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The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and Marine Institute will host a workshop for industry this week on the requirements relating to sanitary surveys for shellfish harvesting areas and Ireland’s implementation of the relevant legislation.

The workshop will be held in person at FSAI’s head office in Dublin as well as online from 10am to 2pm this Thursday 8 February, and will include speakers from the SFPA, FSAI, Marine Institute, IFA-Aquaculture, CEFAS (UK) and AquaFact.

Keynote speaker will be Michelle Price-Howard from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries, Aquaculture and Science (CEFAS). Price-Howard works with CEFAS as principal scientist for seafood safety and is an environmental microbiologist with 20 years of experience in environmental assessment, water quality and food safety microbiology.

Price-Howard’s work has included environmental risk assessments for sanitary surveys of both aquaculture and wild-harvest shellfisheries for Food Standards Scotland. She has also been involved in providing training at EU and national level on the planning and conducting of sanitary surveys.

In addition, the SFPA will provide presentations on data management and shellfish classification as well as an update on the sanitary survey programme in Ireland.

There will also be an extended session to allow for a discussion on any topic relevant to sanitary surveys that participants may wish to raise. To help better plan the event, participants are asked to send questions or topics in advance if possible to Una Walton at [email protected].

In-person registration is now closed but the workshop can be accessed remotely via Microsoft Teams (Meeting ID: 340 075 071 736; Passcode: g33dRq) or by calling in (audio only) to +353 1 592 3998 with phone conference ID 397 409 122#.

Published in Aquaculture

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 has fit-for-purpose controls which are fair to everyone.

“Our current focus is on two main areas: inspections and accountability,” O Donnell says. “We are concerned that the information offered by the SFPA — in their annual report or on their website — does not offer sufficient transparency regarding the level of physical inspections, in particular.

These statistics provided by the SFPA appear to be based only on catches landed in Irish ports. They don’t appear to reflect the number or level of catches from Irish waters which are landed elsewhere.

“For example, the SFPA figures for 2022 show just 50 landings of catches from Norway vessels to Irish ports. Given the high level of Norwegian fishing opportunities in Irish waters, it’s likely that there are exponentially more Norwegian catches from Irish waters landed into other countries. This is the basis for our concern that the limited information from SFPA statistics may not reflect the full number of Norwegian or other foreign vessel catches in Irish waters.”

O Donnell adds that the IFPO also has ongoing concerns about the level of physical inspections carried out on Irish fishing vessels compared to foreign vessels.

“Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the SFPA to offer greater transparency on how controls and inspections are applied to all of those fishing in Irish waters. Otherwise, the Irish fishing industry has to question whether there is a level playing field in Irish fisheries controls,” he says.

O Donnell adds that in the interests of sustainability, there needs to be a more productive relationship between the SFPA and the fishing industry.

“But this is a challenge while there are so many unresolved issues, such as inspections, by-catches and concerns over the recording procedures in weighing system regulations,” he says. “The bottom line is that there needs to be greater independent oversight of the SFPA at Government level in Ireland and at present there is none.”

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the SFPA has launched a public consultation on its Statement of Strategy for 2024–2026 which will be open for submissions until Tursday 21 December.

Published in SFPA
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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 of the shared marine resources surrounding Ireland.

As part of the process of developing the strategy (the current version can be viewed HERE), the SFPA says it welcomes the contribution of members of the public and stakeholders, especially those who fall within the its regulatory remit.

Views are sought specifically in relation to the following questions:

  • What matters should be considered in developing the SFPA mission, vision, and value statements?
  • What metrics should the SFPA use to measure performance and monitor achievement of strategic goals?

The SFPA says it will be grateful to receive your response together with any more general views you may have on its strategic direction and how it can best deliver on its remit.

Responses should be submitted by email to [email protected] by Thursday 21 December.

Published in SFPA
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Sea Fisheries Protection Agency (SFPA) officers recorded an 18% increase in fishing vessel inspection activity last year, the State regulator reports.

A total of 1,903 fishing vessel inspections were conducted in 2022, which marked an 18% increase in inspection activity from 2021, it says in its annual report.

“Throughout 2022, a total of 87 case files were opened as a result of 161 suspected sea-fisheries infringements. The figure of 161 represents the total of both food safety and sea-fisheries infringements,” it says.

“Points for serious infringements were applied in six out of seven cases put forward and one case had points applied to the master of a fishing vessel for the first time under new legislation,”it says, adding that “increased inspection and enforcement provide an effective tool to protect against illegal fishing activity”.

"A total of 1,903 fishing vessel inspections were conducted in 2022"

Officers also conducted 1,958 food safety official controls across 2,323 food premises under the authority’s remit.

The SFPA says it responded to 74 food incidents where there were “concerns regarding the safety or quality of food which required examination in the interests of public health”.

“ Seafood safety enforcement measures in 2022 ranged from informal advisory measures to the service of compliance notices, as well as to the commencement of criminal prosecutions for serious non-compliances,” it says.

“In 2022, two separate criminal prosecutions were commenced against food business operators for breaches of the regulations on food safety including on hygiene, temperature controls, pest control and traceability requirements,”it says.

The SFPA says 16 compliance notices were issued in 2022.

“2022 was a year of significant change within the SFPA with the appointment of a new authority and new senior management members across the organisation,”SFPA executive chair Paschal Hayes said.

“With renewed leadership and the substantial implementation of the 2020 Organisational Capability Review, the SFPA demonstrated its capacity as an effective, fair regulator and promoter of compliance with sea-fisheries and seafood safety law throughout the year,” he said.

Published in SFPA

Almost 46,000 fishing vessel landings were recorded at Irish harbours last year by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).

The total of 45,943 landings amounted to 267,200 tonnes, valued at €448,692,973, it says.

It says that 2,080 non-Irish vessels landed into Irish ports in 2022.

The data is derived from landing declarations and sales notes for all vessels landing into Ireland, plus Irish vessels landing outside Ireland provided to the SFPA by the sector, it says.

“Collecting and reporting data in relation to sea fisheries, as required under community law, is an important part of the SFPA’s mandate,” SFPA executive chair Paschal Hayes has said.

“ The SFPA uses the available data to help us monitor trends in fishing vessel landings, locations and species being caught. This information is also beneficial to key stakeholders as well as supporting our service delivery and workforce management,”he said.

Annual and quarterly statistics, including landings and inspections, are published on the SFPA website.

The statistics pages on the SFPA website provides fishers and members of the public with a “one stop shop” to access a range of useful data on fishing activity, including Quota Uptake which is available on a weekly basis, the SFPA says.

Published in SFPA

Seafood exporters to Britain have been warned of a delay in implementing export health certification.

The British government has confirmed that implementation of export health certification for goods, including fish and fishery products, from the EU to Britain will be delayed until January 31st, 2024.

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) says this means that “all of the proposed sanitary and phytosanitary controls changes for fish and fishery products consignments from Ireland to Britain, including export health certification and pre-notification requirements” will not go ahead on the scheduled date of October 31st, 2023.

“They are now scheduled to be implemented from January 31st, 2024 instead”, the SFPA says.

It says the British government has also published an updated version of their “Border Target Operating Model” which contains their plans for a new approach to importing goods that will “be progressively introduced from the end of January 2024”.

“The SFPA will continue to communicate further updates as and when required in this ever-evolving third country regulatory environment,”it says.

It says queries may be emailed to [email protected]

Published in SFPA
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Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) officers confiscated 48 live undersize crawfish off the southwest coast late last month.

The SFPA says that the crawfish were “returned safely to sea” after the discovery during a routine patrol.

It says that a file is currently being prepared for consideration by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Crawfish, also known as European spiny lobster or crayfish, are one of Ireland’s “most at risk” species and are listed as vulnerable and decreasing by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

They are also the highest-value crustacean species caught in Irish waters, achieving prices of €30 - €40 per kilo on landing, the SFPA says.

Crawfish are primarily caught in inshore waters around the south and southwest coast and are an important source of revenue for the inshore fleet during the summer months.

Protection of these valuable stocks depends on a range of legal measures enforced by the SFPA, just one of which is the “minimum conservation reference size”, it says, which stipulates a carapace size of 110mm.

It is prohibited for the master or person in charge of an Irish sea-fishing boat to cause or permit the boat or any person to have onboard, land, or tranship crawfish that fall below this minimum size.

Displaying or selling below the minimum size is also illegal.

Illegally removing immature animals from an already vulnerable stock is likely to result in further stock depletion, the SFPA says.

“Trade in undersized fish not only damages the stocks, but it also impacts the communities who depend on them,” the SFPA said.

“ Illegal fishing is unfair to the majority of inshore fishermen who fish sustainably and within regulations. The inshore patrols undertaken by the SFPA are a vital tool in our work to protect stocks,” it said.

“We encourage buyers at all stages of the food chain, restaurateurs, processors and consumers to be aware of the minimum size and please let us know if you are offered undersized fish for sale,” it said.

The SFPA confidential telephone line is on 1800 76 76 76, or it can be emailed at [email protected].

Published in SFPA

Information on European logbook requirements for commercial fishing vessels has been published by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).

A new fisheries information notice summarises key requirements for vessel masters and owners for vessels of ten metres overall length or more under two regulations - Council Regulation (EC) 1224/2009 and the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 404/2011.

This includes the mandatory information to be reported in the logbook and the requirements for the completion and submission of fishing logbooks, the SFPA says.

Logbooks must be updated every day, no later than midnight, immediately after the last fishing operation has been completed, before entering port, and at the time of any inspection at sea, it says.

Fishing vessels that are 10 metres overall in length and above, up to 12 metres overall length, are required to complete a paper logbook, while vessels of 12 metres in length overall and above must keep an electronic logbook, the SFPA says.

During autumn 2022, training was provided by the SFPA to owners and masters using electronic logbooks on the new version of ieCatch.

This involved an eight-week series of engagements with fishers, rolling out enhancements to the electronic recording and reporting systems (ERS) required for fishing vessels, and the provision of training on the use of the new system.

Training events were held during September, October, and November 2022 at various locations across counties Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Limerick, Meath, Waterford, and Wexford.

In addition, the SFPA ran training for masters new to electronic logbooks in April 2023 at various locations across counties Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Mayo, and Wexford.

The SFPA says that further details on the fisheries information notice can be obtained by emailing: sfpafood&[email protected]

Published in SFPA

Ten enforcement actions were served on seafood businesses during the second quarter of this year, the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) says.

The enforcement actions were issued by sea fisheries protection officers as a result of risk-based official controls of approved food business establishments, it says.

“No closure orders were issued over this period,” it says.

The SFPA has responsibility for food safety law enforcement across a range of 2,323 food business operators nationally.

It also confirmed that convictions were recorded against a food business operator for offences under the European Union (Food and Feed Hygiene) Regulations 2020.

Ó Catháin Iasc Teo of Dingle Co Kerry was fined a total of €4,500 at the district court at An Daingean in April 2023.

The SFPA says the defendant company pleaded guilty to charges for breaches of food safety law, including "the placing of unsafe bluefin tuna product on the market, failure to comply with food hygiene requirements and failures to ensure temperature control of bluefin tuna products".

“The case arose following an unannounced inspection of the premises in March 2021, which also resulted in the prevention of the bluefin tuna product being placed for retail,” it says.

Published in SFPA

A guidance map for the Dundalk Bay Natura area off the Louth coast where certain types of fishing are prohibited has been published by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).

The map delineates a specific zone within Dundalk Bay where use of certain fishing gears is prohibited, including any types of dredges, beam trawls or bottom otter trawls.

The orders for two Natura declarations were signed by Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue in June. They relate to a specific area in Dundalk Bay where bird and animal species are protected.

The declaration came into effect on July 1st of this year, prescribing measures for managing the risks posed by specific sea-fishing activities.

The map for the Dundalk Bay Natura area can be viewed here

 

Published in SFPA
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Ireland's offshore islands

Around 30 of Ireland's offshore islands are inhabited and hold a wealth of cultural heritage.

A central Government objective is to ensure that sustainable vibrant communities continue to live on the islands.

Irish offshore islands FAQs

Technically, it is Ireland itself, as the third largest island in Europe.

Ireland is surrounded by approximately 80 islands of significant size, of which only about 20 are inhabited.

Achill island is the largest of the Irish isles with a coastline of almost 80 miles and has a population of 2,569.

The smallest inhabited offshore island is Inishfree, off Donegal.

The total voting population in the Republic's inhabited islands is just over 2,600 people, according to the Department of Housing.

Starting with west Cork, and giving voting register numbers as of 2020, here you go - Bere island (177), Cape Clear island (131),Dursey island (6), Hare island (29), Whiddy island (26), Long island, Schull (16), Sherkin island (95). The Galway islands are Inis Mór (675), Inis Meáin (148), Inis Oírr (210), Inishbofin (183). The Donegal islands are Arranmore (513), Gola (30), Inishboffin (63), Inishfree (4), Tory (140). The Mayo islands, apart from Achill which is connected by a bridge, are Clare island (116), Inishbiggle (25) and Inishturk (52).

No, the Gaeltacht islands are the Donegal islands, three of the four Galway islands (Inishbofin, like Clifden, is English-speaking primarily), and Cape Clear or Oileán Chléire in west Cork.

Lack of a pier was one of the main factors in the evacuation of a number of islands, the best known being the Blasket islands off Kerry, which were evacuated in November 1953. There are now three cottages available to rent on the Great Blasket island.

In the early 20th century, scholars visited the Great Blasket to learn Irish and to collect folklore and they encouraged the islanders to record their life stories in their native tongue. The three best known island books are An tOileánach (The Islandman) by Tomás Ó Criomhthain, Peig by Peig Sayers, and Fiche Blian ag Fás (Twenty Years A-Growing) by Muiris Ó Súilleabháin. Former taoiseach Charles J Haughey also kept a residence on his island, Inishvickillaune, which is one of the smaller and less accessible Blasket islands.

Charles J Haughey, as above, or late Beatle musician, John Lennon. Lennon bought Dorinish island in Clew Bay, south Mayo, in 1967 for a reported £1,700 sterling. Vendor was Westport Harbour Board which had used it for marine pilots. Lennon reportedly planned to spend his retirement there, and The Guardian newspaper quoted local estate agent Andrew Crowley as saying he was "besotted with the place by all accounts". He did lodge a planning application for a house, but never built on the 19 acres. He offered it to Sid Rawle, founder of the Digger Action Movement and known as the "King of the Hippies". Rawle and 30 others lived there until 1972 when their tents were burned by an oil lamp. Lennon and Yoko Ono visited it once more before his death in 1980. Ono sold the island for £30,000 in 1984, and it is widely reported that she donated the proceeds of the sale to an Irish orphanage

 

Yes, Rathlin island, off Co Antrim's Causeway Coast, is Ireland's most northerly inhabited island. As a special area of conservation, it is home to tens of thousands of sea birds, including puffins, kittiwakes, razorbills and guillemots. It is known for its Rathlin golden hare. It is almost famous for the fact that Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, retreated after being defeated by the English at Perth and hid in a sea cave where he was so inspired by a spider's tenacity that he returned to defeat his enemy.

No. The Aran islands have a regular ferry and plane service, with ferries from Ros-a-Mhíl, south Connemara all year round and from Doolin, Co Clare in the tourist season. The plane service flies from Indreabhán to all three islands. Inishbofin is connected by ferry from Cleggan, Co Galway, while Clare island and Inishturk are connected from Roonagh pier, outside Louisburgh. The Donegal islands of Arranmore and Tory island also have ferry services, as has Bere island, Cape Clear and Sherkin off Cork. How are the island transport services financed? The Government subsidises transport services to and from the islands. The Irish Coast Guard carries out medical evacuations, as to the RNLI lifeboats. Former Fianna Fáíl minister Éamon Ó Cuív is widely credited with improving transport services to and from offshore islands, earning his department the nickname "Craggy island".

Craggy Island is an bleak, isolated community located of the west coast, inhabited by Irish, a Chinese community and one Maori. Three priests and housekeeper Mrs Doyle live in a parochial house There is a pub, a very small golf course, a McDonald's fast food restaurant and a Chinatown... Actually, that is all fiction. Craggy island is a figment of the imagination of the Father Ted series writers Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews, for the highly successful Channel 4 television series, and the Georgian style parochial house on the "island" is actually Glenquin House in Co Clare.

Yes, that is of the Plassey, a freighter which was washed up on Inis Oírr in bad weather in 1960.

There are some small privately owned islands,and islands like Inishlyre in Co Mayo with only a small number of residents providing their own transport. Several Connemara islands such as Turbot and Inishturk South have a growing summer population, with some residents extending their stay during Covid-19. Turbot island off Eyrephort is one such example – the island, which was first spotted by Alcock and Brown as they approached Ireland during their epic transatlantic flight in 1919, was evacuated in 1978, four years after three of its fishermen drowned on the way home from watching an All Ireland final in Clifden. However, it is slowly being repopulated

Responsibility for the islands was taking over by the Department of Rural and Community Development . It was previously with the Gaeltacht section in the Department of Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht.

It is a periodic bone of contention, as Ireland does not have the same approach to its islands as Norway, which believes in right of access. However, many improvements were made during Fianna Fáíl Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív's time as minister. The Irish Island Federation, Comdháil Oileáin na hÉireann, represents island issues at national and international level.

The 12 offshore islands with registered voters have long argued that having to cast their vote early puts them at a disadvantage – especially as improved transport links mean that ballot boxes can be transported to the mainland in most weather conditions, bar the winter months. Legislation allowing them to vote on the same day as the rest of the State wasn't passed in time for the February 2020 general election.

Yes, but check tide tables ! Omey island off north Connemara is accessible at low tide and also runs a summer race meeting on the strand. In Sligo, 14 pillars mark the way to Coney island – one of several islands bearing this name off the Irish coast.

Cape Clear or Oileán Chléire is the country's most southerly inhabited island, eight miles off the west Cork coast, and within sight of the Fastnet Rock lighthouse, also known as the "teardrop of Ireland".
Skellig Michael off the Kerry coast, which has a monastic site dating from the 6th century. It is accessible by boat – prebooking essential – from Portmagee, Co Kerry. However, due to Covid-19 restrictions, it was not open to visitors in 2020.
All islands have bird life, but puffins and gannets and kittiwakes are synonymous with Skellig Michael and Little Skellig. Rathlin island off Antrim and Cape Clear off west Cork have bird observatories. The Saltee islands off the Wexford coast are privately owned by the O'Neill family, but day visitors are permitted access to the Great Saltee during certain hours. The Saltees have gannets, gulls, puffins and Manx shearwaters.
Vikings used Dublin as a European slaving capital, and one of their bases was on Dalkey island, which can be viewed from Killiney's Vico road. Boat trips available from Coliemore harbour in Dalkey. Birdwatch Ireland has set up nestboxes here for roseate terns. Keep an eye out also for feral goats.
Plenty! There are regular boat trips in summer to Inchagoill island on Lough Corrib, while the best known Irish inshore island might be the lake isle of Innisfree on Sligo's Lough Gill, immortalised by WB Yeats in his poem of the same name. Roscommon's Lough Key has several islands, the most prominent being the privately-owned Castle Island. Trinity island is more accessible to the public - it was once occupied by Cistercian monks from Boyle Abbey.

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