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Displaying items by tag: Sea Fisheries Protection Authority

The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) says there was a "low level of non-compliance" by the Irish fishing industry last year. 

Its annual report for 2021 records how it monitored over 47,000 landings of commercially caught sea fish, valued at over €435 million.

The report records that 1,345 vessel inspections were undertaken by SFPA officers last year, while 1,115 official control samples were taken.

The State regulator also says that a “significant operational plan was successfully activated to ensure regulatory alignment” following Britain’s departure from European Union.

As a result of Brexit, import controls undertaken by the SFPA rose from an annual average of 800 (pre-Brexit) to over 3,000, it says.

This rise was driven principally by pre-existing trade with Britain being reclassified as a “third country” outside the EU, it says.

The volume of catch certificates issued for export freight by the SFPA rose from approximately 200 to over 800 (with the UK accounting for 71%), while third-country landings (the majority originating in the UK) rose to over 600, it says.

A new port office for SFPA staff was opened in Greencastle, Donegal to “respond effectively and efficiently to the increased volume of activity”, it says.

The SFPA and the Naval Service, which works with the regulator as part of a service-level agreement, initiated 66 case files following the investigation of 95 incidents.

The SFPA says that a “low level of non-compliance reflects the adherence of the overwhelming majority of industry to the regulations and the robust inspection system in place to ensure compliance and detect non-compliance, where necessary”.

“The SFPA continued to deliver on its remit to ensure the enforcement of seafood safety law up to the point of retail. This included overseeing food safety compliance across 2,711 food business operators with 2,221 food safety inspections carried out,”it says.

The annual Shellfish Classification Sampling Programme oversaw the collection and analysis of over 1,500 shellfish samples from shellfish (bivalve mollusc) production areas - detecting out-of-range results in 52 areas (3.4% of the overall sampling).

“Ireland has a strong reputation for top quality seafood and an effective regulatory control system, promoting compliance with sea-fisheries and seafood safety law, underpins this,” SFPA executive chair Paschal Hayes said.

SFPA executive chair Paschal Hayes Photo: Andy GibsonSFPA executive chair Paschal Hayes Photo: Andy Gibson

“2021 was a hugely challenging year for all in the sea-fisheries and seafood industry, including the SFPA,” he said.

“In particular, the control and compliance measures implemented to ensure regulatory alignment following the UK’s departure from the EU and the end of the Brexit transition period had a huge bearing on our activities,” he said.

He also identified as challenges “the revocation by the European Commission of Ireland’s sea-fisheries control plan in April 2021, due to ongoing concerns regarding the under-declaration of the amounts of fish landed in Ireland by operators”.

This was followed by the SFPA’s work to secure an interim control plan for both pelagic and demersal fishers, which “consumed significant amounts of the resources within the SFPA”, he says.

“While both of these events presented enormous operational and capacity challenges for the SFPA, a substantial programme of work was progressed and completed across all units of the regulator as part of its remit to maintain vibrant marine ecosystems and safeguard Ireland’s international reputation for safe, quality seafood,” he said.

“The launch of our new corporate strategy in 2021 was an extremely positive development for the organisation providing a clear roadmap to ensure that we continue to deliver on our regulatory remit in a highly effective and efficient manner,” he said.

He recorded progress in ensuring the organisation remained “agile, responsive and able to adapt quickly in a rapidly changing environment”.

“The work completed during 2021 is testament to the dedication, commitment and professionalism of SFPA staff in port offices across the country and in our headquarters in Clonakilty, who have worked tirelessly to fulfill our responsibilities as the competent regulatory authority tasked with safeguarding the sustainability of Ireland’s marine resources,” Hayes said.

The SFPA’s annual report is here

Published in Fishing

The European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) has chartered an aircraft for the first time as part of surveillance of Irish waters.

A European Maritime Safety Agency drone is also being used as part of air-sea fisheries control and inspection.

Representatives of the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) met EFCA executive director Dr Susan Steele on board the EFCA chartered patrol vessel Lundy Sentinel in Cork harbour yesterday.

At a press briefing, the EFCA outlined how its air and sea assets have recently increased for the Western Waters Joint Deployment Plan.

The EFCA said the mission's objectives include participating in “control and inspection activities and contributing to compliance and the effective implementation of risk treatment measures”.

“This patrol mission in Irish waters also supports the ongoing fishery protection services work undertaken by the SFPA in collaboration with the Naval Service and Air Corps,” it said.

The agency said it would increase up to three of its chartered patrol vessels in the coming months.

“For the first time ever, an EFCA-directed aircraft will also operate in Irish waters in tandem with the patrol ship Lundy Sentinel, transmitting live aerial patrol footage to the EFCA centre in Vigo and the Fisheries Monitoring Centre (FMC) in Haulbowline, Cork,” it said.

“This is a valuable aspect to the patrol where inspectors from different member states work together to deliver harmonised fisheries control, with the support of EFCA liaison on board and the EFCA coordination centre in Vigo,”Dr Steele said.

As Afloat previously reported, the SFPA requested and received the support of the EFCA in patrolling Irish waters on four occasions between January and March in 2021.

This was considered necessary because “the Naval Service could not commit to increasing its patrol days at sea under a joint-EU initiative coordinated at EU level by EFCA”, according to an assessment from the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine to the Commission on the Defence Forces

SFPA chairman Paschal Hayes said “protecting the long-term viability and health of our marine ecosystems and ensuring long-term sustainability for our fishing industries and communities is an issue of significance not only here in Ireland but across Europe”.

“Our work with the EFCA is a critical element in supporting the overall remit of the SFPA to ensure the sustainability and future viability of Ireland’s sea fisheries and marine resources, an industry that supports over 16,500 jobs in coastal communities across Ireland.”

Published in Fishing

The Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has announced the appointment of Mr Michael Finn and Mr Jonathan Hoare as Executive Members of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA). The appointments follow the recent Public Appointments Service (PAS) competitive recruitment process.

The Executive Members, working with SFPA Executive Chairperson Paschal Hayes, will lead the SFPA over the coming years through an ambitious programme of organisational change to deliver efficient and effective enforcement of sea fisheries and food safety law, promoting compliance while detecting and deterring contraventions.

Michael Finn has most recently worked as an Assistant Commissioner for the Garda Síochana. In this role, he was responsible for policing and security of the Southern Region. His previous responsibilities included being part of the Garda Senior Leadership Team, contributing to the overall organisational strategy, policing plans and the delivery of policing and security outcomes.

Jonathan Hoare has most recently worked as a Programme Manager, coordinating and managing the implementation of the South West Regional Enterprise Plan. He previously held the position of Director of Communications and Public Affairs for the Irish Local Development Network. Mr Hoare has also held various public service roles, including his work with the houses of the Oireachtas and a period as Advisor to a previous Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Announcing the appointments, the Minister stated, “I am pleased to appoint both Michael Finn and Jonathan Hoare as the new Executive Authority Members of the SFPA. I am confident that they will meet the challenges posed in leading the SFPA organisation through a period of significant change while achieving the exacting standards of public sector leadership. This complex and evolving regulatory sector promotes a sustainable and compliant industry that supports coastal communities dependent on fishing and helps secure our fish stocks for future generations of fishers.”

Both appointees took up their posts on 03rd October 2022.

Published in SFPA

Recreational fishers are urged to comply with regulations on catch, sale and purchase of crabs and lobsters, the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) has said.

The authority said it is also calling on all who purchase fish - and in particular those in the restaurant trade - to ensure that they purchase fish from legitimate sources only.

“They cannot purchase from recreational non-commercial fishers,” the SFPA has pointed out.

“It is important that all who are partaking in recreational fishing adhere to the regulations which are in place to protect the marine ecosystem and safeguard Ireland’s marine resources for future generations,”it said.

“ Whilst certain activities are allowed without a commercial license, there are limits in terms of quantities, and usage of fish. All such fish must comply with the general conservation requirements applicable to both commercial and recreational fishing,” it said.

Under EU and national legislation, recreational or non-commercial fishers who do not have a commercial fishing licence are restricted to doing no more than the following in pot fisheries:

  • Fish for lobster and crab with pots from May 1st to September 30th only every year.
  • Fish up to six pots (i.e., a maximum of 6 pots associated with their boat either in the water or on board at any time).
  •  Retain up to five crabs and one lobster daily.
  •  Eat their catch themselves or share with their immediate family – they cannot sell or offer for sale any catches (a commercial fishing license is needed to sell fish).
  •  Only land fish above the legal-size limits. In Irish waters the minimum size of brown crab is 140mm; spider crab (130mm for males and 125mm for females) and velvet crab 65mm, while lobsters must be a minimum size of 87mm and maximum size 127mm (carapace length).
  • Anyone who catches a crab or lobster outside these size limits, must return it immediately to the sea.
  • Never retain a lobster that has been V-notched or has a mutilated tail – they must be released back into the water.
  • Never catch crabs or lobster by means of skin-diving, which includes using apparatus of any kind which enables a person to breathe underwater.

“We are privileged to enjoy a plentiful supply of fish stocks such as mackerel, crab, lobster, and others such as clams, mussels and periwinkles around our coastlines,” SFPA executive chair Paschal Hayes said.

“It is critically important that we all work to ensure that we preserve the health of our marine ecosystems and safeguard our marine resources for future generations. Critical to this is following the regulations which prioritise sustainability and are in place to ensure the viability of our sea-fisheries,” he said.

“We are also reminding all recreational fishers, of the allowance applicable under the regulations which facilitates the catch for personal use only and not for resale. Further to this, I would appeal to the public to ensure that they only purchase seafood from legitimate sources which are those that are legally entitled to supply and sell sea-fisheries products on a commercial basis,” he said.

“This is vitally important. Purchasing illegally caught fish means your food comes outside of systems designed to ensure future sustainability and may present a risk to public health and risks damaging the positive reputation regarding the quality and authenticity of Ireland’s seafood,” Mr Hayes added.

“The SFPA urges anyone who suspects illegal fishing or activity that could compromise food safety to contact the regulator directly or by calling the SFPA confidential telephone line at 1800 76 76 76,” he said.

Published in SFPA

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) was asked to explain why it couldn’t sort out the fish landings row in Killybegs, Co Donegal, at an Oireachtas committee meeting on Wednesday.

“You’ve really significant powers, you’ve attained oversight of the factories with CCTV at an unprecedented level that doesn’t exist anywhere in Europe, you’re seen as the strongest regulator in Europe and we can’t get some solution to what’s going on in Killybegs that’s acceptable,” Sinn Féin fisheries and marine spokesman Pádraig MacLochlainn said.

“You guys have the highest reputation in Europe as regulators,” MacLochlainn continued.

He was addressing SFPA executive chair Paschal Hayes, along with SFPA colleagues Dr Micheál O’Mahony and Olive Loughnane, at a special hearing on the fish landings row held by the Oireachtas agriculture, food and marine committee.

“You have to do your job...you have to make sure there’s not illegal fishing, you have an array of serious powers,” MacLochlainn said.

“Surely we can sort this out, surely we can get to a point where we allow the industry to survive while you do your job which is an important job,” MacLochlainn said.

Responding, Mr Hayes said he was glad Deputy MacLochlainn recognised the important job the SFPA did, but there were parameters within which the agency had to work as a regulator.

“We are willing to discuss with anybody how we can advance in relation to that, keeping in mind that we have legislation from you as the Irish legislator, we have EU regulations that you insist that we implement and we have to keep those functions and issues in mind when we are arriving at a regulatory regime that will underpin the sustainability, the authenticity, and prevent food fraud - to be quite straight about it - within the Irish fishing seafood sector and food sector generally,” Mr Hayes said.

The SFPA had been asked to appear before the parliamentary committee by Independent TD for Cork South-West Michael Collins and colleagues in the continuing row over handling of pelagic fish landings in Killybegs.

Much of the meeting was dominated by technical questions over the background to the dispute, which arose when industry representatives said that three agreed options for checking weighing of landings were reduced to two without notice last March.

Asked by Sinn Fein TD for Donegal Pearse Doherty to explain why two Killybegs fish factories had permits revoked after they handled fish which was landed in Derry to ensure quality, Mr Hayes said that the SFPA was not comfortable discussing individual cases.

Mr Doherty asked Mr Hayes and colleagues to “convince the committee that this was not vindictive”.

Mr Hayes said that this was about sustainability of fish stocks at the end of the day.

In an opening statement running to 30 minutes, Mr Hayes said that it was “with genuine concern” that the SFPA became aware of a “sustained campaign of disinformation and misinformation suggesting the SFPA was not adhering to provisions of the Northern Ireland protocol following the UK departure from the EU”.

“The SFPA confirms that there has been no change in the fish weighing on landing arrangements between the Republic of Ireland and other jurisdictions as a result of Brexit,” it said.

“Under the EU regulations, which SFPA is bound to implement by this Oireachtas, landings to Northern Ireland could never have been weighed in Killybegs under the terms of an Irish 61(1) control plan,” Mr Hayes said.

“That 61(1) derogation is only applicable to post-transport weighing of fishery products when weighed within the member state of landing,” he said.

“The only way in which fishery products might be weighed in Killybegs following a landing to Northern Ireland, would be through a Common Control Programme between UK and Ireland approved by the EU Commission,” he said.

“ It is important to reiterate, no such Common Control Programme has ever existed, either before or after Brexit. Therefore, landings to Northern Ireland are treated similarly to landings in any EU state with which Ireland does not have a Common Control Programme,” he said.

“Irish operators may choose to purchase fish landed to a jurisdiction with which Ireland does not share an approved Common Control Programme, such as Northern Ireland,” he said.

“In such cases, the weighing must have taken place in the landing jurisdiction, either through the default of immediately at landing, or perhaps at a permitted post-transport establishment in that landing territory if a 61(1) control plan exists there,” he said.

“Crucially, however, the weight of the fish upon landing in another jurisdiction must be the weight declared by all parties. Declaration of a weight after transport at a processing facility in the jurisdiction of Ireland is not permitted,” Mr Hayes said.

“Permitting establishments to weigh after transport at a processing facility following a landing in the Republic of Ireland is a significant exemption available under the Interim Fisheries Control Plan
to operators who have the systems to apply such a permit appropriately,” he said.

“The SFPA will not accept the misuse of the weigh after transport system, which has the potential to jeopardise the EU Commission approved exemption for the entire fishing and seafood processing sector. If this exemption is revoked, all landings of pelagic and demersal fish across Ireland could be required to be weighed pierside,” he said.

Published in Fishing

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) has confirmed that it has withdrawn permits for two fish processors in the continuing row over weighing of pelagic landings.

The SFPA also says it will “not accept the misuse” of the weigh after transport system for pelagic fish.

It was responding to criticism of its actions by two industry organisations, which have warned of losses of up to 40 million euro annually over the SFPA’s monitoring of bulk landings.

The Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO) and Irish Fish Processors’ and Exporters’ Association (IFPEA) have called on Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue and the Government to “play a vital leadership role in urgently resolving this matter”.

The row erupted after Danish vessel Ruth headed back to Denmark instead of landing some 1200 tonnes of blue whiting for human consumption into Killybegs, Co Donegal on March 31st.

The SFPA had directed that the catch be landed over a weighbridge instead of a pierside system.

Danish vessel RuthDanish vessel Ruth

Since then, several Norwegian vessels have opted to landed into Derry over the border, rather than into Killybegs, while a number of other vessels abandoned attempts to land into the port.

Last weekend, blue whiting caught on the maiden voyage of new Donegal vessel Lauren 95 has to be sent for processing as fishmeal, rather than being sold for human consumption, as the vessel was selected by SFPA officers for supervised weighing of catch.

Skipper Denis Carberry estimated it cost the vessel 55,000 euro in lost income.

Draining of refrigerated seawater from a vessel’s tanks “breaks the cold chain” and results in fish being compressed during transport, IFPEA chief executive Brendan Byrne said.

Byrne said that the SFPA was “over-interpreting” the common EU regulations, leaving the Irish industry at a substantial competitive and financial disadvantage compared to other EU coastal states.

IFPO chief executive Aodh O’Donnell said the weighing debacle must be addressed urgently “or displacement of supply could result in the loss of up to €40 million annually”.

The IFPEA and IFPO have pointed out that a High Court ruling in a case taken last year by the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation obliged the authorities to introduce an alternative weighing system.

“We call on the Government to halt the new regime immediately and implement the High Court ruling,” Byrne and O’ Donnell said in a joint statement.

The SFPA said that the flowscale system at Killybegs harbour which was the subject of the court case “is approved for the weighing of bulk pelagic fish in the 95% of instances where a supervised weighing upon landing under the terms of the EU approved interim control plan is not required”.

The SFPA said it was “not a system that meets the terms of the EU approved interim control plan in the 5% of bulk pelagic landings where a supervised weighing upon landing is required”.

It also defended its decision to withdraw permits from two factories, after fish which was due to be landed into their premises in Killybegs was offloaded in Derry and then delivered back over the border by truck.

“Operators can choose to land a catch at a port in another jurisdiction – including both EU and non-EU countries – before transporting and processing the catch in the Republic of Ireland,” the SFPA said.

“ However, the catch must be weighed on landing pierside in the landing state before transportation to the Republic of Ireland,” it said.

“ A Common Control Programme that would permit transport to the Republic of Ireland for weighing after a landing in Northern Ireland does not [exist] and has never existed,” it said.

It warned that any “misuse” of the system “has the potential to jeopardise the EU Commission approved exemption for the entire fishing and seafood processing sector”.

“If this exemption is revoked all 20,000 landings of pelagic and demersal fish annually could be required to be weighed pierside,” the SFPA said.

The SFPA said that to meet the requirements of the interim plan – which has now been extended until December - operators may select one of two options for conducting weighing before transport.

“To preserve the quality of the catch, fish are in water when weighed in both options. For absolute clarity there is no requirement in either instance for the fish to be weighed dry,”it said.

The SFPA said that vessel masters and operators in Killybegs can avail of the industry-owned pierside device to separate water from fish as it exits the vessel before discharging directly into a tanker pre-filled with water which is then weighed on the weighbridge (Water in Tare Weight).

Alternatively, the fish can be weighed on the weighbridge without using the industry-owned pierside device (Water in Nett Weight)., but this brought “greater challenges”.

O’Donnell said the debacle was “damaging to the reputation of quality Irish seafood and is losing business for our seafood exporters”.

“Ironically, Irish seafood processors are exhibiting at a Bord Bia 3-day International Seafood Show this week in Barcelona,” he said.

“International customers will be uneasy if there is a possibility of Irish fish quality being compromised by dewatering procedures or undue delays in the freezing of fish after catching,” he said.

O’Donnell said the latest incident with the MFV Lauren “led to the loss of two days weekend overtime work for 51 employees who had to be sent home”.

“The processing plants are a significant source of employment. They are the backbone of the economy for our coastal communities, who are frustrated and angry at how matters have unfolded since March,” O’Donnell said.

“ To secure supply and to compete internationally, we just need a common-sense approach and a level playing field in applying EU regulations,” he said.

“Regrettably, the blue whiting season is now ending, and the losses suffered by the industry and local coastal communities cannot be undone,” O’Donnell said.

“We have a modern pelagic fleet, and processing plants have invested in state-of-the-art weighing systems. These systems include live feed camera monitoring of in-house weighing, supported by 31-day back-ups,” he said.

“No other EU member state has implemented the level of control the SFPA is currently exercising,” he said.

Published in SFPA

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority row with fishing processors and exporters in Killybegs in County Donegal intensified after a second international vessel disputed the State agency’s fish weighing requirements for landings.

After the Danish Maja left with its catch of blue whiting unprocessed over a similar dispute with SFPA officials last week, the Norwegian Ingrid Majala, did the same this week. It went to Derry where its catch of blue whiting was unloaded and transported back by road to Killybegs for processing.

The problem is over the way the SFPA wants to offload fish for weighing. To preserve its quality and keep it fit for human consumption, fish processors say it has to be weighed with chilled water. If that is not done, they claim, fish are squashed on top of each other and become fit only for fishmeal.

The Ingrid Majala Skipper in Killybegs

When the Ruth left Killybegs last Thursday, 64 seasonal workers at Sean Ward Fish Exporters were left without work. 54 staff were sent home when the Ingrid Majala left the port on Tuesday. However, they were at work when the catch was brought back to Killybegs from Derry in up to 40 truckloads.

The SFPA says it is applying EU regulations imposed after it revoked Ireland’s weighing-after-transport control plan last year and that its equipment would have preserved the fish quality. This has been challenged and heavily criticised by the Irish fishing industry over landings. On-going discussions about resolving the issue since last year resulted in a new Control Plan being submitted to the European Commission for adoption but the heavily bureaucratic Commission has not responded.

The Norwegian Skipper said he has landed fish all over Europe, in Iceland and Norway without a problem. He described Killybegs as a “crazy location” which he could not understand.

"It's a crazy situation," he said, "I can't understand it."

Dealing with EU bureaucracy is never easy to understand.

Published in Fishing

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority has acknowledged that the Master of the Danish Fishing Vessel MV Ruth objected to the SFPA's process for weighing upon landing, at Killybegs in County Donegal on Thursday, March 31st.

In a statement, the Authority says: "The Master of the vessel and the operator were offered the use of an industry-owned water separator which would preserve the quality of the fish during the process. They opted not to avail of this and subsequently, the Master of the vessel chose to leave port. The SFPA intends to notify the relevant regulatory authority of the EU Member State in which this vessel is flagged of this interaction."

The SFPA has been under intensive criticism from the fishing industry because of its rigid imposition of EU regulations.

Published in SFPA

A fishing industry leader has questioned the reason for the sudden resignation of a member of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).

Tim Donovan stood down from the SFPA – the State’s seafood industry regulator - in early February after just over seven months in the post.

Mr Donovan had been assistant director of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), responsible for an area extending from Canada to North Carolina and including the US Great Lakes region.

He joined the SFPA in late June 2021, and was, for a time, the sole member of the SFPA until the appointment of Paschal Hayes as executive chair last December to succeed Dr Susan Steele.

Dr Steele was appointed executive director of the European Fisheries Control Agency in Spain last year.

SFPA staff have been taking industrial action since January over terms and conditions.

In a letter to colleagues, Mr Donovan said he understood this was a “difficult time” for the organisation.

He said he appreciated “the strain this announcement will cause to the organisation”, but he had decided to resign from his position as authority member in discussions with his family.

“The authority position is of great importance to this organisation and deserves a member fully dedicated to the mission and the energy to fulfil the strategic goals”.

“Unfortunately, at this time in my life, I no longer have that energy and the SFPA deserves a more engaged authority member”, he said.

“I have chosen retirement based on my US pension and to spend more quality time with my family in West Cork,” he wrote.

Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (IS&WFPO) chief executive Patrick Murphy said there were “ questions” to be asked about what he described as a “surprise resignation” by Mr Donovan.

“We have an SFPA which is in the middle of an industrial dispute with its staff, and it is now back to one authority member with the resignation of Mr Donovan,” he said.

“This comes at a time when we have a Naval Service which is not fully equipped to monitor and police our waters,” Mr Murphy said.

Asked to comment on Mr Donovan’s resignation and whether this occurred after a meeting with a senior Department of Marine official, the department said that “the SFPA Authority member concerned tendered their resignation to the minister in accordance with the requirements of Section 47 (10) (a) of the Sea Fisheries Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006”.

Asked if the SFPA had the statutory authority to continue with just one authority member in place, both the SFPA and the department said this was permitted under Section 47 (1) of the SFPA Act (Sea Fisheries Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006 ).

“Tim Donovan made an important contribution during his time with the SFPA. The SFPA acknowledges and thanks him for his work to promote and support sea-fisheries protection,” the SFPA said.

Both the SFPA and the department confirmed that an open competition to fill the vacancy would be advertised by the Public Appointments Service shortly.

Published in Fishing

Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue has announced the appointment of Paschal Hayes as executive chair and member of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).

The appointment follows the recent Public Appointments Service (PAS) open recruitment process, the minister said.

The executive chair will "lead and guide the SFPA organisation over the coming years and will be responsible for securing efficient and effective enforcement of sea fisheries and food safety law; promoting compliance while detecting and deterring contraventions ", McConalogue said

Paschal Hayes has most recently worked as Principal Officer in the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine and led the Irish Managing Authority for the European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

McConalogue said that in this role he has facilitated the sustainable development of the Irish seafood sector through the delivery of Ireland’s EMFF Operational Programme and management of sustainable inshore fisheries in compliance with the Common Fisheries Policy and environmental law.

He also led the successful multiannual project to remediate Haulbowline Island. His previous responsibilities included licensing and registration of Ireland’s Fishing Fleet and management of the six-state owned Fishery Harbour Centres (FHCs) at Howth, Dunmore East, Castletownbere, Dingle, Killybegs and Ros an Mhíl. Paschal holds a BSc and a Diploma in Information Technology from Dublin City University and a Master’s degree in Government and Public Policy from University College Cork.

Announcing the appointment, McConalogue said “I am pleased to appoint Paschal Hayes as executive chair of the SFPA. I am confident that Paschal will meet the exacting standards of public sector leadership required for this complex and evolving regulatory sector and that he will manage and lead the SFPA over the coming years to ensure a sustainable and compliant industry that supports coastal communities dependant on fishing and secures our fish stocks for future generations of fishers.”

Mr Hayes will take up his new post on 14th January.

Meanwhile, the SFPA says that a control plan for Irish fisheries management has been approved by the European Commission for the first four months of next year, more details here

Published in SFPA
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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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