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The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Dara Calleary T.D, held discussions, by video link, with EU Fisheries Commissioner Virginius Sinkevičius on Ireland’s fisheries priorities. The Minister focused on the issues for fisheries in the ongoing EU negotiations with the UK on a possible future fisheries agreement.

Minister Calleary explained the serious concerns Ireland has with the possible implications arising from the UK departure from the EU and its potential impact on the Irish Fishing Industry.

Minister Calleary said “I explained to Commissioner Sinkevičius that I had met representatives of Ireland’s fishing sector yesterday and heard at first hand the substantial impacts if there were significant changes to the current quota shares and access to waters arising from the EU/UK negotiations. I made clear to the Commissioner that we are placing our full reliance on Mr Barnier and the Commissioner delivering on the agreed EU negotiation mandate that sets down clearly the EU objective to “uphold existing reciprocal access conditions, quota shares and traditional activity of the Union fleet”.

The Minister emphasized the absolute necessity that fisheries not be negotiated in isolation from the other elements of the Future Relationship. Minister Calleary said “I appreciate that we are facing very challenging negotiations on fisheries. I made clear that we are seeking that the EU leverage the wider EU/ UK Future relationship to secure the interests of the Irish and EU fishing sector. I assured Commissioner Sinkevičius of my full commitment and co-operation in working to deliver a fisheries agreement that protects the interests of the Irish fishing sector now and into the future.”

The discussion also covered other fisheries priorities including the EU funding package for the seafood sector, including COVID related supports; the negotiations on a new EU Control framework and control challenges facing Ireland, which were raised by the Commissioner; and finally the very strong commitment to progressing further our joint EU commitment to sustainable fisheries.

Published in Fishing
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The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Dara Calleary T.D, met today with representatives of the Irish fishing industry to hear at first hand their concerns about fishing in the EU/UK negotiations and the challenges they are facing arising from the COVID-19 crisis.

The industry representatives attending were from the four Fishermen’s Producer Organisations (Irish South and East Fish Producer Organisation, Killybegs Fishermen’s Producer Organisation, Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation, Irish Fish Producers Organisation), the National Inshore Fisherman’s Forum and the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association.

The Minister held a detailed and informative meeting with the fishing industry representatives. The representatives made clear the serious long term issues that their members would face in the event that the UK’s demands for a greater share of fish stocks and restricted access to UK fishing grounds were granted. Each of the representatives also set out the very difficult challenges that are arising because of the weaker markets for fish with reduced prices for many species.

Minister Calleary said “I listened carefully to the clearly articulated challenges facing the fishing industry both in the context of Brexit and arising from the Covid-19 crisis. I made clear that I will be pressing for a fisheries agreement with the UK that upholds both existing quota shares and existing reciprocal access to UK waters. I will continue to press for the maintenance of the linkage of fisheries to the overall economic partnership agreement as this will be central to a successful agreement. I assured the industry representatives of my commitment and that of the Government to work towards a fisheries agreement with the UK that protects their interests and ensures a long term future for our coastal communities dependant on fisheries”

In relation to the current challenges facing the sector arising from the COVID crises, Mr Calleary said “The Governments clear intention is to provide supports that help to re-vitalise all areas in the economy including the seafood sector. I will be working across Government to devise measures to support jobs and communities over the coming period. Finally, I sent out the huge ambition in the Programme for Government for building a sustainable fishing sector. The continued ambition for the development of a sustainable fisheries sector is a significant feature of the new Programme for Government. I look forward to working with the sector to delivering on that objective.”

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Irish Navy ship LÉ William Butler Yeats (P63) detained a French registered fishing vessel approximately 25 miles west off the Great Blasket Island this afternoon.

The detention was in relation to alleged breaches of fishing regulations.

LÉ William Butler Yeats returned to fishery protection duties after fulfilling her role as a field hospital facility during the COVID pandemic.

This is the sixth vessel detained by the Naval Service in 2020.

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Marine Minister Michael Creed has defended a new temporary tie-up scheme for fishing vessels which has been condemned by the industry as “designed to fail”.

Four Irish fish producers have said the EU-funded scheme to compensate whitefish vessels which tie up during the Covid-19 crisis is “completely unfit for purpose”.

The new scheme comes into effect on June 1st, when markets are already re-opening, and does not compensate vessels which took a decision to tie up in late March and conserve fish stocks, the industry notes.

The EU-funded initiative offers compensation from €500 per month for a maximum of two months for the smallest vessels (under six metres in length) to €6,000 per month for a maximum of two months for the largest vessels (over 24 metres).

The Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO), the Irish South and East Fish Producers’ Organisation (ISEFPO), the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (ISWFPO) and Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) wrote to Mr Creed after details were announced initially to ask him to revise it.

They proposed a model similar to the French initiative, starting from April 1st, 2020 for an initial three months with a review. It would be based on 30% of the full grossings of the vessel earned in the same period last year, and with an appropriate tie-up period of 7 to 10 days “to be further discussed”.

Irish South and East Fish Producers’ Organisation chief executive Hugo Boyle said this would have “allowed strategic management of fisheries, matching effort to market demand, with continuity of supply in the food sector”.

Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation chief executive Sean O’Donoghue said that Mr Creed’s solution will “do the reverse with very little voluntary uptake as almost all vessels will continue to fish thus making an already oversupplied market worse”.

Mr O’Donoghue had pointed out last month that the closure of sales venues, such as restaurants, markets and other outlets due to the pandemic had seen prices for all fish plummet by between 50 and 70 per cent, creating a “serious and unprecedented crisis for fishermen”.

Mr O’Donoghue said he had “never witnessed anger like it in the sector”, and he would “implore the minister to review the scheme, deliver the very basic support that we need to survive”.

In response, Mr Creed’s department said the scheme was a “safety net” and was not designed to replace viable fishing activity. Fishing crews could already avail of Government horizontal supports for Covid-19, the department said.

“It is up to the fishing vessel owner to decide whether to tie-up or keep fishing and in line with the Government policy of keeping the food chain operating,” Mr Creed’s department said.

“It is, of course, preferable that the supply to fish continues to satisfy available markets,” it said, stating that the scheme was capped at a maximum of 66% of each vessel size category in the fleet to ensure a continued level of fishing activity.

“It would be a positive sign if the take-up of this supplementary scheme is low and that the safety net provided through the scheme is used only by the minimum number of vessels that make a decision, “it said, adding that “generous vessel quota allocations” are being made for June to encourage continued fishing.

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A French registered fishing vessel has been detailed for alleged breaches of fishing regulations by the Naval Service.

The vessel was fishing approximately 120 nautical miles south-west of Mizen Head, Co Cork, last night when it was apprehended by the LÉ Ciara.

The Naval Service said that the vessel was being escorted to Castletownbere Co. Cork, where it would be handed over to An Garda Sí­ochána on arrival.

The detention is the fifth this year by the Naval Service, as part of its service level agreement with the Sea Fishery Protection Authority.

As Afloat previously reported, a French-registered Spanish-owned vessel, Miss Jacqueline, was also detained by the LÉ George Bernard Shaw last month, about 180 nautical miles west of Mizen Head.

Last month, the EU maritime directorate had written to Ireland, questioning how Ireland could meet its legal obligations to control and check fish landings under guidelines related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) National Fisheries College of Ireland in Castletownbere, Co. Cork is piloting the Skipper Full Certificate of Competency as an online course, commenced this week (6th May 2020). The Skipper Full Programme will be conducted as a nine-week online course, followed by three weeks in situ in Castletownbere once the college can open for the new academic term in accordance with COVID restrictions.

This is a popular full-time course, designed for fishermen with a Second-Hand Full Certificate of Competency, and 12 months sea time in that capacity, who wish to gain further qualifications in skippering a vessel. The course delivers tuition in a range of core navigation and safety skills that will aid successful participants to obtain a Skipper Full Certificate of Competency.

BIM took the decision to pilot the training online as it will allow students the opportunity to complete their studies this year. Speaking after the online pilot was announced, Ian Mannix, Skills Development Services Manager, BIM said, “We felt it was important in the current difficult circumstances that students should have the option to continue their training, supported by BIM and embracing new technologies and teaching methods. We are actively looking at what other programmes we can introduce online to support our students’

BIM Skills Development unit is one of BIM’s five organisational units and is focussed on enhancing the attractiveness and viability of careers in the seafood sector. This is achieved by creating fully recognised and accredited pathways for lifelong learning and career progression, featuring recognition of prior learning and portable modular qualifications.

Capt. Shane Begley, College Principal, National Fisheries College of Ireland, Castletownbere spoke of the students’ reaction saying, “Currently we have four students enrolled on the pilot programme and I’m heartened to see how quickly they have adapted to online learning. It’s fantastic to be able to facilitate their ongoing training and we look forward to providing similar support with some of our other courses”.

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The Minister for Transport has been urged to remind fishing crews of the dangers involved in boarding vessels under the influence of alcohol, following reports issued this week of two separate fatalities in ports.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) found alcohol was a factor in the two unrelated incidents which occurred in Killybegs, Co Donegal in March 2019 and Rosslare, Co Wexford in May 2019.

In the Killybegs incident, a crewman from 50-metre Cork vessel MFV Menhaden died after he fell while crossing vessels in the port in the early hours of March 14th,2019.

Weather conditions were poor at the time with a lot of movement between vessels, the report says.

His vessel was in the Donegal port due to adverse weather and was one of three tied up alongside each other near the auction hall, including the Sligo-registered MFV Olgarry and Norwegian MFV Grip Transporter.

The report says there was a gangway rigged between the MFV Olgarry and the MV Grip Transporter, but there are no images on CCTV footage of this gangway being used by the casualty.

The alarm was raised after he was reported missing and a Killybegs Coast Guard team recovered his body on the shore on the east side of the harbour.

A post mortem report indicated death due to drowning at sea and the accompanying toxicology report indicated high levels of alcohol in the casualty’s system.

MFV Ellie Adhamh

In May 2019, a crewman onboard the 22-metre fishing vessel MFV Ellie Adhamh drowned after he fell between the deck and the quay wall in the early hours of the morning.

The vessel was in Rosslare Europort for a marine survey and had landed fish after its arrival on May 17th.

The MCIB says the toxicological analysis report from the post mortem confirms the casualty was under the influence of alcohol and “would have been a danger to himself and others in the port area at the time of the incident”.

“ As per the report on an incident at Killybegs on March 14th, 2019 this again highlights the dangers involved when attempting to board fishing vessels when under the influence of alcohol,” the MCIB says.

It recommends the Minister for Transport should issue a marine notice reminding fishing vessel crews of the dangers associated with boarding vessels under the influence of alcohol.

It also recommends that the minister issue a notice reminding fishing vessel owners and skippers of the duty of care to provide safe means of access to vessels while in harbour, and of the importance of wearing personal flotation devices while boarding or crossing vessels.

The MCIB also says that Rosslare Europort should “consider reviewing its operating procedures including bye-laws and security plans regarding fishing vessel operations in the port”.

“This should include movement of crewmembers within the port limits and ensuring the perimeter is secure at night and also a suitable location for the berthing of fishing vessels,” it says.

Published in MCIB

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, T.D, today announced a temporary voluntary fleet tie-up scheme for fishing vessels in the Polyvalent, Beam Trawl and Specific segments of the fishing fleet. Eligible vessels will be supported to voluntarily opt to tie up for one or two of the next three months, operational from 1st June 2020 and availability will be extended to the inshore fleet and to larger vessels. The Scheme will be implemented under Ireland’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Operational Programme 2014-20, co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union.

Minister Creed explained that “the new Covid-19 Voluntary Fleet Tie-up Scheme I am announcing today, will support the fixed costs incurred by owners of fishing vessels while tied-up. The Scheme is designed to complement the Covid-19 wage supports and loan arrangements already being provided by Government to the fishing sector and indeed other sectors of our economy. The supports to fixed costs will range from €6,000 per month for a maximum of two months for the very largest vessels over 24 metres, to €500 per month for a maximum of two months for the very smallest vessels under 6 metres in length. The tie-up scheme will be available to a maximum of 66% of the fishing fleet, in the different size categories, in any one month. The voluntary scheme will operate over the calendar months of June, July & August, to coincide with the monthly fisheries quota management periods, in order to adjust the supply of fish coming onto a currently depressed market and protect quota availability for later in the year. Any vessel not receiving support to tie-up in any particular month may continue to fish to underpin the Government’s policy of ensuring that the food chain is maintained.”

Announcing the Scheme, Minister Creed said “Our fishing sector has been particularly hard hit by the severe market disruption in Europe and internationally caused by the Covid-19 Pandemic. The closure of many markets and disruption of established distribution channels, particularly to restaurants and the food service industry domestically and internationally, has seen market demand and sale prices drop very substantially in many of our key markets. In these unique and unprecedented circumstances, it is useful to give the fishing fleet another option to help match supply with demand in the seafood markets.”

The Minister added that, “There are still markets open both domestically and internationally and it is important that we continue to supply these markets to maintain food supply, service our established customers and be in a position to take advantage of increased demand as markets open up. To that extent, we want to see a continuing level of fishing by our fishing fleet. However, to temporarily facilitate the industry to better match fishing activity with market demand, I am now putting in a temporary scheme to support a portion of our fleet who voluntarily choose to tie up, while others continue fishing.”

European Maritime and Fisheries Fund

The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) Operational Programme 2014-20 was launched in January 2016. The Programme provides €240m in funding to the seafood sector (fisheries, aquaculture and seafood processing) over the period 2014 to 2020. The Programme is co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union.

Payments to fishing vessel owners for temporary cessation

Article 33.1(d) of the EMFF Regulation (508/2014) provides for payments to fishing vessel owners for temporary cessation of fishing activities as a consequence of the Covid-19 Pandemic. This new provision was enacted by the EU on 23 April through Regulation 2020/560, as part of the EU’s Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative.

Covid-19 Fleet Tie-up Scheme

The Covid-19 Fleet Tie-up Scheme is designed to support the fixed costs incurred by vessel owners while tied up in port and to complement the wage supports and other horizontal measures made available by Government. Fixed costs incurred by fishing vessel owners would typically include vessel insurance, loan interest, harbour charges, legal fees and accounting fees. The fixed costs arising for different vessel lengths across the fleet are returned to BIM each year as part of the EU Data Collection Framework.

To Qualify for the Scheme

To qualify for the Scheme, the vessel must have carried out fishing activities at sea for at least 120 days over the 2-year period 2018/19 and have made a first sale of fish to a minimum value of €5,000 in the calendar year 2019, by reference to the Irish Sales Note System administered by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority.

The following payments would be made to vessel owners who apply and are approved under the scheme.

Size of vessel

Payment over 1-month tie-up period

Payment over 2-month tie-up period

> 24m

€6,000

€12,000

18 < 24m

€4,600

€9,200

15 < 18m

€2,000

€4,000

12 < 15m

€1,900

€3,800

10 < 12m

€800

€1,600

8 < 10m

€750

€1,500

6 < 8m

€500

€1,000

<6m

€500

€1,000


Vessel owners may apply to BIM to tie-up their vessels for one or two months out of three from 1st June to 31st August. The scheme will be kept under review on a monthly basis and should markets improve, the scheme may be closed before the next tie up period comes into operation. A maximum of 66% of the number of vessels in each of eight vessel length categories will be approved for support for any particular one-month period, ensuring that some vessels are always available to fish and continue to supply the market.

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EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has expressed “regret” that EU fisheries ministers failed to adopt her office’s demand for more transparency in dealing out annual catches and quotas in EU waters.

Ms O’Reilly’s comments follow the EU Council’s refusal to accept a recommendation by her office for greater transparency in the lead up to the annual catch and quota negotiations under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

Ms O’Reilly has confirmed her finding of “maladministration” against the EU Council and has expressed disappointment that the council had failed to respond positively.

“It suggests the Council has failed fully to grasp the critical link between democracy and the transparency of decision-making regarding matters that have a significant impact on the wider public,” Ms O’Reilly said.

“ This is all the more important when the decision-making relates to the protection of the environment,” she said.

“The Council’s position appears to be that a key democratic standard - legislative transparency - must be sacrificed for what it considers to be the greater good of achieving a consensus on a political issue,” she said.

Late last year, the EU Ombudsman’s office said that the EU Council should “proactively” release documents on annual fishing quota negotiations into the public domain.

The documents should be made public at the same time as they are circulated to member states, or “as soon as possible thereafter” to “promote greater transparency of environmental information”, it noted.

The recommendation followed a complaint by non-profit environmental law organisation ClientEarth, which has offices in London, Brussels, Warsaw, Berlin and Beijing.

The EU Ombudsman investigation was opened last May after the lawyers’ organisation raised the issue of “many years of unexplained fishing quotas, set above the scientific advice for the recovery and long-term sustainability of fish populations”.

The finding in favour of the complainant took the view that since the documents in question are “legislative documents” and contain environmental information , “wider and more timely access should be granted”.

The investigation also considered the documents to “contain environmental information within the meaning of the Aarhus Regulation” on access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters.

It noted that complainant ClientEarth was concerned that not only did the EU’s fisheries council fail to “provide timely access to legislative documents”, but also “has in place an incomplete and unsatisfactory register of documents”.

In its defence, the EU Council argued that proactively releasing documentation could “seriously undermine” decision-making by ministers at the annual December negotiations.

It argued that it could “delay the successful outcome of Council deliberations, as member states need to balance different interests at stake for more than a hundred fish stocks in preparing their initial positions”.

It said that it could expose the Council to “external pressure” as “the context in which the negotiations take place is highly politicised and subject to external attention”.

It said it would also “require a comprehensive case-by-case assessment of the individual information ....to verify whether or not exceptions laid down in the EU rules on access to documents prevent such a disclosure” and would require consultation with “relevant participants”.

ClientEarth environmental democracy lawyer Anne Friel welcomed the EU Ombudsman ‘s “stance against the Council’s lack of transparency”.

“But we regret that despite taking crucial decisions for the future of our planet, the Council of the EU still refuses to open its decision-making to public scrutiny, dubiously claiming that it would delay or influence the process,” Ms Friel said.

“Every year, some member states push for fishing catch limits above scientific advice, undermining the sustainability of our ocean and fisheries sector without being held accountable. As a result, the EU has failed to meet the 2020 deadline to end overfishing,” she noted.

Published in Fishing
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The Managing Director of one of the biggest fishermen’s co-operatives in the country has criticised French fishermen who have tried to impose a boycott on the sales of imported fish. The Scottish fishing industry has also made complaints.

“They like to declare European waters when they have 50 per cent of the monkfish quota in Irish waters, while Ireland gets just 5 per cent of the monkfish quota in our own waters,” says John Nolan, Managing Director of Castletownbere Fishermen’s Co-op. “But they don’t like to accept that there is a European market to which we have equal access.”

"Ireland gets just 5 per cent of the monkfish quota in our own waters"

THE ECHO Cork reports that he says French fishermen “have been taking television crews to wholesale and processing operations which they accused of buying fish from non/French boats and not supporting their own industry. People are afraid actually in France to take fish off us. Even big supermarkets like Leclerc, even their government is saying only buy French fish. It does get annoying when you see the way the French are acting. You get this parochialism coming in and the French fishermen going around, they don’t want a European market, but they do want our waters to be European for them. I’m disappointed with that attitude.”

More on THE ECHO which, in a leading article today headed: “Island nation - let us benefit,” also calls for the new government to give Ireland’s “marine and fisheries industries the recognition and attention they deserve.”

“A government review of policy leading to more support of the industries should be an early initiative if their statement about seeing Ireland as an island nation is to meany anything,” the paper says.

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