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#Fishing - The Marine Institute is inviting tenders for the supply of a commercial fishing vessel to conduct a boarfish acoustic survey in ICES divisions VII b, c, g, h, j & k (west of Ireland, Celtic Sea and northern Biscay).

The vessel would be chartered for a period of 21 days to survey spawning aggregations of boarfish – a big seller for Ireland in the Chinese market – using hydro-acoustic techniques.

Vessels are invited to tender on the basis of their ability to undertake the survey schedule. This comprises following a pre-determined cruise track in the order of 3,200 nautical miles carried out over 21 days with 20hr operations (4am-midnight) and with directed trawl stations on fish schools of interest as and when required.

A single pelagic midwater trawl with a vertical opening of greater than 40m and contain a 20mm codend liner and/or sprat brailer will be a requirement for the survey. A liner can be provided if required but all other associated fishing equipment must be provided by the vessel.

The survey will be timed to coincide with the southerly end point of the RV Celtic Explorer on 10 July 2015 and this survey will act as a continuation. It is therefore essential that the charter vessel is out on the water and ready to begin surveying no later than midnight on 9 July 2015.

Detailed information of the track and survey plan will be provided by the Marine Institute. The successful applicant will be selected based on technical suitability, cost of charter, pelagic fishing track record and previous experience in scientific research and surveys.

The closing date for tenders is this Friday 29 May 2015 at 12 noon. Full details of the tender are available in a PDF to read or download HERE.

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#Seafood - Following a meeting today (5 November) with Chinese Vice Minister Niu Dun, who has responsibility for fisheries, Marine Minister Simon Coveney opened the largest ever Irish pavilion at the China Seafood & Fisheries Expo, which takes place in Qingdao this week.

Speaking at the event, Minister Coveney said: “Ireland has some of the finest seafood in the world, with a superior offering that is sustainably harvested from the pure, clean waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

"Business development and trade show events such as these are invaluable in building awareness of our high quality produce to an influential, targeted trade audience.

"China continues to be a growing market for Irish seafood and with exports increasing by over 300% since 2011 to reach €18 million in 2013. This strong trend in Irish exports to the region is continuing in 2014 with sales for the first 6 months up 56% compared to the same period last year.”

Organised by Bord Bia, Ireland’s stand will include representatives from a record 11 Irish seafood companies between today and Friday 7 November at the largest trade show in China, with more than 25,000 visitors expected from over 100 countries. 

In 2013, China's seafood trade surpassed €20 billion in value, cementing its position as the world's leading seafood trading country. Growing incomes and increased urbanisation have helped fuel a massive growth in demand for imported seafood.

China currently accounts for one quarter of the world’s seafood consumption, and the United Nation’s FAO projects that China will need an extra 16 million tonnes of seafood by 2020 to meet growing demand.

Minister Coveney added: “The strong Irish representation from both the pelagic and shellfish sectors in Qingdao today demonstrates the commitment of both industry and government to deepen ties and strengthen relationships with our Chinese customers.”

Traditionally, the Chinese market has been important for the Irish seafood industry predominantly for the sale of pelagic species such as boarfish, which was launched in China this year after a successful presentation at the 2013 expo.

However, in the last three years, significant effort has been invested by Irish processors and Bord Bia to identify and develop opportunities for premium shellfish in this growing market for seafood, notably for shellfish such as live and processed brown crab, langoustines, scallops and razor fish.

Bord Bia chief executive Aidan Cotter said: “The strong and sustained growth in exports in recent years demonstrates the continued success of Ireland’s leading shellfish processors in penetrating this valuable market. Exports of shellfish to China, for example, increased in value by over 200% between 2012 and 2013, while exports to Hong Kong increased by 117% during the same period.

"Bord Bia has ambitious plans to further grow the share of Irish seafood into China and has a number of programmes in place to assist Irish seafood processors in identifying, profiling and targeting new customers that are willing to pay a premium for quality seafood from Ireland.” 

Through its trade development programme, Bord Bia says it has been very successful in encouraging high-end retail and foodservice Chinese customers to visit Ireland to meet with Irish seafood processors on a one-to-one basis. 

These itineraries have been described as very effective in generating new business for the sector, providing Irish companies with an excellent opportunity to showcase their processing facilities and also allowing the customers to see first hand the world-class environment in which Irish seafood is produced. These visits can provide a guarantee to Chinese customers on traceability, sustainability and food safety, all key issues of growing concern to the Chinese consumer.

“Irish seafood has enjoyed ongoing and increasing market access to China," said Dr Susan Steel, chair of the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority. "International trade in food is based upon a reciprocated trust in food safety systems. The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority, as regulator, verifies the safety and sustainability of Irish seafood and we welcome this Chinese confidence in the robustness of the assurance systems we implement."

During the last three years, Bord Bia has welcomed more than 25 Asian customers to Ireland on customised itineraries. Many of these visits have delivered new business for Irish seafood processors, and in March 2015, as part of its Marketplace International event, Bord Bia will host an additional 17 Asian customers on a visit to Ireland.

The buyers will meet with Ireland’s leading seafood processors, and Bord Bia has set a target of securing €7 million worth of new business for the seafood sector arising from this event.

In September 2013, over €4 million worth of new business was secured with a range of Asian seafood customers who travelled to Ireland to attend Bord Bia’s Global Sustainability Conference.

Going into 2015, to build on the momentum and further increase exports of premium Irish seafood to China, Bord Bia will concentrate its promotional efforts on increasing awareness of new species from Ireland such as brown crab and Irish prawns. 

Targeting premium chefs, media and key opinion-formers, Bord Bia will co-ordinate a series of cookery demonstrations in Beijing and Shanghai, focusing on introducing recipes for these species that are new to the Chinese market. 

The campaign will assist the Irish processing sector to sell in their ranges to distributors servicing the premium restaurants and hotels in these two key locations. In addition, Chinese consumers will be educated and informed through a comprehensive programme of in-store tastings with a number of supermarket retail chains.

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Mr. Sean Connick, T.D. Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food welcomed the agreement reached after two days of talks in Brussels on 2011 quotas for the Irish fishing fleet.

The final agreement will deliver whitefish quotas worth some €116 million, including the protection of Ireland's €54 million prawn fishery. There will be a 10% increase in quota for Ireland's €75 million mackerel industry and a two thirds share, worth approximately €4 million, for Irish fishermen of the new boarfish industry.

Speaking at the end of the negotiations in the early hours of Wednesday (16 December), the Minister said

"The negotiations have been particularly challenging this year with the European Commission proposing cuts across many stocks of commercial importance for Ireland. Consulting with our fishing industry and NGOs, working with other Member States and concentrating on the scientific evidence, was, I believe key to securing a balanced sustainable package."

"This package will help underpin the economic future of our costal communities."

There will be 15% increase in haddock and whiting stocks in the Celtic Sea. While for the cod stocks off the North West and the Irish Sea, the quotas will be reduced by 25% in line with the Recovery Plan for these stocks. For Celtic Sea cod, the current quota level has been maintained for 2011 on the basis of new survey results from the State's Research Vessel "Celtic Explorer".

Minister Connick commented "By introducing new information on Celtic Sea cod, I secured agreement that the current level of TAC will continue into 2011, and may be increased during the year if the new survey results are confirmed by the scientists. However, given the poor state of cod stocks off the North West and in the Irish Sea, cuts were necessary".

Commenting on the 3% reduction in the prawn quota, the Minister said "Prawns are a very important fishery all around our coast. It is the most valuable catch for the Irish whitefish fleet worth €54 million. While the Commission originally proposed a 17% cut, I secured just a 3% decrease in the quota on the basis of a strong scientific case."

The quota for mackerel will be increased by 10%, and should be worth up to €75m in 2011. This is the most important fishery for the North West fleet based in Killybegs and is also important for the South West multi purpose fleet, supporting processing jobs in the coastal communities.

There were also increases in the quota for Celtic Sea herring of 30%, although there were cuts in the North West stock reflecting concerns about the state of those stocks.

Finally, Ireland secured the largest share in an important new fishery for boarfish that will be worth just under €4 million in 2011. The Irish fishing industry has been working with the scientific community to develop a management plan for boarfish, a mid-water shoaling species, now found in large volumes off the South West coast. The agreement reached in Brussels provides for a total allowable catch of some 33,000 tonnes, with two thirds going to Ireland.

Minister Connick commented "In an example of a successful investment in scientific research by industry, we have opened up a new fishery and secured the major stake in that industry. This ensures a new revenue stream for Irish industry into the future. We believe we can now develop a significant and sustainable fishery on this stock, in which we will continue to hold the largest share".

Published in Fishing

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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