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Commercial Fishing News from Ireland
European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (right) and former EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker.
EU ministers have signed off on Brussels' red lines in advance of the forthcoming post-Brexit trade talks with the UK. The proposals, reports The Irish News, put into writing warnings by Michel Barnier, the European Union's chief negotiator, that Britain…
The survey is being carried out from the RV Celtic Explorer
The first and second leg of 2020’s Irish Anglerfish and Megrim Survey will be carried out from next weekend off the West, South West and South Coasts of Ireland by the Marine Institute, in fulfilment of Ireland’s Common Fisheries Policy…
 Oystercatchers - From left to right Teresa Morrissey, IFA Aquaculture, BIM’s chief executive, Jim O’Toole and Patricia Daly, BIM
Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, in association with IFA Aquaculture, is hosting a two-day seminar today (Thursday 13th February 2020) for members of Ireland’s vibrant oyster farming sector, valued at €43million according to the latest (2018) Business…
The fishing vessel Polaris, which suffered hull failure off the west coast of the Isle of Man last November
RNLI fishing safety manager Frankie Horne has urged the fishing community to avail of safety training that is on offer for their crews and to ensure that their safety equipment is up to date. It comes after the skipper of…
Albatrosses, like this wandering albatross seen off Tasmania, range over huge areas of ocean and regularly circle the globe
A team of scientists in France are ‘recruiting’ albatrosses to monitor fishing fleets in the ocean for illegal activity. Smithsonian Magazine reports on the findings of a new study detailing efforts to tag the “sentinels of the sea” with tiny…
UK Fishing Industry Fears Being Sold Out In Brexit Trade Talks
The UK’s fishing industry fears the British Government will “sell them down the river” in upcoming Brexit trade negotiations, as Sky News reports. ‘Taking back control’ of Britain’s waters for the domestic fishing fleet was one of the linchpin issues…
Great Blasket Island is home to thousands of seals in a Special Area of Conservation
The Irish Seal Sanctuary has said a seal cull is not the answer to the woes of Dingle Peninsula fishermen, who claim a booming population of the protected marine wildlife is putting their livelihood at risk. Sanctuary co-founder Brendan Price…
File image of the Dunmore East all-weather lifeboat, which was involved in the search for the missing fisherman
A body has been found in the search for a fisherman missing after a fishing vessel sank off Hook Head earlier this month, as The Irish Times reports. One man died when the trawler Alize went down off the Wexford…
Fish Oil Supplements Boost Sperm Counts Among Young Men, Danish Research Finds
Young men who take fish oil supplements have a better sperm count, according to new research published by Danish scientists writes Lorna Siggins. The study of some 1679 young men in Denmark found fish oil supplements improve semen volume and total…
Amendments To Fisheries Bill Over New ‘Points System’ For CFP Infringements Sent For Pre-Legislative Scrutiny
The Government have authorised the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to arrange for the referral of the General Scheme of the Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2020 to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine for pre-legislative…
Seafood Development Programme 2021-27 Public Consultation Launched
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…
File image of the Dunmore East all-weather lifeboat
RTÉ News reports that one man has died as the search continues for a second man after a fishing vessel is understood to have sunk off Hook Head last night (Saturday 4 January). A man in his 60s was recovered…
Scene from one of the many trawlers filmed for the new series of Tabú on TG4
The owner of a fishing trawler that took part in a new TG4 documentary series has revealed that the vessel caught fire and sinking during filming. According to the Irish Examiner, the Susanne II was one of several vessels being…
Great Blasket Island is home to thousands of seals in a Special Area of Conservation
Depleted fish stocks and damage to nets in and around the Blaskets are “unsustainable”, argue local fishermen who have called for a cull of the area’s seal population, as the Irish Examiner reports. The inshore fishermen allege that colonies of…
The scheme was initiated last January in Union Hall, Co Cork
Minister for Marine Michael Creed has paid tribute to Irish trawler owners who have signed up to the State’s “fishing for litter” scheme. Mr Creed said that 96 per cent of trawlers in the fleet have registered to participate, as…
The Government is increasing minimum mesh sizes of fishing nets by 25% for EU trawler fleets
All trawling by vessels over 18m in length within Ireland’s six-mile zone will be outlawed from January 1st, Minister for Marine Michael Creed has reminded the fishing industry. However, a “phased” system will operate for vessels fishing for sprat during…

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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