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Commercial Fishing News from Ireland
Thornback Ray - once abundant but now extinct on Belfast Lough
Alex Easton, MLA has called on the Department of Environment, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (DEARA) Minister to create Marine Protections Areas in Belfast Lough. Belfast Lough is a long, wide, and deep expanse of water, virtually free of strong tides…
Appeal - Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue committed to the sustainability of fishing in Irish waters
Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue has lodged an appeal against large trawlers fishing Inside Ireland’s six Mile zone, saying he is committed to the sustainability of fishing in Irish waters.  In December 2018, following a public consultation process in which over…
Tynemouth RNLI attempts to tow the badly damaged trawler after the collision on Sunday afternoon
A fishing boat has sunk after a collision with a cargo ship off England’s North Tyneside coast. The incident occurred at 3.40pm on Sunday afternoon (9 November) just under a mile (1.6km) north of the Tyne piers. The skipper of…
A Galway hooker crew paying respect to Martin and Tom Oliver and their bereaved relatives at Claddagh church
When the funeral of Galway fishermen Martin and Tom Oliver left Claddagh church yesterday, the silence among hundreds of people lining the route was broken only by the roar of the river Corrib and the gentle sound of wind in…
Lehanagh Pool sea site, Connemara, Co Galway
Increasing the value and sustainability of aquaculture will be the focus of ASTRAL, a new EU funded research project, that involves the Marine Institute and partners across the Atlantic. Ireland’s aquaculture sector produces 38,000 tonnes annually, providing a valuable food…
Mark O'Reilly, Trudy McIntyre and David Hyde of Fisheries Liaisons pictured at Crosshaven Boatyard
Green Rebel Marine, the Cork-based business established to service the future needs of offshore wind farms, has announced a new strategic partnership with Fisheries Liaisons Ltd. The partnership is seen as being a key factor in communicating with the wider…
Mayor of Galway Mike Cubbard says that a “dark cloud hangs over the city with the news of the deaths
Galway City Council has opened an online book of condolences for Martin and Tom Oliver, the father and son who died after a fishing accident in Galway Bay earlier this week. Tom Oliver (37) was pulled overboard their vessel on…
The helicopter lowered a winchman and the casualty was successfully transferred to the helicopter for immediate evacuation to Cork University Hospital
Castletownbere RNLI lifeboat was launched last night at 22:54 to go to the assistance of a seriously will fisherman on board a fishing vessel off the West Cork Coast. Castletownbere RNLI lifeboat was tasked by Valentia Coastguard Radio at 22:46…
A Cork Harbour Seal at Cobh
One of the most difficult, controversial and upsetting marine environment stories I have reported in my time as a marine correspondent concerns seals. I've seen them rehabilitated by a sanctuary and marvelled at the work put into healing injured, sick…
RNLI Galway's inshore boat
The Galway fishing and wider marine community is in shock over the death of a young fisherman from a well known Claddagh family on Monday afternoon. The fisherman, whose name has not yet been released, was working on the deck…
New Panel Established for Radio Surveys of Irish Seagoing Vessels
A new three-year panel of authorised radio surveyors has been established by the Department of Transport following a call for applications this autumn. The latest three-person panel — who will sit until 20 October 2023 — will conduct statutory radio…
File image of Galway RNLI’s inshore lifeboat
Indepdendent.ie reports that a member of a well-known Galway fishing family has died after an incident on a vessel in Galway Bay this afternoon (Monday 2 November). The alarm was raised at lunchtime by a man on board the boat…
The National Inshore Fisherman's Association fleet (NIFA) is one of 15 groups making representations to the take the “steps necessary” to reinstate the ban and protect inshore stocks
Environmental and commercial fishing groups have joined forces to call for a restoration of a ban on trawling by larger vessels within six nautical miles of the coast. Marine life such as dolphins, small scale fishing vessels and sea birds…
Aquaculture workshop helps position Ireland as leader in next phase of industry’s innovation – participants of this year’s aquaculture workshop
Ten start-ups from backgrounds including tech and AI took part in this year’s Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) Aquaculture Workshop. This year’s event, run by Hatch and supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund took place entirely online due to…
File image of fishing trawlers at Helvick Head
A recent Marine Notice from the Department of Transport lays out the implementation of the Work in Fishing Convention following its full transposition into Irish law. The Work in Fishing Convention, 2007(C188) was adopted at the 96th session of the…
Demersal trawls will be carried out from the RV Celtic Explorer from 25 October to 10 December
This year’s Irish Groundfish Survey (IGFS 2020) of the North, West and South Coasts of Ireland is set to commence today, Sunday 25 October. Carried out by the Marine Institute, the IGFS is a demersal trawl survey consisting of around…

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

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