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Post Brexit negotiations between the EU and UK on fishing quotas for shared fish stocks, which commenced in early November were still deadlocked ahead of the EU Council of Fisheries Ministers that commenced on Sunday and finished early this morning. In light of that situation, Fisheries Ministers decided to set provisional fish quotas for EU fishers for the first quarter of 2022 in the event that an agreement is not reached before the end of the year.

Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue said, “It is regrettable that the negotiations with the UK on fish quotas for shared stocks, which started on 11 November, could not be concluded ahead of the Council. These negotiations with the UK have proved to be very difficult and it is in Ireland’s interest that the EU is not rushed into an unacceptable deal. To avoid any disruption to our fleets, we have agreed provisional fish quotas for the first quarter of 2022. The EU remains committed to securing a balanced and sustainable agreement with the UK.”

The Council of Ministers agreed to set provisional quotas for the EU industry, to the end of March, at the level of 25% of the 2021 quotas. Given the seasonal nature of certain fisheries, Minister McConalogue ensured that the quotas made available for those fisheries that take place predominantly in the first three months of the year meets the seasonal patterns of these fisheries. The final outcome was that the full 2022 annual quotas for mackerel, blue whiting and Norwegian herring were agreed as well as 70 per cent of the full year quota for Horse Mackerel.

In addition, Minister McConalogue ensured that half of the quota for Prawns on the Porcupine Bank to the West of Ireland and 85% of the whiting stock in the Celtic sea is available in the first quarter, to reflect the seasonality of these important fisheries.

Minister McConalogue said, “I was pleased that Commissioner Sinkevičius accepted our request to provide for our seasonal fisheries by providing adequate quota to enable the Irish fishing industry to pursue these economically important fisheries from the beginning of January. The Council also agreed to my request to apply the Hague Preferences, which benefit Ireland when stocks are at low levels.”

In respect of the actions by Norway and the Faroes Islands, in unilaterally setting unacceptably high quotas for mackerel for 2021, Minister McConalogue said “I asked the EU to work with like-minded partners to secure fair and balanced mackerel shares for coastal states in 2022. I made clear that the EU must be prepared to take all appropriate measures if Norway and Faroes again set such unsustainable quotas for 2022. This level of overfishing resulting from these inflated unilateral quotas will, in short time, deplete this stock which is economically very important for our own fishing fleet. ”

Minister McConalogue also welcomed the commitment secured from the Commission to examine and produce proposals, by the 31st of March next year, on the allocation and distribution of an EU mackerel quota historically linked to an agreement with Norway. The Minister said “I was satisfied that the Council agreed that the mackerel quota in question has been suspended, pending the outcome of a thorough assessment involving the Commission and Member States. I will continue to engage actively on the issue and look forward to examining the Commission proposals.”

The Council will finalise the list of all provisional TACs and Quotas agreed in the coming days

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The RNLI Aran lifeboat and Port of Galway came to the aid of a French fishing vessel yesterday which lost its anchor during Storm Barra.

The 28-metre Ferreira Martinez was one of three French vessels sheltering from the storm in the North Sound, lying between the Aran island of Inis Mór and Leitir Mealláin in south Connemara.

The vessel, which is registered in Bayonne, broke down and was taken under tow by one of the other fishing vessels, Playa du Tuya. Initially, it was planned to tow it to Bantry in west Cork but the Irish Coast Guard nominated Galway as a port of refuge.

Port of Galway harbourmaster Capt Brian Sheridan (who shot the above video of the safe arrival into Galway Port) said that the RNLI Aran lifeboat launched and stood by during the tow into Galway.

The port took over operations from the Aran lifeboat when the tow was off Salthill, and guided both French vessels into the docks last night.

The 28-metre Ferreira Martinez was one of three French vessels sheltering from the storm between the Aran island of Inis Mór and Leitir Mealláin in south ConnemaraThe 28-metre Ferreira Martinez was one of three French vessels sheltering from the storm between the Aran island of Inis Mór and Leitir Mealláin in south Connemara

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An internationally-renowned team of Spanish artists has been creating a large mural in the Lithuanian home base of the EU Environment and Oceans commissioner this week to inspire action on climate breakdown.

The Boa Mistura team of artists have been commissioned by the European non-governmental organisation Our Fish, which campaigns to end overfishing and to restore a healthy ocean ecosystem.

Work began this week on the 300 square metre fresco, named “Heartbeat of the Ocean”, on the entire wall of a nine-storey apartment building in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius.

“We chose Vilnius for the mural, as it is the home city of the European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius,”Our Fish programme director Rebecca Hubbard explained.

“His mission to rebuild healthy fish populations and thriving ecosystems will not only ensure the oceans’ abilities to continue supporting life on the planet by providing all of us with oxygen and food – it will also contribute to sustaining the oceans’ protective powers against the worst effects of climate change,”she said.

 The renowned team of Spanish artists Boa MisturaThe team of Spanish artists Boa Mistura

The European Commission is currently preparing an action plan to conserve fishery resources and protect marine ecosystems.

It is “crucial for this plan to set out a pathway for reducing the devastating impact of overfishing on marine life and for bolstering the ocean's capacity to store carbon”, Hubbard said.

“This pathway should outline a transition from destructive bottom trawling towards sustainable fisheries that will also benefit the marine environment and support the livelihoods of our coastal communities,”she said.

Four members of the Boa Mistura team are employed on the mural, with a heart made of different marine species reminding the public that “every heartbeat of the planet comes from the bottom of the sea”..

The Boa Mistura team’s work is visible on buildings or streets in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Germany, France, USA, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, South Africa, China, and in other countries.

The mural with the slogan “Save the ocean to save the climate” is expected to be completed in the next fortnight.

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The Workplace Relations Commission has directed that over 20,000 euro in compensation be paid to an Egyptian fisherman employed on an Irish vessel for breaches of his working time and payment of wages legislation.

Egyptian national Ali Rezk (63) was awarded the sum for breaches on the part of his employer, fishing vessel owner and retailer Seán Doran.

Rezk was employed under the atypical work permit scheme, and worked as a fisherman from December 22nd, 2016 to August 15th, 2019.

Legal representatives for Rezk claimed that he was not paid in accordance with the National Minimum Wage Act, he was not paid for hours that he worked, he was not compensated for public holidays and he did not receive the correct holidays.

In his response to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), Seán Doran stated that the boat did not operate to full throttle, and the hours were based on work and call outs.

He said the fish catch was very limited, so the hours worked were much less than the hours that are claimed, and “boredom” was factor on this boat due to the small amount of work.

He said there was plenty of rest available as it was a small boat, and Rezk was facilitated with his religious practices and food.

He said Rezk “stopped working for prayers”, he was “a sports fan and he was given time to watch the football matches” and this “was not a profitable business and the prawn vessel "washed its face".

Doran stated that while Rezk was on shore they couldn’t put him in the shop because of his poor English.

He said Rezk was given three to six hours work per day in the factory and was paid for eight hours, was always welcome in the restaurant and not charged for food except for cigarettes and the lotto.

Doran said that the company had up to ten trawlers and never had any labour issues.

Doran said that no records were kept for the vessel, an issue which the WRC inspector drew attention to in his ruling.

Noting the “conflict of evidence” in the case, the WRC inspector said there was a duty to maintain records of hours of work under S.I. No. 709/2003 – European Communities (Workers on Board Sea-Going Fishing Vessels) (Organisation of Working Time) Regulations 2003.

“Based on the claim as presented by the complainant, I find, on the balance of probabilities, that the complainant worked an average of 17 hours a day while at sea and eight hours day while on shore,” the WRC inspector said and this exceeded 72 hours per week as is provided by SI 709/2003.

“I find that this is an industry that is subject to some very challenging weather conditions and the safety of fishermen is of paramount importance,” the WRC inspector said.

He said that it is “essential that fishermen are protected against working excessive hours which may cause them to make errors in their work which could negatively impact on their safety and that of their colleagues”.

He found Rezk was due over €5,364 in addition to a smaller amount for public holidays for unpaid hours, and he should be paid another €15,000 compensation by his employer for breaches of his rights “which is to serve as an effective, dissuasive and proportionate deterrent”.

Rezk had also claimed he was not paid in accordance with national minimum wage legislation, but the WRC said the claim was not well-founded as he did not seek a written statement of his hourly pay.

The International Transport Federation (ITF) said it had a mixed reaction to the WRC decision, due to restrictions in the current legislation.

ITF fisheries campaign lead Michael O’Brien said that under the current Workplace Relations Act 2015, the “cognisable period” that the WRC can retrieve unpaid wages for is normally only the six months prior to a complaint being submitted, or twelve months in extenuating circumstances.

In this instance, the WRC adjudicator was limited to compensating Rezk just over €5,500 for just the final six and a half months of the total 33 months that the fisher was employed aboard the vessel, O’Brien noted.

“If we are to end the routine exploitation of fishers the law needs to provide for 100% retrieval of unpaid wages and entitlements,” O’Brien said.

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It’s been seven years since herring were landed in Bangor on Belfast Lough, but the Fairwind whose home port is Kilkeel on the Mourne coast in south Down, landed its catch in the harbour last week. The crew transferred the fish from the net to the boat by brailing.

Hand brailing is when fish are concentrated alongside the fishing vessel, and a brailing net is used to lift them aboard. The iron hoop of the brail net is first dipped into the net, drawn through the fish, and pulled up again.

It's been many years since herring have been landed in Bangor. The last time was in 2014 when a large fishing vessel with a refrigerated seawater system transferred herring ashore via a pump into road tankers.

"It’s good to see smaller vessels availing of herring quota and the traditional method of brailing being used to land"

“However,” says Harbour Master Kevin Baird “ It’s good to see smaller vessels availing of herring quota and the traditional method of brailing being used to land. There are herring shoals at this time of the year (winter herring) and sometimes they do come into Belfast Lough but are more usually caught in the seas off the Mournes”.

Herring was fished from harbours all along the Down coast with the Mourne ports of Kilkeel and Annalong emerging as key centres in the mid-19th century with Ardglass which had first developed as a fish harbour in the Middle Ages, becoming a herring poet then as well.

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Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue is expected to present a memo on the Government’s seafood task force report to Cabinet this week.

Mr McConalogue is requesting that the Cabinet notes the report, while he awaits a review on its recommendations.

The task force report, published in early October, is recommending just over €423 million be given to the Irish fishing industry to help weather the impact of Brexit.

Highlights include awarding €66 million for a whitefish decommissioning scheme, €6 million to reduce the inshore fleet, and €3.7 million to remove inactive or off-register inshore vessels.

It also recommends €90 million for seafood processors, and a series of short term measures, including a €12 million annual tie-up of polyvalent vessels over two years.

It recommends an €8 million liquidity scheme for the pelagic sector, support for scallop vessels and vessels hit by exclusion from the Rockall squid fishery, and investment in aquaculture.

It also recommends investment in small scale public marine infrastructure, community-led local development, inshore marketing and processing capital.

"Its final report says the Irish seafood sector is “in the eye of the storm”

The proposed whitefish decommissioning scheme aims to remove 60 vessels of around 8,000 GT and 21,000 Kw at a premium of up to €12,000 per gross tonne, including “appropriate” payments to crew and scrapping costs.

The taskforce report was established by McConalogue earlier this year to examine the implications of the EU/UK Trade & Cooperation Agreement (TCA) for the fishing industry and coastal communities.

Its final report says the Irish seafood sector is “in the eye of the storm”.

Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue: The Seafood Taskforce has met 14 times and received 72 submissions from its members, and a further 27 through public consultation, since it began meeting last MarchMarine Minister Charlie McConalogue: The Seafood Taskforce has met 14 times and received 72 submissions from its members, and a further 27 through public consultation, since it began meeting last March

It says that the end of the Brexit withdrawal period has brought about the biggest change and disruption in EU-British relations in 50 years, across all aspects of trade and society.

The Irish fleet has lost access to 15% of its annual quota, including stocks of prawn, monkfish, and haddock, while Brexit has also hit Ireland’s €80m worth of seafood exports to Britain.

It says Irish seafood imports from Britain, valued at €219 million in 2018, have been disrupted, while vital seafood export routes, primarily the ’land-bridge’ via Britain, have been curtailed.

It also says established Irish/British links at scientific and policy levels in EU and ICES have been lost.

The task force has met 14 times and received 72 submissions from its members, and a further 27 through public consultation, since it began meeting last March.

An interim report published in June recommended establishment of a voluntary, temporary cessation scheme running to December 2021 as a first step.

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The Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue T.D. met virtually today with the members of the National Inshore Fisheries Forum (NIFF).

Minister McConalogue welcomed those representatives from the six Regional Inshore Fisheries Forums who were attending the NIFF for the first time, noting that the process of renewing Forum membership has been working well.

“I am delighted with the level of commitment that people have shown in engaging with the Forums because, without that commitment, this initiative would not have emerged as the influential voice for the inshore sector that it has become,” the Minister said.

The Minister discussed issues, that are important to the inshore sector, with the Forum members, including the recommendations in the final report of the Seafood Sector Task Force. The Minister thanked the NIFF for its participation in the Task Force and the valuable contributions it made to those discussions.

The Minister said, “I am urgently examining the Task Force report with a view to quickly implementing a comprehensive response to the impacts of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement on our fishing sector and coastal communities.”

The Minister and inshore representatives also discussed a range of other topics including the “hook and line” mackerel fishery and the sustainable management of the brown crab fishery, which is one of the most important stocks for inshore fishers and for the seafood sector.

The meeting included contributions from Bord Bia, the Marine Institute and Bord Iascaigh Mhara. The Minister thanked all those attending for their constructive engagement throughout the meeting.

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Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue TD, today attended and addressed the Atlantic Stakeholder Platform Conference taking place in the Convention Centre, Dublin.

The conference is part of a new approach for a sustainable blue economy in the EU. 

Speaking on his way into the event, the Minister said “The western seaboard is an important part of the European Union’s maritime community and this is a welcome occasion to celebrate and acknowledge the work that is being done throughout the Atlantic area to ensure the region provides vision, strategic direction, and support to the maritime community both in the Atlantic region and further afield”.

The European Green Deal and the Recovery Plan for Europe will define the European economy for many years, or even decades. And the EU’s blue economy is fundamental to both efforts. 

Minister McConalogue addressing the ConferenceMinister McConalogue addressing the Conference

The Atlantic Stakeholder Platform Conference is an annual event of the Atlantic Strategy Committee which is being chaired by Ireland in 2021. This year, the event also celebrates 10 years of the Atlantic Strategy which aims to address challenges in the maritime sector for which collaborative efforts are required. The conference also features the 5th Atlantic Project Awards which recognises projects that contribute to the implementation of the goals and actions of the Atlantic Action Plan 2.0, adopted by the European Commission in July 2020.

The Minister commented that “the discussions and conclusions from today’s stakeholder conference will provide a rich source of information and knowledge to help underpin the implementation of the Atlantic Action Plan 2.0. Project collaboration is a key feature of the Atlantic Strategy and the projects being highlighted here today demonstrate all that can be achieved through collaborative efforts and working closely with our EU partners at all levels.”

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“Extremely long” working hours, very low wages, and racist insults and verbal abuse were commonplace experiences of a group of migrant fishermen interviewed for a Maynooth University research study.

Over two-thirds of those interviewed said they would work between 15 and 20 hours a day, and pay was usually below the minimum wage, the study, which was funded by the International Transport Federation (ITF), found.

Over half of the 24 participants interviewed for the research said they had been subjected to “racial and verbal abuse”.

Just one-third of participants in the study reported feeling safe on a vessel, although some pointed out that fishing is “an inherently dangerous occupation”, the study found.

Five of the 24 participants reported being “satisfied overall” with their working situation, and the study identified their key challenge as uncertainty around their immigration status and lack of freedom to change employer or section.

The analysis by Dr Clíodhna Murphy, Dr David Doyle and Stephanie Thompson of Maynooth University’s law department drew on semi-structured interviews conducted with 24 male migrant workers in the Irish fishing industry.

Over half the participants had lived in Ireland for ten years or more. The interviewees were described as highly skilled fishers who collectively had over 200 years of fishing experience, the researchers note.

All but two of the interviewees who had been in Ireland since before 2016 “indicated that conditions in the sector had worsened overall since that time”, the study says.

The study says the Atypical Working Scheme (AWS) permission - under which the worker is contracted to an individual employer- and the necessity to renew this permission each year can be used by employers as a “means to threaten and exploit workers”.

Less than half of those interviewed recalled boats being inspected by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) or any other agency representative about work- related issues.

“ Fear of losing one’s job and work permit, along with language barriers, were key challenges for workers to engaging with employers or inspectors to seek better working conditions,”the authors state.

The study recommends reforms to the work permit system, including facilitating access for undocumented migrant fishers to the Department of Justice’s planned regularisation scheme.

It says applications should be allowed to vary Stamp 1 permission to Stamp 4 (as in line with section 4(7) of the Immigration Act 2004), and these applications should be expedited.

It recommends AWS permits should be granted for the sector, rather than tied to an individual employer, and the model contract used in this scheme should be reviewed and overhauled.

It says the WRC and the Department of Transport’s Marine Survey Office (MSO) should perform more outreach work and speak directly to migrant fishers in private “as a matter of course”.

It says inspectors monitoring workplace conditions should be accompanied by trained interpreters when interviewing migrant crew.

It recommends that legal barriers to claiming employment rights for undocumented workers should be removed , and an expanded role for NGOs to support workers making complaints should be considered.

It also says under-crewing of vessels should be investigated and pursued.

ITF fisheries campaign lead Michael O’Brien expressed concern about the report’s findings, and endorsed its recommendations.

He welcomed a statement from Minister of State with responsibility for law reform James Browne that the AWS scheme is to be reviewed.

“ Through various measures the migrant fishers have to be liberated from the exclusive relationship they are forced into with individual boat owners,”he said.

“ The impending migrant documentation scheme to be finalised by the Department of Justice, if it is sufficiently inclusive, could be the most direct means to achieve this,”he said.

Mr O’Brien said there were “worrying indications” that a new scheme would be “restrictive and contain anomalies that will serve to exclude most migrant fishers”, although Minister of State Jim Browne had said the scheme would offer a path to documentation for many fishers.

The ITF is undertaking a number of initiatives, including supporting judicial review proceedings to seek correct transposition into Irish law of the Working Time at Sea Directive EU 2017/159, in a bid to ensure complaints relating to illegally long hours at sea can be heard by the WRC and Labour Court.

The ITF says it is also holding discussion with the Ghanaian seafarer’s union MDU to explore what steps can be taken to “combat the activities of bogus recruitment agents in Ghana”.

It says these agents have been responsible for the trafficking of fishers to Ireland, north and south, in recent years.

The union says it aims to disseminate information to fishing communities in Ghana about “the pitfalls and dangers of coming to work in Ireland for exploitative employers”.

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The Minister for the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, today announced that he has received the final report of the Seafood Sector Task Force that he established in March 2021. The Taskforce examined the impacts on the fishing sector and coastal communities of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom. This final report follows an interim report submitted by the Task Force in June 2021.

The Task Force was chaired by Aidan Cotter, assisted by a steering group of Margaret Daly and Mícheal Ó Cinnéide, and comprised of ten representatives of the fishing sector, representatives of the aquaculture and seafood processing sectors, coastal communities, coastal local authorities and various State enterprise development agencies.

Following receipt of the report, Minister McConalogue said: “The departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement that was agreed at the end of 2020 have had some profoundly damaging effects for Ireland’s fishing sector and the coastal communities that depend on fishing. Such a once in a generation event required a collective response involving the seafood businesses and coastal communities that are impacted and the full range of State bodies with a role to play in our response. This is why I established the Seafood Sector Task Force in March of this year and after seven months of deliberations by the Task Force, I have today received and welcome its Final Report which charts a way forward for the sector and the coastal communities dependent upon it ”.

Minister McConalogue added: “I wish to thank Aidan Cotter for his leadership in chairing the Task Force and thank Margaret Daly and Mícheal Ó Cinnéide for their dedication and hard work in assisting Aidan in steering the work of the Task Force. I also wish to sincerely thank all of the members of the Task Force for their constructive engagement with the work of the Task Force and for the many hours and days they put into the process. Lastly, I thank BIM for their hard work as secretariat and I wish to acknowledge the importance of their research and analysis in informing the work of the Task Force”.

Minister McConalogue continued: “I have asked my Department to urgently examine the report with a view to quickly implementing a comprehensive response to the impacts of the TCA on our fishing sector and coastal communities. The recommended measures will be examined with particular regard to available funds and to the eligibility of the recommended measures for funding under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, the European, Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund and with other relevant funding sources and with regard to State Aid rules and the Public Spending Code”.

The establishment of the Seafood Sector Taskforce is an Action in the Department’s Action Plan 2021 under the Strategic Goal to ‘Deliver a sustainable, competitive and innovative seafood sector, driven by a skilled workforce, delivering value added products in line with consumer demand’.

The full report of the Seafood Sector Task Force is available to download below

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Page 7 of 70

Naval Visits focuses on forthcoming courtesy visits by foreign navies from our nearest neighbours, to navies from European Union and perhaps even those navies from far-flung distant shores.

In covering these Naval Visits, the range of nationality arising from these vessels can also be broad in terms of the variety of ships docking in our ports.

The list of naval ship types is long and they perform many tasks. These naval ships can include coastal patrol vessels, mine-sweepers, mine-hunters, frigates, destroyers, amphibious dock-landing vessels, helicopter-carriers, submarine support ships and the rarer sighting of submarines.

When Naval Visits are made, it is those that are open to the public to come on board, provide an excellent opportunity to demonstrate up close and personal, what these look like and what they can do and a chance to discuss with the crew.

It can make even more interesting for visitors when a flotilla arrives, particularly comprising an international fleet, adding to the sense of curiosity and adding a greater mix to the type of vessels boarded.

All of this makes Naval Visits a fascinating and intriguing insight into the role of navies from abroad, as they spend time in our ports, mostly for a weekend-long call, having completed exercises at sea.

These naval exercises can involve joint co-operation between other naval fleets off Ireland, in the approaches of the Atlantic, and way offshore of the coasts of western European countries.

In certain circumstances, Naval Visits involve vessels which are making repositioning voyages over long distances between continents, having completed a tour of duty in zones of conflict.

Joint naval fleet exercises bring an increased integration of navies within Europe and beyond. These exercises improve greater co-operation at EU level but also internationally, not just on a political front, but these exercises enable shared training skills in carrying out naval skills and also knowledge.

Naval Visits are also reciprocal, in that the Irish Naval Service, has over the decades, visited major gatherings overseas, while also carrying out specific operations on many fronts.

Ireland can, therefore, be represented through these ships that also act as floating ambassadorial platforms, supporting our national interests.

These interests are not exclusively political in terms of foreign policy, through humanitarian commitments, but are also to assist existing trade and tourism links and also develop further.

Equally important is our relationship with the Irish diaspora, and to share this sense of identity with the rest of the World.

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