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Commercial Fishing News from Ireland
The Irish Coast Guard’s Dublin-based helicopter Rescue 116
The search for a fisherman missing after a small fishing vessel with two on board sank off the coast of Co Louth on Tuesday morning (12 December) has been called off for the night. RTÉ News reports that a second…
This new, permanent allocation of Mackerel quota, while not replacing all of the quota we have lost, will be worth approximately €3 million annually
Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue T.D. has successfully secured an increased Mackerel quota share for the Irish fishing fleet. Following intensive engagement at the EU Fisheries Council of Ministers, which began on Sunday, Minister McConalogue successfully negotiated a permanent…
Fishermen will be consulted about the development of offshore wind energy areas
Co-operation, mutual understanding and respect amongst all involved in offshore wind energy development is the best way forward for this island nation. It is a welcome and important step in this process and the protection of traditional fishing grounds that…
Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue says he has secured approval to allow BIM to make payments for projects approved under a “transformational change” scheme into early 2024
Ireland’s expenditure of EU Brexit compensatory funding for the seafood sector is to be extended into next year. The so-called Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) was paid by the EU to Ireland and other affected member states to mitigate the impact…
Dominic Rihan, Director of Economic and Strategic Services at BIM, where he has worked for 34 years, will replace Sean O’Donoghue, who retires at the end of this month
A senior executive from the State fisheries development board has been appointed the new Chief Executive of Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation in Donegal, one of the biggest fishing industry representative groups in the country. Dominic Rihan, Director of Economic and Strategic…
The Irish seafood sector has a low carbon footprint, which generates less than 2% of Ireland’s total carbon emissions, according to a Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) study. The report says that total Irish fish catch and aquaculture segments represent just…
Blue whiting
Irish fishing industry bodies say they are “gravely concerned” that the outcome of current ongoing negotiations in Oslo will see Norway granted access to Irish waters to fish 150,000 tons of blue whiting. This move would confer a value to…
Irish Fish Producers Organisation chief executive Aodh O Donnell
The Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO) has moved to clarify its concerns about both the operation and oversight of the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA). IFPO chief executive Aodh O Donnell says his organisation’s primary interest is to ensure that Ireland…
This whale tale sighting was no fluke for the RTÉ Nationwide team that went to sea with Cork Whale Watch in May 2018
A West Cork-based whale-watching tour business has ended its 2023 season early, blaming overfishing of sprat for the absence of the usual whale visitors to the South Coast. In a social media post on Monday (27 November), Cork Whale Watch…
Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority logo
The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) sets out its strategic programme every three years and is currently preparing its Statement of Strategy for 2024–2026. This will focus on what the SFPA wants to achieve during this period to ensure effective regulation…
The National Inshore Fishermen’s Association has made a request to the Minister for the Marine for “immediate financial support” in order to survive the winter
Inshore fishermen say they are in “severe financial straits” because of a ‘crash’ in prices and processors closing. The National Inshore Fishermen’s Association has made a request to the Minister for the Marine for “immediate financial support” in order to…
The €25.6 million support for the RSW pelagic fleet segment recognises the impact of quota transfers to the UK from the EU
Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue TD has announced that the Tier 1 and Tier 2 polyvalent vessels that had no authorisation to fish mackerel in December 2021, and who availed of aid under the Temporary Fleet Tie-up Scheme in that month,…
File image of Deenish Island (left) and Scariff Island as seen from the Co Kerry mainland
The Irish arm of the world’s largest farmed salmon producer has applied for an Aquaculture/Foreshore Licence for a proposed facility at Deenish Island in Co Kerry. Silver King Seafoods Ltd, which is wholly owned by Mowi Ireland, is seeking to…
Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue
As Afloat reported earlier, Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue, T.D, today attended the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels. The agenda included an initial exchange of views on the proposal for fishing opportunities in the Atlantic and the North Sea…
An inshore fishing boat off the coast of Donegal. Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue highlighted the need for all EU policies to support rural communities at a meeting of the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels
Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue T.D, is today attending a meeting of the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels where the Council is discussing Council Conclusion on the Long-term Vision for Rural Areas. The Council agreed that support for rural…
Pictured at the announcement of the 2024 conference are (l to r): Niall Collins, Minister of State at the Department of Higher Education, Research, Science and Innovation; Captain Brian Fitzgerald, Director of External Affairs, Simply Blue Group; Paul Hegarty, Head of School, National Marine College of Ireland (NMCI); Liz Goff, Chair, SERIFF (Inshore Fisheries Rep)
The National Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI) has announced its third annual Seafarers’ Conference, ‘Realising Ireland’s Maritime Ambition’, which will take place on 22 February 2024 in the Castletroy Park Hotel in Co. Limerick. The conference, sponsored by Simply Blue…

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