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Displaying items by tag: Sea Fisheries Protection Agency

Skippers and owners of smaller Irish fishing vessels are to be given training in the use of electronic logbooks at sea.

The training is to be provided for the 12 to 15-metre category of vessel which had been exempt until now in use of electronic recording and reporting.

The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) says it will provide the training to an estimated total of 48 vessels in this category.

The Electronic Recording & Reporting System (ERS), as it is known, is a system for recording, reporting, processing, storing, and transmitting fisheries data (catch, landing, sales and transhipment) according to the EU rules.

The key element of the ERS is the electronic logbook, which is used to record and transmit details of fishing operations securely.

The information is managed by the master of the fishing vessel and is transmitted to the member states authorities where the authentic fishing operation details are kept in a secure database.

All vessels 12m or greater are required to use Electronic Recording & Reporting System (ERS) since January 2012.

To date, an exemption has been in place for some vessels that fall into the 12-15m category on the basis of either: the vessel is at sea less than 24 hours per trip, or the vessel is fishing within the 12 nautical mile limit, the SFPA says.

“This exemption is now being removed for the 12-15m category – which consists of approximately 48 registered vessels - ahead of pending regulations that will require 10m-12m vessels to also have ERS on board,” it says.

Details and dates of the training are as follows:

  • Thursday 30th March – Castletownbere 09:00 – 17:00
  • Tuesday 4th April - Greencastle 09:00 – 17:00
  • Thursday 13th April - Dingle 09:00 – 17:00
  • Tuesday 18th April - Dublin 09:00 – 17:00
  • Thursday 19th April - Wexford 09:00 – 17:00
  • Tuesday 25th April - Westport 09:00 – 17:00
Published in SFPA

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) has commended its officers for their work on a case which has led to a conviction for failing to record a fish catch accurately.

Following a prosecution taken by the SFPA and the Director of Public Prosecutions, Eamon Moss of Kilmore, Co Wexford was convicted and fined €500 at Wexford Circuit Court on February 14th, 2023.

The SFPA said in a statement that the defendant pleaded guilty to an offence under the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006 of failing to record approximately 1,077kgs of a catch of black sole in the fishing logbook in March 2019 as master of the Irish-registered fishing vessel, "Rony".

“The under-recording of black sole was detected following an inspection of the vessel hold and records by sea fisheries protection officers, during which the inaccurate recording of multiple species was detected,” it said.

SFPA executive chair Paschal Hayes said that the legal requirement on vessel masters to ensure accurate recording of catches is “crucial in order to obtain a reliable assessment of the extent of fish species caught, which is key to the sustainable management of stocks”.

“This conviction underscores the seriousness of inaccurate logbook data and the active measures taken by SFPA officers to inspect for compliance. The SFPA commends its officers for their diligence and hard work on this case,” he said.

Published in Fishing

Ten enforcement orders were served on seafood businesses late last year, the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) reports.

The orders were served during the final quarter of 2022 for breaches of food safety legislation under the Food Safety Authority of Ireland Act, 1998 and the European Union (Food & Feed Hygiene) Regulations 2020.

The SFPA says the enforcements were issued by sea-fisheries protection officers during risk-based official controls.

It says that “no closure orders were issued over this period”.

The SFPA’s responsibilities include enforcement of food law in the seafood sector up to the point of retail, and this involves the assessment of food safety controls across the marine and aquaculture sectors.

The SFPA says it has responsibility for the enforcement across a range of 2711 business operations nationally.

It says its officers carried out 60 inspections in land-based establishments in the last quarter of last year.

SFPA executive chairman Paschal Hayes said “the low level of non-compliance found illustrates the considerable efforts being made by seafood businesses to work within the regulations, as well as the robust inspection system in place to assure and, where necessary, to enforce compliance”.

SFPA executive chairman Paschal HayesSFPA executive chairman Paschal Hayes

The SFPA said it had also confirmed a successful food safety prosecution in the case of SFPA v. Castletownbere Fishermen’s Co-op Society Ltd.

“The defendant entered guilty pleas to food safety legislation offences, arising from an inspection conducted on 18th of October 2021, relating to the condition of parts of the food premises, failure to ensure pest control and protection against contamination, and failure to comply with procedures on traceability of raw fishery products,” the SFPA states.

“The defendant was fined €2000, and an order relating to costs was made in favour of the SFPA,” it says.

Published in Fishing

The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) says it looks forward to “continued and ongoing engagement” with Irish environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs), following a meeting with representatives last week.

A range of issues related to “safeguarding and enhancing Ireland’s marine environment and resources” were discussed, the State regulatory body says.

The SFPA described the meeting as “wide-ranging and productive”, and said it outlined its own regulatory remit and “the various strands of Irish and European legislation covering the sector”.

It says it also discussed a number of “areas of focus”, including the shellfish classification programme and monthly water sampling programmes undertaken with industry.

The SFPA says it also gave details on a “number of upcoming projects utilising technology to underpin the sustainability of Ireland’s marine life”.

It says the meeting was part of “an ongoing programme of engagement being undertaken by the SFPA to share best practice, knowledge”.

SFPA chair Paschal HayesSFPA chair Paschal Hayes

It also aims to share “latest developments in relation to strategic initiatives” as part of its regulatory remit to ensure compliance with the EU Common Fisheries Policy, sea-fisheries law and food safety law.

SFPA chair Paschal Hayes said the meeting was “a welcome opportunity for productive dialogue and engagement on a range of issues pertaining to the marine environment and sustainability of our marine resources”.

“Ireland’s marine industry is one that supports over 16,500 jobs, plays a significant role in our coastal communities and has created an industry that is valued at €1.26 billion,” he said.

“Beyond these economic figures, Ireland’s marine resources are of tremendous importance, sustaining a rich and wonderful array of marine life and whose very existence is dependent upon the continued health and vitality of our marine ecosystem,” Hayes said.

“To ensure the long-term viability of our marine resources for future generations, a collective approach is required with shared responsibility,” he said.

“We were pleased to have the opportunity to meet with environmental NGOs focused in the marine areas and we look forward to continued and ongoing engagement, underpinned by an unwavering focus on ensuring sustainability, and a shared agreement on the value and importance of healthy maritime environments,” Hayes said.

Published in Fishing

The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) says it will continue to engage with fishing industry representatives after an online meeting was held yesterday in relation to the row over fish landings.

The row erupted last month 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.

Since then, several Norwegian vessels have opted to land into Derry over the border, rather than into Killybegs - then trucking catches to south Donegal, while a number of vessels either abandoned attempts to land or sold catch destined for human consumption as fish meal.

The SFPA said in a statement that the interim fisheries control plan enables 95% of bulk landings of pelagic fish to avail of an exemption to weigh-after-transport, meaning that just 5% are subject to supervised weighing on landing.

The Danish fishing vessel MV Ruth, arrived to land 1,270 tonnes of blue whiting for local processing and export to Africa but left port with the fish still aboardThe Danish fishing vessel MV Ruth, arrived to land 1,270 tonnes of blue whiting for local processing and export to Africa but left port with the fish still aboard

“Over the past five days, approximately 9,500 tonnes of bulk pelagic fish were landed at Killybegs harbour, totalling 20 landings. During this same period, one vessel chose to leave port and sail to Derry to discharge its catch,” it said.

The SFPA said the meeting discussed a number of items. This included “ two options for conducting weighing before transport currently available in Killybegs harbour for the 5% of landings which are selected for supervised weighing”.

The SFPA said it outlined in detail how, in both instances, fish are in water when weighed in order to preserve the quality of the catch.

SFPA executive chair Paschal Hayes said “as the regulator with responsibility for sea-fisheries and the seafood production sector, our role is to ensure that landings of fish in Ireland are in compliance with the EU Common Fisheries Policy to safeguard sustainable fishing stocks in Irish and European waters”.

SFPA executive chair Paschal HayesSFPA executive chair Paschal Hayes

“The interim fisheries control plan agreed between Ireland and EU Commission in December 2021 enables 95% of bulk pelagic landings to be weighed in permitted fish processors, on the condition that 5% of landings – estimated at 30 landings annually – are weighed under supervision pierside,” he said.

“It is our intention to continue to meet the conditions agreed in Ireland’s control plan so that the entire industry can benefit of the exemptions on weighing after transport,” Hayes said.

Published in SFPA

As the row over inspection of fish landings continues, the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) invited industry representatives to a virtual meeting on the issue.

Irish Fish Processors’ and Exporters’ Association (IFPEA) chief executive Brendan Byrne confirmed that an invitation to an online meeting today (April 13th) had been issued by the SFPA.

“However, there is no agenda – so I cannot say if this is an effort to resolve the issue,” Byrne said.

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.

Since then, several Norwegian vessels have opted to land into Derry over the border, rather than into Killybegs - then trucking catches to south Donegal, while four other vessels abandoned attempts to land into the port, Byrne said.

“Three Irish vessels had to put their catches of blue whiting, destined for human consumption, to fish meal,” Byrne said.

He said it was “bizarre” and “defied all sense of proportion” and said that up to 300 workers were impacted over a three week period.

A survey of members by the IFPEA over five days found that 1773 workdays had been lost for seasonal workers and 239 households affected directly.

He said that the economy of southwest Donegal had taken a “massive hit” due to the changes in weighing procedures which he said had been “adopted overnight by the SFPA” in early March.

A stormy three-hour meeting was held on the issue in Killybegs on April 9th, attended by Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue.

On the eve of the Killybegs meeting, the SFPA issued a statement in which it said that under the terms of the interim fisheries control plan, as approved by the European Commission, only 5% of bulk landings of pelagic fish – an estimated 30 landings annually – are subject to a full inspection which includes supervising the weighing before transport of the catch.

“The other 95% of bulk landings of pelagic fish – an estimated 570 landings annually – can avail of the exemption of weighing of fishery products after transport in Ireland secured under the interim fisheries control plan,” the SFPA said.

“Several bulk pelagic vessels which docked in Killybegs harbour over the past week [ early April] availed of this exemption,” it said.

The SFPA said that to meet the requirements of the interim plan, operators may select one of two options for conducting this 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 an 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 challenge”.

The SFPA said this was one of the two options which was available to the master and operator of Norwegian vessel MFV Ingrid Majala at Killybegs.

“Having rejected this option in Killybegs, the master and operator of MFV Ingrid Majala chose to utilise this option after having sailed to Derry to unload,” it said.

Published in SFPA

The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) says a new control plan is expected to come into effect on May 1st.

This is subject to approval by the European Commission, which withdrew Ireland’s control plan for weighing fish catches a year ago due to lack of confidence in the Irish monitoring system.

The SFPA said a new control plan to enable the derogation of weighing of fishery products after transport in Ireland has now been submitted to the European Commission “with a view to achieving permanent approval”.

Once approval is secured, it would be adopted by Ireland and would come into force from May 1st, the authority said.

The SFPA said it “has been working intensively to move from interim arrangements to develop a fair and effective permanent control plan”.

It said the objective was an approved plan that “balances the requirements of the industry whilst also enabling meaningful control to manage real noncompliance risks”.

“The SFPA believes the control plan it has submitted addresses significant EU Commission concerns surrounding Ireland’s control measures and the risk of non-compliance with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy, particularly in pelagic bulk landings to Ireland which resulted in the Commission’s revoking of Ireland’s weighing-after-transport control plan in 2021,” it said.

The interim plan initiated from January 1st of this year is due to expire on April 30th, so there was a degree of urgency to ensure a permanent arrangement is in place.

The default provision of EU legislation is that all wild-caught fishery products have to be weighed immediately at transport by operators.

There is potential for a derogation to allow weighing to take place after transport but that requires EU commission approval of a plan to “manage compliance risks arising from that practice”.

Last year’s withdrawal of the plan followed an EU audit in 2018 of controls for Ireland’s pelagic fisheries in Killybegs, Co Donegal.

The 2018 audit had identified irregularities, including the alleged manipulation of weighing systems in some instances.

The SFPA said that these irregularities were “subsequently confirmed in an administrative inquiry” that it conducted.

The Irish industry had reacted angrily to the EU move, seeking sight of the audit which was refused. Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation chief executive Sean O’Donoghue said the European Commission was “playing the role of judge and jury, with the fishing industry being refused the basic right to establish what it might stand accused of”.

Published in SFPA

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority’s executive chair has said that the organisation is “committed” to detecting those who “choose not to comply” with the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

The new chair Paschal Hayes was commenting after fines were imposed by Judge John Alymer on the master of the Maggie C fishing vessel at Letterkenny Circuit Court in Co Donegal earlier this week.

The fines of 15,000 euro were imposed at a circuit court sitting in Letterkenny on February 8th.

At a previous sitting of the court, the master of the vessel had pleaded guilty to fishing offences including the failure to accurately record catches in the logbook while at sea.

The value of the catch and gear in the sum of €18,000 was also forfeited.

The vessel was detained following an inspection at sea by the Naval Service on October 13th, 2015, and was subsequently detained and brought to Killybegs Harbour, Co Donegal.

“The accurate recording of catches in logbooks is a critical element of effective quota management and is an important part of ensuring the sustainability of our marine resources,” Mr Hayes said in a statement issued after the judgment.

“ Most operators adhere to the requirements of the EU CFP; however, there are some who choose not to,” he said.

“ We are committed to detecting those who choose not to comply,” he said.

“ With the support of our control partners, our risk-based approach to regulation allows us to identify activity and vessels that pose a higher risk, and where non-compliance is found, the appropriate action will be taken, “ he said.

Ruling by the European Court of Justice

In a separate development, the SFPA has also welcomed the ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that Ireland’s sea-fisheries regulator can submit data other than fishermen’s declarations of their catches to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the European Commission.

It said the ECJ ruling “endorses a decision by the High Court that the SFPA can use reasonable, scientifically valid methods and data to certify data logged by fishermen so as to achieve more accurate catch figures, when they consider fishermen’s declarations unreliable”.

“Fishermen should accurately declare their catches, and the SFPA should not have to consider second-guessing legal declarations,” Mr Hayes commented.

“ Protection of Ireland’s marine resources is critical to sustaining their future and we will continue to use all tools available to deter and detect over-fishing, ensuring fishers comply and Ireland’s data are as accurate as possible,” he said

The case arose following an assessment by SFPA of a mismatch between time spent in different areas and the proportion of catches logged.

Consequently, the SFPA data that was provided was based on the total catches declared on fishermen’s log sheets as assessed against the actual fishing operations logged by the fishermen (including time spent) for their fishing activity in FU16 (the Porcupine area)¹ in 2017, and not according to the catch area declared.

Published in SFPA

Staff with the State’s Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) have served notice of a 24-hour work stoppage this week with further strike action to follow.

Barring last minute efforts to resolve issues, the move is expected to cause disruption in designated fishing harbours around the coast.

The SFPA monitors and enforces sea fisheries and seafood safety legislation, and works with the Naval Service on inspections of fishing vessels under the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.

The State seafood regulator was established in 2007 as an agency independent of, but working with, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Lack of consultation with staff over a new strategy and organisational changes are among key reasons cited for the industrial action.

The Fórsa trade union’s marine branch representing approximately 110 members of the SFPA.

They undertake inspections of landings and monitor certifications at six sea fishery harbours - Killybegs, Co Donegal, Ros-a-Mhíl, Co Galway, An Daingean (Dingle), Co Kerry, Castletownbere, Co Cork, Dunmore East, Co Waterford and Howth, Co Dublin.

Industrial action had originally been due to take place in March 2021, but this was suspended when invitations were issued to attend talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

However, after failure to resolve issues at several WRC conciliation meetings, the dispute was referred to the Labour Court which convened a hearing in June 2021.

The Labour Court said it could only assist in the context of binding arbitration, and adjourned its hearing for both sides to consider this.

When the hearing was reconvened last July, the SFPA is understood to have said it would need approval from the Departmental of Agriculture, Food and Marine in advance of agreeing to be bound by court recommendations.

Fórsa has described this as “procedural gymnastics”, and has accused SFPA management of continuing to “unilaterally alter our members’ core working conditions and agreements”.

The union has served notice under the 1990 Industrial Relations Act of 24-hour work stoppage by all Fórsa members from midnight Wednesday, January 19th to midnight Thursday, January 20th.

This may be followed by a 48-hour work stoppage by all Fórsa members from midnight Tuesday, January 25th to midnight Thursday, January 27th unless there is a resolution.

The union has indicated the action could be avoided if the SFPA agrees to binding arbitration by the Labour Court.

In a statement, SFPA management said it had been notified of strike action, and said that the Sea-Fisheries Protection Consultative Committee, comprising representatives of Ireland’s marine community including industry, had also been informed.

“ The SFPA has requested Forsa to confirm that minimum cover will be provided on these days, as is required under the code of practice on disputes procedures, to help minimise disruption to industry and seafood trade,” it said.

The organisation would be “making best efforts to minimise the impact on industry from this industrial action, but some disruption of SFPA services may be unavoidable”, it added.

“The SFPA is keen to secure as early a resolution to matters as possible and is disappointed that industrial action is being taken at this time,”it said.

Former Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine principal officer Paschal Hayes was appointed executive chair of the SFPA by Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue earlier this month.

Published in SFPA

The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) says it is continuing to work as “collaboratively” as possible with key stakeholders in its new three-year strategy.

The strategy published late this week was developed in consultation with stakeholders, the regulatory body says.

It says it reflects “the extent of the SFPA’s remit across the sea-fisheries and the sea-food production industry as well as the evolving regulatory environment in which it operates”.

The strategy also sets out plans to complete the organisational change programme that is “already underway”, it says.

“As the sea-fisheries regulator, the SFPA’s remit includes all fishing vessels operating within Ireland’s 200-mile limit, almost 2,000 Irish registered fishing vessels, wherever they operate, and all seafood produced in Ireland’s seafood-processing companies,” it states.

SFPA authority member Tim Donovan said that “while our primary functions have not altered since the organisation was established in 2007, the SFPA’s environment has changed substantially and will continue to evolve”.

“Our plan reflects this and underpins our commitment to promote compliance, safeguarding public welfare as well as the delivery of a sustainable, competitive, and innovative seafood sector,” he said.

“Ireland has a safe, innovative fishing industry that is recognised and respected worldwide, while its fish products are acknowledged globally as healthy and nutritious food,” he continued in a statement.

“Robust confidence in an effective regulatory service plays a key role in maintaining that reputation and in ensuring fair and sustainable usage of a shared marine resource for which many compete,” he said.

“ Good regulation is required to protect it and ensure fish for future generations as well as ensuring consumers worldwide can enjoy Irish seafood safely,” he continued.

Donovan referred to changes such as a “rapidly evolving regulatory environment with substantial changes to EU fisheries and seafood safety law” and “monumental changes brought about by Brexit”.

Brexit is having a significant impact, particularly in relation to catch and health certification of Irish fish exports as well as import controls that have significant implications for the industry as well as for the SFPA, he noted.

“ This strategy is a new pathway forward and outlines a new vision for the SFPA, in how we carry out our work. It represents ambition and so too commitment and a deep desire to ensure an engaged and collaborative approach to ensure the sustainability of this important sector,” Donovan said.

Published in SFPA
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About the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA)

The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority was established on the 1st of January 2007. The SFPA is independent in the exercise of its functions, which are below.

The principal functions of the Authority are:

  1. To secure efficient and effective enforcement of sea-fisheries law and food safety law
  2. To promote compliance with & deter contraventions of sea-fisheries law and food safety law
  3. To detect contraventions of sea-fisheries law and food safety law
  4. To provide information to the sea-fisheries and seafood sectors on sea-fisheries law and food safety law and relevant matters within the remit of the Authority, through the Consultative Committee established under section 48 of the above Act or by any other means it considers appropriate
  5. To advise the Minister in relation to policy on effective implementation of sea-fisheries law and food safety law
  6. To provide assistance and information to the Minister in relation to the remit of the Authority
  7. To collect and report data in relation to sea fisheries and food safety as required by the Minister and under Community law
  8. To represent or assist in the representation of the State at national, Community and international fora as requested by the Minister, and
  9. To engage in any other activities relating to the functions of the Authority as may be approved of by the Minister.