powering the lifesaving work of the volunteer lifeboat crew — has gone from strength to strength over the years and continues to be one of the station’s favourite events enabling the team to get out and about to highlight their work and say thanks to those they meet for their ongoing support. Even Stormy Stan, the RNLI’s mascot, makes an appearance.

The heartwarming soup is prepared by Mark Hopkins, head Chef at The Seafood Bar at Kirwan’s Lane. Volunteers from Galway RNLI will be located outside Taaffes Bar on Shop Street from 11am on Saturday 11 February to serve the soup to Galway shoppers.

Annette Cullen, Galway RNLI volunteer lifeboat press officer said: “Without volunteers like those in our fundraising team and our lifeboat crew who selflessly give of their own time, our lifeboat couldn’t function and continue to be rescue ready.

“As a charity, we are reliant on the generosity of the public in supporting this work through fundraisers such as Sample Our Soup, so in advance of Saturday, we would like to say thank you.

“Thanks too to our sponsors Kirwans Lane, Raftery’s Centra Claregalway and Cater Rent Ballybrit Industrial Estate for their continued support of this event.”

This story has been updated to reflect the change in date for the event.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Dun Laoghaire Harbour RNLI lifeboat performed a medical evacuation in Dublin Bay last night after a man took ill onboard a ship.

The all-weather lifeboat was requested to launch at 8.50 pm by the Irish Coast Guard.

The lifeboat launched immediately under Coxswain Mark McGibney and with six crew members onboard.

Weather conditions at the time were good, with flat calm seas and a Force 1-2 wind.

Arriving on scene approximately three nautical miles from the lifeboat station, the crew observed the tanker anchored east of the harbour. The lifeboat came alongside the vessel, where the ship's crew dropped a pilot’s ladder to enable the sick man to walk down. The casualty was then transferred on to the lifeboat.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour RNLI lifeboat Coxswain Mark McGibneyDun Laoghaire Harbour RNLI lifeboat Coxswain Mark McGibney

Once inside the cabin, casualty care was administered, and the man was reassured as the lifeboat made its way back to Dun Laoghaire.

On arrival at the emergency berth, the casualty was transferred into the care of Dun Laoghaire Coast Guard and the National Ambulance Service and subsequently brought on to hospital for further treatment.

Speaking following the call out, Dun Laoghaire RNLI crew member Laura Jackson said: ‘Thankfully, the man was reasonably well on our arrival for him to walk off the ship and we were then able to provide him with the necessary casualty care and reassurance he needed as the lifeboat made the short passage back to the station. We would like to wish the man a speedy recovery and thank our own volunteers and our colleagues in both the Coast Guard and the ambulance service for their co-operation.’

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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