Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Commercial Fishing News from Ireland
The last voyage of the Aran island owned fishing vessels Connacht Ranger and Conquest across the North Sea
Two Aran island fishing vessels which were approved for Ireland’s decommissioning scheme, recently completed their last trip before being broken up. The 17-metre Connacht Ranger and the 20-metre Conquest were photographed on their journey from Ireland to Denmark. Skipper-owner John…
The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) says it has concluded a case brought against the master of a fishing vessel for breaches of bass conservation laws two years ago. The master of the fishing vessel Atlantic Jem, Sean Roche, pleaded guilty…
The master of a fishing vessel has pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to offences relating to failure to use acoustic deterrent devices on gear
The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) says the master of a fishing vessel has pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to offences relating to failure to use acoustic deterrent devices on gear. The French-registered vessel was detained earlier this…
The European Fisheries Control Agency’s (EFCA’s) offshore patrol vessel, Ocean Protector
A French-registered fishing vessel has been detained by the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) in the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for alleged non-compliance with European fisheries legislation. The detention took place on Wednesday (June 21), a day after an inspection…
UN senior advisor on oceans Vincent Doumeizel is speaking at the Borris House Festival of Writing and Ideas on Saturday, June 17
Stewardship of our coastal waters, our rich seaweed resource and its potential to mitigate climate change is the theme of a discussion involving two leading marine experts at the Borris House Festival of Writing and Ideas this Saturday, June 17th.…
Howth fishing port in County Dublin - fishermen are concerned about being squeezed out of Irish sea areas by wind farms
The Government’s promise of consultation and involvement of the fishing industry in the development of offshore wind farms is not being delivered on according to South East Coast fishermen, who claim that consultation and discussion, which was promised, has turned…
Irish actor Jessie Buckley is photographed with a sturgeon as part of an NGO campaign against overfishing
Global celebrities, including Irish actor Jessie Buckley, have been photographed naked with fish as part of an NGO campaign against overfishing. The photographs form an exhibition outside the European Parliament until the end of this week. The campaign by NGOs…
Michael O'Neill, a seaweed farmer, in Allihies, West Cork is CEO of Pure Ocean Algae
Seaweed farming is in its infancy in Ireland, however, a new strategy, BIM Irish Macro-Algal Cultivation Strategy to 2030, published by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) this week sets out a roadmap for the development of a sustainable and profitable Irish…
The Angelshark is now a critically endangered species in Irish waters and the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) has issued a reminder to the public about a ban on catching the fish
The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) has issued a reminder to the public about a ban on catching angelsharks, after a sighting of the endangered species in Galway Bay. “Angelsharks (Squatina squatina) are among Ireland’s rarest native (as opposed to migrant)…
The EU-funded e-FishMed project aims to foster co-operation, initially between northern and southern Mediterranean states
The European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) has set up a “virtual regional academy” to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) commercial fishing. The EU-funded e-FishMed project aims to foster co-operation, initially between northern and southern Mediterranean states, on IUU fishing,…
Former skipper and trawler owner Caitlín Uí Aodha was interviewed by the New York Times
“The saddest thing really is to see how, all around the coast, indigenous fishing people like me become extinct, we’re just not going to be there,” says former skipper and trawler owner Caitlín Uí Aodha in an interview with The…
The Irish Fish Producers Organisation has issued a call for urgent funding for the pelagic sector, to address the loss of €28m from Brexit’s impact. IFPO chief executive, Aodh O Donnell criticised the failure to implement pelagic measures amounting to…
The SFPA says spurdog caught over 100cm in size must be “promptly returned to the sea in a way that does not harm the individual”, and must be recorded in logbooks
Inshore fishermen say that new EU regulations on spurdog make the re-opened fishery less worthwhile. The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) has published regulations for the commercial fishery of spurdog in north-western waters, noting that it had been a prohibited…
Pictured onboard the Eblana, in Howth, at the launch of SFPA’s Skates and Rays of Ireland Guide, are from left: Gary Hannon, Sea-Fisheries Protection Officer, SFPA and John Lynch, CEO, Irish South and East Fish Producers Organisation
The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) today, 19th May 2023, launched their guide, Skates and Rays of Ireland 2023. 16 species of skates and rays are regularly caught in Irish waters, some of which can be fished commercially under quota restrictions…
The RNLB Killarney from Kilmore Quay
Kilmore Quay RNLI last night came to the aid of an injured fisherman on board a fishing vessel 33 nautical miles south of Kilmore Quay. The volunteer crew were requested to launch their all-weather Tamar class lifeboat Killarney by the…
Dr Julie Maguire, research director of Bantry Marine Research Station
Seaweed’s role in saving the world from climate change and starvation is the title of a talk today (Friday) in Bantry, Co Cork, as part of National Biodiversity Week. The talk by Dr Julie Maguire is one of a number…

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