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A State sea fisheries officer made a protected disclosure over its levels of regulation to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and members of an Oireachtas committee last year.

The whistleblower, an officer with the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) was advised to submit a protected disclosure to Mr Creed and to members of the Oireachtas committee on agriculture, food and the marine after he was informed that data breaches were being investigated.

The officer had admitted to alerting an international sustainable fishing certifying body about under-recording of catches of herring when he believed his initial reports to his employer were not being acted upon, as The Sunday Independent reports today here.

The officer first became concerned in 2012, when the prestigious Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) awarded a sustainable accreditation to the Celtic Sea herring fishery.

The officer believed the MSC was not aware of under-recording in the region of 50 per cent of catch returns in four Irish fishery harbours.

The officer says he notified his superior on October 31st, 2012, but says no enforcement action was taken by the SFPA at that time, and he then contacted the MSC.

The Celtic Sea herring fishery lost its MSC sustainability certification early in 2018.

This year’s autumn herring fishery had to be closed to all vessels just several days after it opened last month when undersized fish were landed.

A spokesman for Mr Creed told The Sunday Independent that “the protected disclosure referred to deals with operational fisheries control matters, responsibility for which rests with the SFPA”.

“ The minister has been copied with the relevant documents and he is aware of the issues and the concerns. As the matter is legally within the remit of the SFPA, it has undertaken actions in relation to the issues raised and has advised the minister of same. The minister has asked the SFPA to keep him informed by of any further developments”, it said.

The SFPA refers to one protected disclosure on its website which states that “the issues are being assessed and investigated as appropriate”

Transparency International Ireland chief executive John Devitt said that weaknesses in the 2014 Protected Disclosures Act meant that the focus was on protecting the person making the disclosure, but not on taking action - with some exceptions where there is an issue of compelling public interest.

Under the terms of a new EU directive due to be transposed into Irish law, State bodies will have to respond within a timeframe, Mr Devitt noted.

EU fishing rules

Separately, the European Commission has already ordered Mr Creed’s department to conduct an administrative inquiry into its ability to apply EU fishing rules.

The Commission said the inquiry must evaluate Ireland’s “capacity to apply the rules” which govern the management of fish catches within EU waters, and said its request arose from “the severe and significant weaknesses” detected in the Irish control system during an audit carried out in March 2018 at Killybegs, Co Donegal.

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The European Commission has given Ireland three months to conduct an inquiry into its application of EU Common Fisheries Policy rules writes Lorna Siggins

The administrative inquiry must “evaluate” Ireland’s “capacity to apply the rules” which govern management of fish catches within EU waters off this coast.

The European Commission says that its official request arises from “the severe and significant weaknesses detected in the Irish control system during an audit carried out by the Commission in Ireland in 2018”.

The EU audit identified shortcomings related to the “effective control of the weighing of catches of small pelagic (mackerel/herring) species, and issues related to underreporting of catches of these species”, the Commission says.

It also identified the “inadequate and ineffective sanctioning system for offences committed by operators and the lack of control and enforcement of bluefin tuna catches by recreational vessels”, it says in a statement.

The audit of monitoring - which is conducted by the State’s Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) - was carried out by EU officials in March, 2018, in the largest fishing port of Killybegs, Co Donegal.

The auditors scrutinised weighing systems in seven fish factories in Killybegs, and analysed monitoring of the fleet of large pelagic vessels, some of which were found to have under-recorded storage capacity in 2014 and 2015.

The audit also identified the State’s failure to control a recreational fishery for bluefin tuna.

It found evidence that some tourist trips advertised over the internet resulted in bluefin tuna being “kept, landed and offered for sale” in breach of regulations.

Warnings of weaknesses in relation to pelagic monitoring had been flagged in a review of Ireland’s fishery control regime commissioned back in 2007 by the then Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

The 2007 review by consultants had advised that weighing of pelagic fish should primarily be undertaken at the quayside. It said weighing in factories should only continue where “strict additional control assurances” were implemented.

The Commission says Ireland’s administrative inquiry should “focus on the collection of information on these specific findings to enable the Commission to further evaluate Ireland's capacity to apply the rules of the CFP, and to assess the potential consequences of any failure to do so”.

It says the three month deadline may be extended “for a reasonable delay by the Commission, on a duly reasoned request from Ireland”.

“ After that period, the Commission will analyse the information provided by Ireland and identify if any further steps or actions are needed,”it says.

In a letter some months ago to Dr Cecil Beamish of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the European Commission’s fisheries directorate, DG Mare, said that a “follow up” by Ireland to address the audit findings was “imperative” as a “matter of urgency”.

Ireland defended its approach in its response to last year’s audit, but made a number of commitments – including hiring more SFPA staff and developing a protocol with the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The SFPA noted difficulties with weighing fish at the pier, as this can affect quality, and therefore value, and the method is opposed by the industry for this reason.

It said that it “operates a broad matrix of official controls”, but conceded that “total control is not possible and no single step ensures zero-risk of under declaration”.

The SFPA referred comments to the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine. The department said the Commission's request had just been received and "is being examined".

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The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D., today was presented with the ‘Strategy for the Irish Inshore Fisheries Sector 2019-2023’. The strategy is the first industry-led blueprint for the Inshore Sector and was presented to the Minister by the Chair of the National Inshore Fisheries Forum.

The Strategy presented today follows an extensive development process involving the National and Regional Inshore Fisheries Forums which have been instrumental in supporting initiatives that seek to encourage a more sustainable, profitable and well-managed inshore fisheries sector. An inclusive approach was taken to identifying key issues and priorities for the sector, including a Steering Group with industry and State partners, a dedicated workshop and public consultation.

Welcoming the Strategy, Minister Creed commented:

“I am delighted to receive the ‘Strategy for the Inshore Fisheries Sector 2019-2023’. The Strategy marks a major milestone in the work of the Inshore Fisheries Forums who, since their inception, have developed initiatives seeking to protect the future of a sector which is extremely important for Irish coastal communities. I would like to thank the Forums for their support in the development of the Strategy and I look forward to seeing the outcomes it achieves.”

The Strategy sets a number of objectives that will frame the work of the Inshore Forums as industry representatives and Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) as the development agency, providing a clear direction for the development of the inshore sector over the next number of years. BIM will lead the implementation plan, in partnership with the National Inshore Fisheries Forum, to deliver the actions to underpin a sustainable future for the sector. The strategy will target financial support available under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund to where it can be most effectively used.

The Minister also announced that he has approved an increase to the minimum conservation reference size for brown crab. This new conservation measure, which was initiated by members of the fishing industry in the South East, will increase the minimum size of brown crab that can be landed by Irish sea-fishing boats from ICES areas VI and VII to 140mm. The Minister invited the National Inshore Fisheries Forum and the marine agencies to submit views on an appropriate lead-in period for the new measure.

Minister Creed said:

“I am pleased to announce the approval of this conservation measure, particularly as it was initiated and developed by inshore fishermen who recognise the importance of cultivating a sustainable fishery. I would like to thank the Inshore Fisheries Forums and their members for continuing their proactive approach to conservation issues in the inshore sector.”

The approval of the conservation measure follows an extensive consultation process involving the National and Regional Inshore Fisheries Forums and a public consultation that was held in 2018. Industry proposed the increase as a way of supporting the sustainability of the brown crab fishery by allowing brown crab more time to reproduce. An appropriate lead-in period will be identified and the measure will be implemented by statutory instrument.

The Minister also congratulated the new Chair of the National Inshore Fisheries Forum, Trudy McIntyre from the South East Regional Inshore Fisheries Forum.

“Trudy brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her new role at a very important time in the Irish inshore sector and has already been instrumental in supporting initiatives in the inshore fisheries sector, including the first Inshore Fisheries Strategy. I wish Trudy every success and I look forward to working with her.

The Minister went on to say:

“I would like to take the opportunity to thank Alex Crowley for his work as Chair of the National Inshore Fisheries Forum. Alex has done an outstanding job and he has been resolute in his commitment to the development of the inshore sector.”

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Sean Kyne TD, Minister with responsibility for the Inland Fisheries Sector today welcomed Inland Fisheries Ireland‘s announcement that, at a positive and constructive meeting of its Fish Farming Working Group, it was confirmed by IFI that they will continue to produce fish and make them available to angling clubs throughout 2018, and thereafter.

The Fish Farming Working Group is comprised of members of Inland Fisheries Ireland’s Board and Executive as well as the two main trout angling organisations, the Trout Angling Federation of Ireland (TAFI) and National Anglers Representative Association (NARA).

IFI also outlined its actions taken to date in relation to tendering for the design of a new fish farming facility and, at its subsequent January Board meeting held on the 31st of January, the Board agreed to proceed with a tender for this project. The Board had previously confirmed its commitment to developing a comprehensive strategy to meet current and future trout production needs, subject to securing the investment required.

Minister Kyne said: “The future success and development of the sector depends on the close co-operation and constructive approach of both IFI and the stakeholders, pulling together for the greater good. The fact that the Fish Farming Working Group has begun 2018 with such a positive meeting is very much to be welcomed and I look forward to hearing more, and being part of, similar productive dialogue over the coming months and years.”

The Minister also welcomed the Group’s discussions, in the context of the future advancement of the sector, on the wider development of youth angling generally and the potential for developing urban angling locations.

The next meeting of the Working Group is currently scheduled for late February.

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MEP for Ireland South and Leader of Fine Gael in the European Parliament, Seán Kelly, has said that the Parliament's Fisheries Committee has confirmed it will visit Cork in 2018 on a fact-finding mission, most likely in the second half of the year. While expressing disappointment that the mission will not take place in the first six months of 2018 as had been hoped, Mr Kelly confirmed that he has been assured that the Cork visit will proceed nonetheless.

“I have been in the process of organising this important fisheries mission for the past number of weeks. While it is disappointing that the visit will not happen in the first half of 2018, I can confirm that the Committee has committed to a fact-finding mission to Cork in 2018. It is unfortunate that the visit will happen a little later than previously envisaged especially with regard to important Brexit negotiations, however I look forward to confirming a new timetable for the visit in the coming months.

"It is of paramount importance that this cross-party group of MEPs comes to Ireland to meet with key Irish fisheries stakeholders for a first-hand account of the difficulties that the Irish fisheries sector will face in the wake of Brexit.

"Just last year I hosted a delegation of MEPs and policymakers belonging to the Industry, Research and Energy Committee on a visit to Cork, where we visited the Marine Renewable Energy Ireland (MaREI) to hear about the potential of wave energy at University College Cork. Providing on-the-ground opportunities for policymakers to meet local people in related industries have an added value and assist in ensuring everyone is well briefed on Member State issues.

“I will work to push for this mission to take place as soon as possible in 2018 as it is vital that the concerns of our fishing sector are outlined directly to these key decision makers," added Mr Kelly, a Member of the Fisheries Committee.

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A Native Oyster Workshop has drawn on heritage and science to highlight the importance and future of the Native Oyster fisheries across Ireland during the Clarinbridge Oyster Festival.

Cuan Beo, a recently formed community based organization established with a mission of improving the quality of life, environment, economy and heritage around Galway Bay highlighted the need for action to restore the Native Oyster stocks across Ireland during the Native Oyster Workshop (NOW17) which was held in Clarinbridge last week Thursday 5th October 2017.

The workshop brought together Native Oyster Fishermen from the 8 remaining oyster fisheries in Ireland together with the relevant agencies responsible for their governance to develop a plan towards their restoration. The workshop heard that the native Oyster fisheries have been in decline for the past 200 years and are currently at an all-time low. Factors such as poor water quality, absence of fishery management plans, complex governance structures and overfishing have all contributed.

According to Diarmuid Kelly, Chairman of Cuan Beo, the aim of the workshop was to review the current status of the Native Oyster fisheries along the Atlantic coast of Ireland, to discuss the issues impacting on their productivity and identify a roadmap towards the effective management and restoration of Oyster Beds and to restore sustainable production output from these fisheries.

oyster farmers irelandCuan Beo committee members Diarmuid Kelly, Kelly's Oyster, Ollie Tully, Marine Institute, Seamus Breathnach BIM, Mary Gerry O'Halloran, and Colm O'Dowd Photo: Andrew Downes

While Galway and Clarinbridge is synonymous with the oyster, its ecological status is poor. The situation is similar across Europe. It is listed by OSPAR as ‘threatened and declining’ and is listed as a priority habitat in the UK and in many areas in Ireland, including Galway Bay. The native oyster is subject to conservation objectives and is seen as a significant component species in Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). The workshop heard that much of the legislation is complex, misinterpreted and misunderstood.

Prof Noel Wilkins (NUI Galway) presented on the history of the native oyster beds in Galway Bay from times of super-abundance and tracking their decline to the present day. This was coupled with presentations from government agencies including the Marine Institute, the SFPA, Waters and Communities and BIM highlighting challenges relating to their restoration including licensing and governance, disease, water quality, fisheries management and displacement by invasive species. Case studies from successful fisheries were presented from Lough’s Agency in NI and Tralee Co-op.

An action plan was agreed at the workshop to create a national working group in the coming weeks. The group would not just lobby for simplification in governance but also to address assessment and up-skilling of existing co/op management in each area and the provision of support and assistance in developing management plans for each fishery. BIM agreed to coordinate the establishment of this working group.

The day-long event concluded with the official launch of Cuan Beo, by Cllr Eileen Mannion Caothairlaoch of County Galway. The launch was also attended by Seán Kyne TD Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment with responsibility for Natural Resources, Community Affairs, and Digital Development. Niall Sabongi (KLAW Restaurant Dublin) held a masterclass in oyster tasting with a selection of native oysters from the various fisheries across Ireland and the event was concluded with a lecture highlighting the importance of the oyster in Galway Bay from pre-historic times (4000BC) to the present day by Local Archaeologist and historian, Michael Gibbons.

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#Angling - Legal actions against poaching and other illegal angling and fisheries activity have hit a stumbling block after it was found that Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) does not have “explicit power to prosecute offences”.

The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment has called a halt to any summonses currently before the courts until necessary amendments to the Fisheries Acts are enacted.

IFI says it is considering whether fresh summonses can be issued at a later stage when the amendments are in place. In the meantime, any alleged offenders remain liable to prosecution.

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#Jobs - Inland Fisheries Ireland’s R&D division has secured external funding to undertake a series of research projects, which are currently seeking to recruit a number of staff as research technicians and fisheries assistants.

Interviews will take place in mid to late March to fill a number of positions for periods of up to a maximum of 10 months’ duration during 2017, and a panel for subsequent positions will be compiled following interview.

All positions will be based at the current IFI head office in Dublin’s Citywest Business Campus.

Research Technician
The appointee will provide technical support to the Senior Research Officer (SRO) and project team in the compilation and analysis of data of relevant biotic and abiotic information for fish species in Irish lakes, rivers or estuaries, using standard fish sampling methodologies.

Principal duties and responsibilities include:

  • Data collection: Carry out and lead field surveys when necessary, collect data on the abundance, composition and age structure of fish populations from designated waterbodies, collect data on the distribution, biology and ecology of fish species in designated waterbodies.
  • Data analysis: Collate and input data into project databases and present data in report format as required, data mining, conduct statistical analyses (descriptive and analytical) of data sets, including using relevant statistical software, manage fisheries datasets for the project, assure quality of data including editing and verification of consistency, create tables, charts and graphics with narrative text, interpret data, analyse and prepare reports.
  • Reporting: Maintain raw data and all other records in a clear concise format and compile and maintain all records in a manner compatible with GIS.
  • Other duties: Liaise with the project team and stakeholders and attend/contribute to information meetings as required, liaise with other IFI staff working on related projects as required.

Requirements for this position include a relevant diploma or degree or equivalent, and a full driving licence valid in the State. Salary is at the first point of the technician scale (as at 1 January 2016): €32,231 to €51,717 (including 1 LSI).

Fisheries Assistant
The appointee or appointees will assist the Senior Research officer and team in the compilation and analysis of relevant biotic and abiotic information for fish species in Irish lakes, rivers or estuaries, using standard fish sampling methodologies.

The successful candidate or candidates will be expected to:

  • Assist on field surveys (if necessary).
  • Undertake processing of sample material and providing assistance to the SRO with sample analysis.
  • Assist in the processing of fish samples, collate scale, otolith and opercular bone samples to provide information on age profile and growth rates of fish species, and input data into IFI databases.
  • Maintain raw data and all other records in a clear concise format.
  • Compile and maintain all records in a manner compatible with GIS.
  • Liaise with other IFI staff working on related projects as required.

Requirements for this position include a Leaving Certificate or equivalent with minimum Grade C on at least two Higher Level papers, to include one of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geography or Maths, and a full driving licence valid in the State. Salary is at the first point of the fisheries officer/fisheries assistant scale (as at 1 January 16): €22,907 to €36,235 (including 2 LSI’s).

Applications, (a cover letter and up-to-date CV) should be sent to [email protected] by 5pm on Friday 3 March. Please quote either ‘Fish’ for Fisheries Assistant roles or ‘Tech’ for the Technician role,s depending on which you wish to apply for. Late applications will not be processed.

Short listing will be based on information provide in the cover letter and CV. Canvassing will disqualify. Inland Fisheries Ireland is an equal opportunities employer. All enquiries to [email protected]

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#Jobs - Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) is currently seeking to recruit a number of staff as fishery officers nationally for periods of up to six months during 2017.

Fisheries officers will be primarily concerned with the implementation and enforcement of the provision of the Fisheries Acts, Water Pollution Acts and other relevant statutory provisions. They are required to:

  • Provide, in co-operation with other fisheries staff, comprehensive conservation and protection services, inland and at sea, within any part of a fisheries district and/or any other area assigned within one or more fisheries districts.
  • Provide, in co-operation with other fisheries staff, comprehensive improvement, and development and fisheries management support services within any part of a fisheries district and/or any other area assigned within one or more fisheries districts.

A number of positions will be concerned with assisting either directly or indirectly in fisheries related research projects. The full job specification is available HERE. Please note a full driving licence valid in the State is required.

Applications (a cover letter and up-to-date CV) should be emailed to [email protected] by 5pm on Monday 27 February quoting ‘HR/FO/2017’. Late applications will not be processed. All enquiries to [email protected]

Salary will be at the first point of the Fishery Officer Scale (as of 1 January 2016) plus an unsocial hours allowance, which will be paid at either 50% or 100% relative to the number of unsocial hours worked.

IFI is an equal opportunities employer. Canvassing will disqualify.

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#Fishing - Marine Minister Michael Creed has announced €12 million funding under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) Operational Programme for seven Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs) to fund local development initiatives in Ireland’s coastal communities.

The seven new groups – South West (Kerry), West (Galway, Clare), Northwest (Mayo, Sligo), North (Donegal), South (Cork), Northeast (Louth, Meath, Dublin) and Southeast (Wicklow, Wexford, Waterford) – were selected as part of a competitive process under the community led local development element of the €240 million EMFF Operational Programme.

Each FLAG received a sum between €1.5 million and €1.98 million in funding that is 50% financed by the EU.

“This funding will be allocated by and to those communities by the seven FLAGs recently established,” said the minister. “The FLAGs are made up of local actors from the fisheries and aquaculture sectors and others with a strong interest in fostering the development of our coastal communities.

“The funding will be available to the FLAGs over the period 2017 to 2021 approximately and is an eight-fold increase on the €1.5m that was available under the previous FLAG scheme.”

Bord Iascaigh Mhara chief executive Tara McCarthy added: “As the State agency responsible for providing a range of administrative and technical supports to the FLAGs, we welcome the significant increase in funding for a programme that has already contributed €1.5 million in direct and indirect investment to our coastal communities.

“Each of the FLAG groups represents 7 coastal communities where the importance of the Irish Seafood Sector from our fishermen to seafood processors and retailers is paramount. This increase in funding will enable BIM to assist the FLAG groups to develop strategic plans that will enhance and in some cases diversify their existing marine related resource and enterprise.

“On behalf of BIM, I would like to thank all of the FLAG members for their dedication to this programme.”

FLAG Name Coastal areas of County EMFF Allocation
South West FLAG Kerry €1.53 m
West FLAG Galway, Clare €1.80 m
Northwest FLAG Mayo, Sligo €1.50 m
North FLAG Donegal €1.95 m
South FLAG Cork €1.98 m
Northeast FLAG Louth, Meath, Dublin €1.56 m
Southeast FLAG Wicklow, Wexford, Waterford €1.68 m
  TOTAL €12 m
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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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W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
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