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Commercial Fishing News from Ireland
Padraig MacLochlainn, Sinn Fein spokesman on the Marine
The Dáil heard a Sinn Fein motion this week in an attempt to reject the new penalty points system the Government wants to introduce for the fishing industry. A Statutory Instrument to introduce the system was signed by Taoiseach Micheál…
File image of an Atlantic salmon
Anecdotal evidence suggests that coronavirus restrictions have been a boost to wild Atlantic salmon returns in Irish rivers this year, as SeafoodSource reports. Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) says it is awaiting official data to support the suggestion that decreased predation…
File image of a fishing boat in UK waters
European fishing fleets could get a three-year transition period to prepare for Britain to have greater control of its waters post-Brexit, if a last-minute offer made in current trade negotiations helps to seal the deal. The Guardian reports on the…
File image of a common seal pup
Plans to allow for the culling of seals by fishermen with high-powered rifles have been branded as “insane” by a conservation expert. According to the Irish Examiner, the Government is looking into the granting of licences that would permit fishermen…
The IS&WFPO says the new system was “not just an attack on fishermen and women”, but “an attack on everything we as a society hold dear, on our independence and on our sovereignty”.
The Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) says it intends to initiate a constitutional challenge to the penalty points system for fishing offences introduced by the new government. Taoiseach Micheál Martin signed the system of administrative sanctions into…
LÉ William Butler Yeats (P63)
A French-registered fishing vessel has been detained by the Naval Service off the south-west coast. The LÉ William Butler Yeats (P63) detained the vessel for alleged breaches of fishing regulations after a boarding inspection approximately 11 nautical miles south-west of…
Cockles in an Irish supermarket
The Dubliners' ode to Irish shellfish in their song Molly Malone may have been relying on inaccurate information. New research by University College, Cork (UCC) scientists reports there is “inconsistent” data on the location of Irish cockles in previous studies. Cockles…
New Marine Minister Stresses Importance Of Protecting Ireland’s Fishing Industry In Brexit Negotiations
Ireland’s status as an island nation makes the future of our fishing industry of critical importance post-Brexit, the newly appointed Marine Minister has urged in Brussels. Minister Charlie McConalogue was speaking after his meeting yesterday (Tuesday 22 September) with EU…
Online Fisheries Management Chart with real-time information on quotas and regulations now in use by industry  Pictured L-R: : Niall Connolly, MFV Patrick C and Val Reilly using the fisheries management chart online, October 2019
Skippers and crew working on the 2,022 registered fishing vessels in Ireland can now access an interactive digital fisheries chart which provides guidance on a vast number of conservation and fisheries management regulations designed to help fishermen understand the rules…
Ardglass Harbour, Co. Down
A harbour in Co. Down is where an operation is under way to remove munitions believed to date back to the Second World War. The public, reports Irish Examiner, were advised to avoid the area of Ardglass Harbour on Saturday…
New Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue
Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue has reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to a fisheries agreement with the UK that protects Ireland’s fishing industry post-Brexit. Industry representatives attended the meeting today, Wednesday 16 September, where they emphasised that unity with other EU member…
Portaferry and Newcastle RNLI crews from Portaferry and Newcastle work with Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116 to rescue the crew of the grounded fishing boat at Ardglass last October
The latest Marine Notice from Department of Transport highlights the importance of planning seagoing voyages, especially those involved in fishing. It follows a recommendation from the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) this summer in its report on the sinking of a…
More Than 300 Scientists Sign Statement Urging EU To End Overfishing & Protect Ocean Health
Scientists from GMIT, NUI Galway, UCD, Trinity College, UCC and Queen’s in Belfast are among the signatories to a statement calling for an end to overfishing in European waters “as an urgent and necessary response to the biodiversity and climate…
Deep sea trawler ploughs into heavy weather
RTE reports of a group representing the fishing industry which has said the Brexit Action Plan published by the Government fails to deal with a range of issues immediately facing the sector. The plan launched yesterday follows Britain's publication of…
File image of a British fishing vessel
The European Commission president has warned the British government not to backtrack on its commitments in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement pertaining to fishing rights, among other issues. Ursula von der Leyen spoke out on Twitter as a furore has grown…
New Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue
Micheál Martin and new marine minister Charlie McConalogue are expected to meet fishing industry representatives over the Government’s controversial re-introduction of a penalty points system to regulate commercial fishing. The meeting has not yet been confirmed by Government, but KFO…

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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