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Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue has announced the establishment of a Seafood Sector Taskforce, which has been charged with making recommendations on measures to mitigate the impact of upcoming fish quota share reductions.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the Irish fishing fleet faces a quota ‘payback’ that will see allowances for a number of key species, such as mackerel and prawns, slashed by thousands of tonnes — a significant shock to the industry and the coastal communities that depends on fisheries.

Speaking today, Friday 26 February, Minister McConalogue said: “These quota reductions will begin in 2021 and on a phased basis will result in a loss to Ireland of stocks worth €43 million per annum by 2026 or a 15% reduction overall in Irish fish quotas.

“The effects are immediate, with 60% of those reductions to take effect from April.

“The outcome of Brexit could have been much worse for the Irish Fishing industry in a no-deal scenario, with lack of access to UK waters for one third of our fish catches that occur in UK waters, or increased displacement of the Irish and other EU fleets into our waters.

“Nevertheless, the agreed EU/UK outcome will still have a significant impact for our fishing fleet and the coastal communities built around it.”

Former Bord Bia chief executive Aidan Cotter will chair the taskforce, which the minister has entrusted “to examine the impacts on our fishing fleet and coastal communities and report back to me with recommendations on how best to mitigate these”.

Cotter will be assisted by a steering group comprising Margaret Daly, deputy CEO of seafood processor Errigal Bay Ltd, and Mícheal Ó Cinnéide, former deputy CEO of the EPA, former director in the Marine Institute and presently on the board of the Aquaculture Licensing Appeals Board.

The taskforce’s interim report, due within two months, will focus on “recommended arrangements for a voluntary fleet tie-up scheme to temporarily counter the impact of the reduction in quotas, which will begin to occur from April,” the minister said.

Its final report is due within four months, and is expected to provide recommendations for a voluntary fleet decommissioning scheme, “to adjust and re-balance certain segments of the fleet with the reduced fishing opportunities available”.

The Taskforce has also been asked to consider and recommend “constructive actions” to deal with “the inequitable relative contribution of quota share by Ireland in the EU/UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement”.

Minister McConalogue also stated that the Government “is committed to providing financial supports to those most affected to help our seafood sector and coastal communities adjust to this blow”.

Invitations to participate in the Seafood Sector Taskforce have been issued to the following organisations:

  • Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation
  • Irish Fish Producers Organisation
  • Irish South & West Fishermen’s Organisation
  • Irish South & East Fishermen’s Organisation
  • Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation PO
  • National Inshore Fisheries Forum
  • Fishermen’s Co-operatives (2 representatives of the 4 main Coops)
  • Irish Fish Processors & Exporters Organisation
  • Irish farmers Association (aquaculture branch)
  • Fisheries Local Action Groups (1 representative of the 7 FLAGs)
  • Department of Public Expenditure and Reform
  • Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine
  • Bord Iascaigh Mhara (secretariat)
  • Enterprise Ireland
  • Tourism Ireland
  • Local Government Management Agency (two coastal local authority representatives)
  • Údarás na Gaeltachta representative
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Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue has announced €4.9 million in new investment by nine seafood processing companies, with his department’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) programme providing over €1 million in grants.

Announcing the grants, Minister McConalogue said: “I am very pleased to support these nine seafood enterprises to further grow their business.

“These are particularly challenging times with both Covid and Brexit impacting on markets and the ongoing capital investment by our seafood sector is evidence of its resilience and its optimism for future growth prospects.”

The minister added: “My department’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund programme has provided in excess of €230 million over the past seven years to support the sustainable growth of our seafood sector.

“A new Seafood Development Programme for the 2021-27 period is presently being drafted and I expect it to commence later this year.”

The €1,011,184 in grants are co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union and are subject to terms and conditions.

Under the Seafood Processing Capital Investment Scheme, Good Fish Processing Ltd in Cork receives €42,228 towards information systems, for a total investment of €140,759.

Also in Cork, the Castletownbere Fishermens Co-operative Society has been granted €257,747 (total investment €859,157) for a spiral freezer, deheading machine and associated works.

And Senahoek Trading Ltd gets €448,364 (total investment €2,989,091) towards construction of a factory including cold store.

Howth, Co Dublin fishmongers Nicky’s Plaice Ltd will get €9,900 (total investment €41,000) towards an ice machine and pin boner, while Kerry Fish (Ire) Unlimited Company receives €185,775 (total investment €723,746) for reconfiguration of its ‘high care’ department and the purchase of an automated smoked salmon slicing line.

Elsewhere, Dundalk Bay Seafoods Ltd in Co Louth receives €19,410 (total €64,700) for investment in an efficient and environmentally friendly retail production line.

Under the Seafood Innovation & Business Planning Scheme, Goatsbridge Fish Processors Ltd in Kilkenny will receive €19,500 (total investment €39,000) for strategic advisory services enhancing financial planning and company structure in Ireland and the UK, while Sofrimar Unlimited Company in Wexford gets €28,260 (total investment €56,520) for trials and rental of equipment for converting waste products to powder for use in horticulture.

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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, has extended the deadline of its National Seafood Survey by two weeks in an effort to increase response rates. The survey is designed to highlight the importance of fishing to families and their wider communities in Ireland.

More than one in ten (14%) of Ireland’s 1400 under 10m inshore fishing vessel owners have already completed the survey. All remaining under 10-metre vessel owners now have an opportunity to complete the survey until Monday, 8 February 2021.

Vera O’Donovan, Regional Development Officer, BIM spoke of the importance of inshore fisheries to coastal communities in Ireland and said:

“There are many competing interests for the marine resource. It's vital that inshore fisheries can co-exist in the marine space and have their economic and social contribution to rural society acknowledged fully.”

Inclusion of under 10-metre vessel data will help to provide a more accurate account of the economic contribution that the inshore sector brings to coastal communities and to inform both National and EU policymakers. 

A copy of the survey and a freepost envelope for its return was posted to every under ten-metre fisher in Ireland in December. The survey can also be completed online and emailed to [email protected]. For more details or to download a copy of the survey click here

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Marine Minister Michael Creed has welcomed €3.5 million of new investment in six seafood processing companies.

Announcing the funding yesterday, Thursday 11 June, Minister Creed said: “In these very challenging times for business generally and notably our seafood sector, I am delighted to support these six companies in building for the future.

“With our own economy and European and world markets reopening, we can have optimism again for future prosperity and growth.”

Carr & Sons in Mayo receives more than €387,000 for an extension to modernise their processing facilities, while Sofrimar in Wexford gets over €562,000 for its automated processing and packing line plans, and Seafood Processors Ltd in Co Louth benefits from €370,000 towards white fish filleting processing technology.

Elsewhere, Good Fish Processing in Co Cork gets €396,000 towards packaging capacity and efficiency, Keohane Seafood also in Cork will improve factory flow, efficiency and sustainability with its €1.44m investment, and the West Cork Export Market Collective (comprising Union Hall Smoked Fish Ltd and Keohane Seafood) receives more than €353,000 for leveraging collaboration to boost export sales.

“These six companies are preparing their businesses to grow exports and value because they have the confidence to know that our seafood sector is a high growth sector and that it will resume its long-term growth pattern now that markets are getting over the recent temporary, albeit severe difficulties,” the minister said.

“The national strategy is to add value wherever possible to our seafood products to ensure those products are well placed in the market. These grants will assist these Irish seafood companies to deliver on that strategy.”

Minister Creed added that his departmets’s present EMFF programme “is ready to assist seafood companies get back to business with capital, innovation, marketing and other supports”.

“From next year, my department’s new EMFF programme for the 2021-27 period will commence and will play a major role in assisting the recovery and renewed growth of our seafood sector,” he said.

Grants of €1,081,192 from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) programme make up a portion of the total investment. These grants are co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union and are subject to terms and conditions.

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The Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD today announced the opening of an initial public consultation to inform the development of a new operational programme for the sustainable development of the seafood sector for the 2021-27 period. The Programme will be developed in the context of the proposed EU Regulation on a European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund, which is presently being negotiated by the EU co-legislators with a view to enactment in the Autumn of 2020. The new operational programme will be co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union.

Speaking at the launch of the public consultation, Minister Creed said: “My Department’s present EMFF Operational Programme for the seafood sector is nearing its end and will be wound up in 2021. It has been a success in channelling €240 million into vital investments to promote the sustainable growth of our seafood sector and will leave a lasting legacy of enhanced sustainability, profitability, competitiveness and enhanced value.

We are now facing into a new Programme period starting in 2021 and while many of the challenges and opportunities facing our seafood sector will continue to be relevant for the future programme, there will also undoubtedly be some new and changed investment priorities. Adapting our seafood sector to the changed landscape that Brexit will bring will be a vital consideration. Climate change is a top priority for Government and we must consider what the new Programme will contribute to Ireland’s response. Preservation of marine biodiversity and Clean Oceans and ensuring the sustainability of our fish stocks will continue to be top priorities. And we must continue to enhance the competitiveness, value and productivity of our sector through innovation, training, and targeted capital investment.

In this initial public consultation, I am asking our stakeholders to share their views on how we should address these and other relevant issues in our new programme, in what ways we should intervene, and how should we prioritise and get the right balance in distributing the available funds”.

The open call for submissions will run until 5 pm on Friday 7 February 2020. See the survey here.

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Marine Minister Michael Creed, yesterday (Thursday 31 October) welcomed Government approval for the Agriculture, Forest and Seafood Climate Change Sectoral Adaptation Plan to prepare for the impacts of climate disruption.

“I am very pleased the Agriculture, Forest and Seafood Climate Change Sectoral Adaptation Plan has been approved as part of the Whole-of-Government approach adopted under Climate Action Plan 2019,” he said.

“We have taken a consistent approach to adaptation planning across the Department [of Agriculture, Food and the Marine] and have prepared a single plan covering the agriculture, forest and seafood sector.”

Th minister added: “In addition to reducing our emissions, we must ensure that our food production system is resilient and ready to adapt to future climate risk.”

Minister Creed described the plan approved today as “an important next step in our goal to build a strong and resilient sector that is well placed to take on the challenges and opportunities presented by our changing climate”.

The Adaptation Plan highlights a number of case studies identifying how the sector has and will continue to be impacted by changing weather patterns and steps towards building resilience.

The plan and its associated documents are available on the DAFM website HERE.

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Marine Minister Michael Creed yesterday (Thursday 27 June) helped launch the public consultation process on the draft Climate Change Adaptation Plan for the agriculture, forest and seafood sectors.

“I am very pleased to launch this public consultation on adaptation planning,” said Minister Creed. “We have very much taken a joined-up approach to adaptation planning across the Department [of Agriculture, Food and the Marine] and have prepared a single plan covering the agriculture, forest and seafood sector.”

He added that in addition to reducing our emissions, “we need to ensure that our food production system is resilient and ready to adapt to future climate risk.

“Farmers, landowners and fishermen are very much to the forefront of dealing with the impacts of a changing climate in their everyday activities. However, climate change is not just an issue for the primary producer; it is something that everyone in the production chain needs to consider.

“The Irish agriculture, forest and seafood sector will not only be impacted by changes in climate here at home, but also by climate change globally.”

Andrew Doyle, Minister of State for food, forestry and horticulture, said the plan is “a next step in climate action planning. To successfully deal with the challenges facing us, we need to work together to make the right choices. While there will be challenges, there will also be opportunities.”

The draft Climate Change Adaptation Plan highlights a number of case studies identifying how the sector has and will continue to be impacted by changing weather patterns, and steps towards building resilience.

Feedback on the draft plan and suggestions as to how the department and the sector itself can best prepare to operate in a changing climate should be forwarded before the closing date of Friday 16 August.

Speaking ahead of the Our Ocean Wealth Summit in Cork earlier this month, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the State is particularly aware of the threat posed by climate change to this island nation.

The subsequently launched Climate Action Plan from the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment has been welcomed in many quarters, but has also been criticised for showing “little ambition”.

Published in Fishing

Trade in fish from the EU to Britain will be subject to a range of tariffs in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

But there will be zero tariffs for goods traded from the Republic to Northern Ireland under the temporary measures announced by the UK government this morning (Wednesday 13 March).

It follows the Commons defeat of Theresa May’s latest tabling of her Withdrawal Agreement deal, with MPs set to vote tonight on whether to rule out the no-deal Brexit option.

It is now proposed that should Britain leave the EU without a deal, no new customs checks or controls would be introduced on the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland.

However, tariffs would still apply on goods moving from the EU into the rest of Britain via Northern Ireland.

The new regime zero-rates tariffs across many imports into Britain after a no-deal Brexit. But agri-food products are among the listed exceptions, with a range of rates applying.

Fish and seafood will be subject to a range of import tariffs from 7.5% for frozen monkfish meat (excluding fillets) to 24% for prepared or preserved tuna (excluding bluefin).

A rate of 12% will apply to frozen crustaceans, while frozen fish will be hit with 8% charges, with fillets levied an extra percent.

The Irish Farmers’ Association has already branded the proposals as disastrous for Ireland’s agricultural industry, singling out beef as one of is “most exposed sectors”, as RTÉ News reports.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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#Seafood - Marine Minister Michael Creed has announced more than €1.5 million in grants to 20 seafood enterprises in 10 different counties around Ireland.

The grant awards — under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) Operational Programme for the seafood sector ad totalling €1,532,230 — will support total investment of €4,018,852 in the fisheries, aquaculture and seafood processing sectors.

These grants are co-funded by Government of Ireland and the European Union and subject to terms and conditions.

“It is very encouraging to see a continued increase in investment in aquaculture and these investments will positively contribute to our sustainable growth targets for the sector,” Minister Creed said on launching the latest grants. “ It is also reassuring to see our fisheries cooperatives continuing to invest to position themselves to handle unwanted catches under the new CFP discards ban.

“Investing in our seafood sector increases jobs in rural and coastal communities – a priority for this Government. Furthermore the development of the innovation and value added capacity of the sector is key to mitigating the potential impacts of Brexit.”

The news comes just days after Minister Creed announced €1.5 million in funding for more than 100 coastal-based projects under the EMFF, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

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Ireland's Commercial Fishing 

The Irish Commercial Fishing Industry employs around 11,000 people in fishing, processing and ancillary services such as sales and marketing. The industry is worth about €1.22 billion annually to the Irish economy. Irish fisheries products are exported all over the world as far as Africa, Japan and China.

FAQs

Over 16,000 people are employed directly or indirectly around the coast, working on over 2,000 registered fishing vessels, in over 160 seafood processing businesses and in 278 aquaculture production units, according to the State's sea fisheries development body Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

All activities that are concerned with growing, catching, processing or transporting fish are part of the commercial fishing industry, the development of which is overseen by BIM. Recreational fishing, as in angling at sea or inland, is the responsibility of Inland Fisheries Ireland.

The Irish fishing industry is valued at 1.22 billion euro in gross domestic product (GDP), according to 2019 figures issued by BIM. Only 179 of Ireland's 2,000 vessels are over 18 metres in length. Where does Irish commercially caught fish come from? Irish fish and shellfish is caught or cultivated within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but Irish fishing grounds are part of the common EU "blue" pond. Commercial fishing is regulated under the terms of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983 and with ten-yearly reviews.

The total value of seafood landed into Irish ports was 424 million euro in 2019, according to BIM. High value landings identified in 2019 were haddock, hake, monkfish and megrim. Irish vessels also land into foreign ports, while non-Irish vessels land into Irish ports, principally Castletownbere, Co Cork, and Killybegs, Co Donegal.

There are a number of different methods for catching fish, with technological advances meaning skippers have detailed real time information at their disposal. Fisheries are classified as inshore, midwater, pelagic or deep water. Inshore targets species close to shore and in depths of up to 200 metres, and may include trawling and gillnetting and long-lining. Trawling is regarded as "active", while "passive" or less environmentally harmful fishing methods include use of gill nets, long lines, traps and pots. Pelagic fisheries focus on species which swim close to the surface and up to depths of 200 metres, including migratory mackerel, and tuna, and methods for catching include pair trawling, purse seining, trolling and longlining. Midwater fisheries target species at depths of around 200 metres, using trawling, longlining and jigging. Deepwater fisheries mainly use trawling for species which are found at depths of over 600 metres.

There are several segments for different catching methods in the registered Irish fleet – the largest segment being polyvalent or multi-purpose vessels using several types of gear which may be active and passive. The polyvalent segment ranges from small inshore vessels engaged in netting and potting to medium and larger vessels targeting whitefish, pelagic (herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting) species and bivalve molluscs. The refrigerated seawater (RSW) pelagic segment is engaged mainly in fishing for herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting only. The beam trawling segment focuses on flatfish such as sole and plaice. The aquaculture segment is exclusively for managing, developing and servicing fish farming areas and can collect spat from wild mussel stocks.

The top 20 species landed by value in 2019 were mackerel (78 million euro); Dublin Bay prawn (59 million euro); horse mackerel (17 million euro); monkfish (17 million euro); brown crab (16 million euro); hake (11 million euro); blue whiting (10 million euro); megrim (10 million euro); haddock (9 million euro); tuna (7 million euro); scallop (6 million euro); whelk (5 million euro); whiting (4 million euro); sprat (3 million euro); herring (3 million euro); lobster (2 million euro); turbot (2 million euro); cod (2 million euro); boarfish (2 million euro).

Ireland has approximately 220 million acres of marine territory, rich in marine biodiversity. A marine biodiversity scheme under Ireland's operational programme, which is co-funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and the Government, aims to reduce the impact of fisheries and aquaculture on the marine environment, including avoidance and reduction of unwanted catch.

EU fisheries ministers hold an annual pre-Christmas council in Brussels to decide on total allowable catches and quotas for the following year. This is based on advice from scientific bodies such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. In Ireland's case, the State's Marine Institute publishes an annual "stock book" which provides the most up to date stock status and scientific advice on over 60 fish stocks exploited by the Irish fleet. Total allowable catches are supplemented by various technical measures to control effort, such as the size of net mesh for various species.

The west Cork harbour of Castletownbere is Ireland's biggest whitefish port. Killybegs, Co Donegal is the most important port for pelagic (herring, mackerel, blue whiting) landings. Fish are also landed into Dingle, Co Kerry, Rossaveal, Co Galway, Howth, Co Dublin and Dunmore East, Co Waterford, Union Hall, Co Cork, Greencastle, Co Donegal, and Clogherhead, Co Louth. The busiest Northern Irish ports are Portavogie, Ardglass and Kilkeel, Co Down.

Yes, EU quotas are allocated to other fleets within the Irish EEZ, and Ireland has long been a transhipment point for fish caught by the Spanish whitefish fleet in particular. Dingle, Co Kerry has seen an increase in foreign landings, as has Castletownbere. The west Cork port recorded foreign landings of 36 million euro or 48 per cent in 2019, and has long been nicknamed the "peseta" port, due to the presence of Spanish-owned transhipment plant, Eiranova, on Dinish island.

Most fish and shellfish caught or cultivated in Irish waters is for the export market, and this was hit hard from the early stages of this year's Covid-19 pandemic. The EU, Asia and Britain are the main export markets, while the middle Eastern market is also developing and the African market has seen a fall in value and volume, according to figures for 2019 issued by BIM.

Fish was once a penitential food, eaten for religious reasons every Friday. BIM has worked hard over several decades to develop its appeal. Ireland is not like Spain – our land is too good to transform us into a nation of fish eaters, but the obvious health benefits are seeing a growth in demand. Seafood retail sales rose by one per cent in 2019 to 300 million euro. Salmon and cod remain the most popular species, while BIM reports an increase in sales of haddock, trout and the pangasius or freshwater catfish which is cultivated primarily in Vietnam and Cambodia and imported by supermarkets here.

The EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983, pooled marine resources – with Ireland having some of the richest grounds and one of the largest sea areas at the time, but only receiving four per cent of allocated catch by a quota system. A system known as the "Hague Preferences" did recognise the need to safeguard the particular needs of regions where local populations are especially dependent on fisheries and related activities. The State's Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, based in Clonakilty, Co Cork, works with the Naval Service on administering the EU CFP. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine and Department of Transport regulate licensing and training requirements, while the Marine Survey Office is responsible for the implementation of all national and international legislation in relation to safety of shipping and the prevention of pollution.

Yes, a range of certificates of competency are required for skippers and crew. Training is the remit of BIM, which runs two national fisheries colleges at Greencastle, Co Donegal and Castletownbere, Co Cork. There have been calls for the colleges to be incorporated into the third-level structure of education, with qualifications recognised as such.

Safety is always an issue, in spite of technological improvements, as fishing is a hazardous occupation and climate change is having its impact on the severity of storms at sea. Fishing skippers and crews are required to hold a number of certificates of competency, including safety and navigation, and wearing of personal flotation devices is a legal requirement. Accidents come under the remit of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, and the Health and Safety Authority. The MCIB does not find fault or blame, but will make recommendations to the Minister for Transport to avoid a recurrence of incidents.

Fish are part of a marine ecosystem and an integral part of the marine food web. Changing climate is having a negative impact on the health of the oceans, and there have been more frequent reports of warmer water species being caught further and further north in Irish waters.

Brexit, Covid 19, EU policies and safety – Britain is a key market for Irish seafood, and 38 per cent of the Irish catch is taken from the waters around its coast. Ireland's top two species – mackerel and prawns - are 60 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, dependent on British waters. Also, there are serious fears within the Irish industry about the impact of EU vessels, should they be expelled from British waters, opting to focus even more efforts on Ireland's rich marine resource. Covid-19 has forced closure of international seafood markets, with high value fish sold to restaurants taking a large hit. A temporary tie-up support scheme for whitefish vessels introduced for the summer of 2020 was condemned by industry organisations as "designed to fail".

Sources: Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Marine Institute, Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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