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Commercial Fishing News from Ireland
The Morgan’s Fine Fish investment has been supported with funding of almost €100,000 from the Brexit Processing Capital Support Scheme
Award-winning Co. Louth seafood company, Morgan’s Fine Fish, has completed a €270,000 investment to make it more energy-efficient and competitive in an increasingly tough market. The investment has been supported with funding of almost €100,000 from the Brexit Processing Capital…
Sean O’Donoghue, the chief executive of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, will retire at the end of the year
Sean O’Donoghue, the long-standing chief executive of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO), is to retire at the end of this year. KFO chairman Ciarán Doherty said that O’Donoghue had “left a remarkable legacy and navigated a series of challenges and…
The two Irish fishing vessels were escorted into the Norwegian port of Tromsø by Coastguard vessel Svalbard
The Norwegian coastguard has detained two Irish fishing vessels. The two 37-metre-long vessels had steamed from West Cork to fish for an Irish quota of Atlanto-Scandian herring in Norwegian waters. Danish website FiskerForum reports that the Norwegian authorities declined to…
Aquamonitrix based in Co. Carlow has been named as BIM Aquatech Business of the Year. Pictured L to R: Caroline Bocquel, CEO of BIM, Mark Bowkett, Director of Aquamonitrix and Wayne Murphy, Director of Hatch Blue
An Irish aquatech company which has developed cutting-edge technology to provide a groundbreaking solution to measuring nitrate in water has been announced as the winner of the inaugural BIM Aquatech Business of the Year. Aquamonitrix, based in Carlow, delivers a…
Eight seafood organisations, representing catching, fish-farming, processing, and inshore sectors, made the submission to the Department of Environment as part of public consultation over draft maritime area plans (DMAP) for the Irish south coast
If Government targets on offshore wind are met by 2050, Ireland’s seas will have turbines stretching for at least twice the length of Ireland, according to calculations by a group of seafood organisations. A submission to the Department of Environment…
BIM staff operate a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) near a mussel farm in Leenane, Co Galway
Ireland’s potential in “aquatech” is the theme of a Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) conference in Kerry today, when one of the keynote speakers will ask why there has been no innovation in this area here in the last two decades.…
Aodh O Donnell, the IFPO chief executive, responded to the announcement of a €25m post-Brexit fishery aid scheme while attending the annual mackerel Coastal States sharing negotiations held by the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission in London
The Irish pelagic sector has received a much-needed boost with the announcement of over €25m in EU aid. The Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO) has welcomed the news, stating that it is an important “first step” in addressing the massive…
Lough Foyle’s native oyster population is important locally and internationally, economically and environmentally
Loughs Agency, the regulatory body for fisheries in Northern Ireland, has announced the suspension of the Native Oyster Fishery in the Foyle area starting from 6 am on October 24th, 2023, until 6 pm on February 29th, 2024. The decision…
RV Celtic Explorer
The annual Irish Groundfish Survey (IGFS) for 2023 will be carried out by the Marine Institute off the North West, West and South Coasts of Ireland from Tuesday 31 October to Saturday 16 December. The IGFS is a demersal trawl…
Offshore wind turbines can have ever-increasing targets, says a European Court of Auditors report
A European Court of Auditors report on offshore renewable energy says targets set by the EU in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may be difficult to reach, and the impact on the marine environment hasn’t been sufficiently “identified,…
John McGrath, Sales Director, Aquamontrix, with the groundbreaking new analyzer for measuring nitrate and nitrite in fresh, saline, and wastewater. Aquamontrix is a finalist in October's BIM Aquatech Business of the Year award
Three Irish aquatech companies at the forefront of sustainable seafood farming have been named as finalists for the inagurual BIM Aquatech Business of the Year award. The winning company will be announced at the “Aquatech – Ireland’s Global Opportunity” conference in…
The Irish Aquaculture sector produces high-value finfish and shellfish worth around 40,000 tonnes and employs approximately 1,800 people, mostly in rural areas
The Marine Minister, Charlie McConalogue T.D, has announced the launch of the National Strategic Plan for Sustainable Aquaculture Development (NSPSA) 2030. The NSPSA aims to support a diverse consumer and market base, which aligns with the recognition of Irish aquaculture's…
The former beam trawler Mary Kate was bought in the Netherlands by CJ Gaffney of Arklow, Co Wicklow and his father in 2007
The owner of former beam trawler Mary Kate has said his experience should inform the EU’s review of fishing vessel safety. Arklow fisherman CJ Gaffney has written to national and local politicians and MEPs to ask that they present his…
The strategy, entitled The Next Wave 2023-2028, has been drawn up by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) and is funded by the minister’s department
A €5 million plan to deliver skills for a “sustainable seafood industry” has been initiated by Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue. The strategy, entitled The Next Wave 2023-2028, has been drawn up by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) and is funded…
Blas na hÉireann award - from left to right: Artie Clifford, Blas na hÉireann, Caroline Bocquel, CEO BIM, Gillian Morgan, Morgan's Fine Fish and Katie Ryan, BIM, at the presentation of the BIM Seafood Innovation Awards in Dingle, Co. Kerry
One of Ireland’s oldest seafood businesses, Morgan’s Fine Fish, has been awarded the Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) Seafood Innovation Award for 2023. The Co. Louth based company scooped the prestigious award for its popular salmon darne product, topped with garlic…
Brendan Byrne of the IFPEA (left) with Aodh O'Donnell of the IFPO at the European Commission's office in Brussels last week. EU coastal states are losing out to non-EU members in fishing rights because the European Commission’s scientifically informed approach to quotas is subject to abuse by rogue Nordic players.  That’s according to Aodh O Donnell of the Irish Fish Producers Association (IFPO), who says the EU is losing its share of mackerel and blue whiting as a result
The Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation has called for co-operation and collaboration collaboration to tackle “the current and growing imbalance between EU and non-EU Members fishing rights. The Chief Executive of the IFPO, Aodh O’Donnell, who is in London today for…

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.


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