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A post-mortem investigation will be performed on the body of a fisherman who drowned on Saturday evening (February 4th) off the coast of Donegal.

The man, who was in his late 30s, fell overboard from a boat off the northwest coast when it was crab fishing.

At the time, the boat was situated 70 miles north of Rainn Mhór.

Around 8:30 pm, emergency services were notified of the incident, but after the man's crewmates pulled him from the water, a rescue effort was called off.

He was not revived despite efforts.

The National Ambulance Service and garda were waiting for the boat when it arrived at its home port of An Baile Glas in Co. Mayo.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board has been informed.

RTE News has more here

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Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, today announced the allocation of €37.3m for capital projects in 2023 in Ireland’s six state-owned Fishery Harbour Centres at Killybegs, Ros an Mhíl, An Daingean, Castletownbere, Dunmore East and Howth through the Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme.

The Minister noted “The six Fishery Harbour Centres are critical infrastructure for our seafood industry. Approximately 90% of all fish landings into Ireland come through these facilities. This demonstrates how successful these Harbours have become as economic hubs for the Seafood industry. The continuous development of the infrastructure in these Harbours has been critical to the fishing fleet and the land-based seafood processing industry. These Harbours are the economic development drivers for the largely peripheral coastal communities and hinterlands where they are located. The Government is committed to continuing to develop these Harbours to underpin our seafood industry and drive on economic development in these areas.”

Senator Sean Kyne, Minster for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue TD, Anne Rabbitte TD and Eamon O'Cuiv TD at Ros an Mhíl where €16m will be invested in the Deep Water Quay project in 2023Senator Sean Kyne, Minster for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue TD, Anne Rabbitte TD and Eamon O'Cuiv TD at Ros an Mhíl where €16m will be invested in the Deep Water Quay project in 2023

The Minister added that “Ireland's 200 miles Exclusive Economic zone provides rich nursery and fishing grounds for our own fleet and for other EU fleets. The Irish Seafood industry and Government, working on the strategy set out by the industry led Seafood Taskforce, are committed to overcoming current challenges and building a strong sustainable Irish seafood industry on a bedrock of sustainably managed fish stocks. A critical element for the future of our fisheries dependant coastal communities is top class landing infrastructure, where a modern seafood industry can operate effectively and be efficiently serviced. Our geographic position close to the fishing grounds and the likely rising real cost of energy in the coming decades provide a strategic opportunity for our harbours and coastal communities to become growing seafood hubs offering best facilities that attract landings from a greater portion of the fish caught in our 200 mile zone. This will help realise the maximum opportunities for primary and secondary processing of seafood in Ireland and provide for a strong Irish seafood processing industry to service our fishing fleet and others and maintain these coastal communities. These are the reasons why I am announcing this significant Government capital investment programme in our Fishery Harbour Centres today.”

In addition to the Fisheries and Seafood Production industries, the Fishery Harbour Centres are accommodating an ever-increasing amount of diverse marine commercial business, including commercial cargo traffic, cruise liners, restaurants and other leisure, tourism and social activities. All of these activities complement the critical economic activity generated by our fishing industry and help to maintain the vitality of these coastal communities.

€7.5m will be invested in the Smooth Point Pier Extension, Killybegs flagship project in 2023€7.5m will be invested in the Smooth Point Pier Extension, Killybegs flagship project in 2023

In 2021, approximately 88% of the sea fish landed in the state was into the six Fishery Harbour Centres. For 2021, Bord Iascaigh Mhara reported that the Irish seafood industry contributed €1.26 billion to the Irish economy.

Two flagship projects are already contracted under the 2023 Programme. These include the Deep Water Quay at Ros an Mhíl (€16m in 2023) for which the Minister announced a contractor had been appointed in December 2022 and the ongoing Smooth Point pier extension at Killybegs (€7.5m in 2023) which should be substantially completed this year. The funding announcement will also enable completion of the major Castletownbere development project which the Department has been undertaking for the last four years.

The Programme also supports maintenance at Cape Clear and a small number of piers, lights and beacons around the coast in accordance with the 1902 ex-congested Districts Board Piers, Lights and Beacons Act. Additionally, the Department’s commitment to supporting the Government’s environmental and sustainability objectives is demonstrated with a number of pertinent projects planned under this year’s programme including changeovers to energy efficient lighting and power and water metering to monitor resource consumption.

The Minister concluded by saying that “Fishing has always been of significant social and economic importance to Ireland with over 16,000 direct and indirect jobs across fisheries, aquaculture, processing and ancillary sectors and the seafood industry plays a vital role in the sustainable economic viability of many coastal communities across Ireland. With this €37.3m announcement and my recent announcement of €55.3m investment this year in 164 public marine infrastructure projects in Local Authority piers, under the Brexit Adjustment Local Authority Marine Infrastructure Scheme 2022-23, I believe this unprecedented investment in state-of the-art facilities around the coast reinforces this Government’s strong commitment to support the seafood industry, other marine related industries and coastal communities”

The funding provided under the Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme is in addition to the funding of €55.3m for the Brexit Adjustment Local Authority Marine Infrastructure Scheme 2022-23 gov.ie - McConalogue announces increased Brexit Investment in Public Marine Infrastructure - total now €55.3 million (www.gov.ie) which the Minister announced in December 2022. That scheme provides funding to local authorities to revitalise Ireland’s public marine infrastructure.

Table (.pdf attached) provides the details of the overall Fishery Harbour & Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme 2023. Funding for the Programme comes from the Department’s Vote and the Fishery Harbour Centre Fund.The table above provides the details of the overall Fishery Harbour & Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme 2023. Funding for the Programme comes from the Department’s Vote and the Fishery Harbour Centre Fund.

The Fishery Harbour Centres and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme delivers on Action 174 of the Balanced Regional Development Section in the Programme for Government to “Invest strategically in harbour infrastructure to attract increased landings into Ireland of sustainably caught fish in our waters, driving the development of the seafood processing sector and the blue economy in coastal communities.”

The Programme also delivers on Action MA/23/10 of The Marine Environment section of the Government’s Climate Action Plan 2023 to “Reduce fossil fuel dependency/consumption across Fishery Harbour Centre infrastructure”

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The North Western Waters Advisory Council (NWWAC) is seeking “well-informed” and “sustainably minded” organisations to join its members.

In “an unpredictable political landscape and with the effects of climate change underway, the range and complexity of marine and fisheries management issues are only set to intensify”, it says.

It is inviting more participation to “improve its contribution in addressing these issues and reaching the objective of the EU Common Fisheries Policy”.

The NWWAC facilitates a forum for fishing sector stakeholders and other interest stakeholders to achieve unanimous advice for EU policy-makers and managers.

It says prospective members “will have the opportunity to sharpen the impact of NWWAC advice, connect with the current NGO and fishing sector membership, and engage in internationally important scientific projects with access to exclusive resources”.

“Having stakeholder groups coming together and finding common ground on key issues is essential to develop fair, effective, and environmentally sensitive contributions to northwestern waters fisheries policy and management,” its chair, Emiel Brouckaert, said.

“In this regard, the NWWAC has a great opportunity to work towards consensus advice and sharpen the impact of such advice. We hope to welcome new members soon to share the exciting work ahead in 2023 and beyond.”

The council is one of 11 fisheries advisory councils across Europe, “generating multi-stakeholder advice to feed into the European Commission and member states on key fisheries policy developments affecting their area of competence”.

NWWAC advice focuses on matters related to EU fisheries management and ecosystem considerations in the Irish Sea, the Celtic Seas and the Channel.

NWWAC website is here

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Fishing industry representatives are seeking a meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar amid widespread dismay over the details of offers made under the Government’s fleet decommissioning scheme.

The meeting is being sought by the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) which hosted a forum on the issue in Limerick on Wednesday (Jan 18).

“This scheme is unworkable, and seems to be designed to force skippers off the water and to pit fisherman against fisherman,” IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy said.

He was speaking after a gathering of vessel owners in Limerick’s Radisson Blu hotel, which was closed to the press.

A total of 57 offers have been made by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), which is administering the scrappage scheme on behalf of the EU and the government

Over half of these applicants attended, Mr Murphy said. The meeting was open to both producer organisation members and non-members who had received letters of offer.

“We had people from Donegal right down to Castletownbere and from the south-east coast, and many are very angry and upset,” he said.

Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue

Initiated in response to loss of quota due to Brexit, the EU-funded scheme aims to take 60 vessels out of the whitefish fleet to ensure the remainder could continue to fish.

BIM said it “will ensure that over 9,000 tonnes of quota fish valued at €35 million annually will be available for remaining whitefish vessels to catch, ensuring the remaining fleet's economic viability into the future”.

McConalogue announced an increase in funding for the scheme from 60 million euro to 75 million euro in early January, but the IS&WFPO said that this increase was still not sufficient to make it worthwhile for many owners.

There were 19 applicants in Castletownbere, west Cork – almost half the fleet of 40 boats- but disappointment over offers means many are reluctant to accept, he said.

Applicants expected to be approved for a maximum of €12,000 per gross registered tonnage of the vessel's recorded catch, but reported offers have been €10,000 per gross tonne and lower.

Patrick Murphy of the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO)Patrick Murphy of the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO)

“This is less than the market value of many vessels, and those who were catching less, for various reasons, have also been penalised,” Murphy said.

“Our organisation did not like this scheme when proposed by the Government’s’ seafood task force, and we can see the criteria make it unworkable,” he said.

“The funding for this is from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve – as in European funding to compensate for the impact of Brexit – and not from the Exchequer, so we cannot understand this approach,” he said.

The organisation is seeking further clarification over how evaluations were calculated, and the tax implications, Murphy said.

“Some people did get large offers, but not sufficient to meet market value,” he said.

He said his organisation had presented detailed evidence to McConalogue’s department to illustrate how applicants had received offers which did not cover the value of vessels both before and after Brexit.

“The Irish government calls this scheme voluntary, but how can it be when vessels that continue to fish may find themselves being arrested due to the lack of quota – which the government should be seeking to redress,”he said.

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The European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) has chartered three new patrol vessels and an aircraft for monitoring and control in European waters.

All three vessels will fly the Portuguese flag, and will be deployed primarily for fisheries patrols but will have coast guard functions, the EFCA says.

It says that “following the mandate from the EU institutions to strengthen EFCA ́s operational capacity for assisting member states and the European Commission in the monitoring, control and surveillance of fisheries, as required by the Common Fisheries Policy, EFCA has reinforced its fleet”.

It says that these are the “only patrol vessels whose operations are managed by an EU agency”. They have been named as Ocean Guardian, Ocean Protector and Ocean Sentinel.

EFCA executive director Dr Susan Steele EFCA executive director Dr Susan Steele

They will support operations as part of different EFCA joint deployment plans from the Mediterranean and Black Sea to western waters off Ireland, the North Sea and Baltic Sea.

They will be able to provide support during search and rescue situations, maritime surveillance and pollution response, the EFCA says.

EFCA executive director Dr Susan Steele said it was an “important milestone in the history of the agency”.

“The chartering of three inspection platforms marks a turning point, and materialises our strong commitment to support member states’ authorities and the European Commission promoting compliance with the fisheries rules, as well as contributing to a safe, secure and sustainable sea,” she said.

“The vessels ́ modern facilities and technologies ensure a safe and comfortable stay onboard. Their deployment could be seen as a specific oceans safeguarding measure which enhances the EU capacity to improve the effectiveness of fisheries control operations in the EU and beyond,” she said.

A consortium led by Sentinel Marine Netherlands secured the control for the vessels, with a contract for an initial year which may be renewed for up to six years. DEA Aviation secured the contract for aerial surveillance.

The aircraft, which is a DA62 fit for mid-range maritime multirole surveillance missions, will be deployed until the end of May 2023.

The EFCA says the intention is to have an aircraft deployed for fisheries patrol purposes on a more permanent basis and in tandem with EFCA chartered offshore patrol vessels “as appropriate”.

The three EU ships are multi-role emergency response and rescue Vessels (ERRV) with an overall length of 62 meters each.

Two ships were built in 2018 with the third one in 2020, and all three have dynamic positioning equipment “to better maintain their position and balance the environmental forces such as wind, waves and currents during the duty while reducing fuel consumption to a minimum”, the EFCA says.

 It says the offshore fisheries patrol vessels are “fully equipped with ergonomic and modern onboard facilities to ensure a comfortable stay and an enjoyable working environment during the patrols, including space for physical exercise and after work relax [sic]”.

“On each of the ships, seven ensuite cabins for single or double use will be available to the agency, as well as a meeting room with digital projection capacity and high broadband internet connection for live video conferencing as well as access to various fisheries control systems/databases,” it says.“

The vessels were also required to prove ecological responsibility and have been certified with the ISO 14001, the international standard for environmental management,” the EFCA says.

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The Irish South and West Fish Producer’s Organisation will hold a meeting about the fishing industry Decommissioning Scheme At the Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa, Ennis Road, Limerick, on Wednesday, January 18.

It says this is “in response to requests and to allow people voice their opinions on the Scheme and on the offers that apply to them.”

As Afloat reported on January 11th, BIM issued letters of offer to 57 Irish fishing vessels under the fishing vessel Voluntary Permanent Cessation Scheme, funded under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, with total funding of up to €75 million.

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Irish fishing industry representatives have held what they described as a ‘positive’ meeting with the EU Fisheries Commission in Brussels. In a joint statement issued after the meeting yesterday afternoon, the Irish delegation said they feel there has been “a significant shift, and there is now a better understanding of the Irish position”.

The two-hour meeting was held with senior members of the EU Fisheries Commission negotiating team. It took place as a fourth round of talks between Norway and the EU Fisheries Commission is due to open in Brussels today.

The Irish industry representatives say they had a very clear message for the EU negotiating team. They emphasised that “access for Norway to Irish blue whiting grounds east of the 12 degrees west line, must be paid for by a reciprocal transfer of Norway’s blue whiting quota to Ireland.”

L to R, Sean O’Donoghue, chief executive of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO); Anna O’Sullivan, Dept of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM) negotiator; Colm Ó Súilleabháin, Irish Fisheries Attaché; Brendan Byrne, chief executive of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA); Aodh O Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO); and Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (ISWFPO).L to R, Sean O’Donoghue, chief executive of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO); Anna O’Sullivan, Dept of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM) negotiator; Colm Ó Súilleabháin, Irish Fisheries Attaché; Brendan Byrne, chief executive of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA); Aodh O Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO); and Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (ISWFPO)

The representatives said they felt satisfied that there had been a positive engagement process with the EU today. They included: Aodh O Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO), Brendan Byrne, chief executive of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA), Sean O’Donoghue, chief executive of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) and Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (ISWFPO).

The Irish delegation said their purpose in travelling to Brussels was to deliver the right outcome from the EU-Norway talks for their members in the fishing industry. Earlier yesterday, they also met the Irish Fisheries Attaché, Colm Ó Súilleabháin and Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine negotiator, Anna O’Sullivan.

The delegation says a range of further meetings are expected to take place in Brussels over the coming weeks.

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Irish fishing representatives have called for a wider debate on the potential growth of seafood exports. 

Three organisations have questioned why Ireland is not benefiting more from its own resource, and have appealed for “growth” in seafood to be “put on the agenda”.

The Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO), Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) and Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA) noted that Irish seafood exports delivered less than 1 % growth over the last five years, whereas Norway, a non-EU member with a similar population, delivered seafood export growth of 25 % in the last year alone.

“In 2022, their seafood exports were worth €14bn, compared to just €0.674bn for Irish exports,”IFPO chief executive Aodh O’Donnell said.

“ They have succeeded where we have faltered, as they now export 20 times the value of Irish exports annually, with EU markets accounting for 43% of this,” he said.

“Our economy and coastal communities should benefit from the resource our waters represent. Instead, other EU and non-EU fleets are increasingly permitted to catch more fish in our waters than the Irish fleet,” he said.

“Yet the EU re-opens talks this week to consider Norway’s request to catch 450,000 tonnes of blue whiting. This is over nine times the size of Ireland’s quota. Furthermore, Norway is seeking to catch most of their blue whiting quota from our stocks in Irish waters,” O’Donnell said.

EU-Norway talks resumed this week after breaking down in December over a number of issues, including greater access to Irish waters for blue whiting.

“The EU must ensure fairness is central to any proposal to grant Norway greater access to Irish waters. Ireland cannot be expected to acquiesce to these new and additional requests for access unless we are offered a reciprocal arrangement,” O’Donnell said.

While other EU states seek access to Norway’s waters for cod stocks, it is “unthinkable, unjust and inequitable that everyone else should gain at Ireland’s expense,” he said.

“It’s time the EU acted positively to support the growth of Ireland’s seafood sector instead of constantly allocating us an unfair share of fishing quotas. Our quotas were decimated in 2021, dropping 15 % after the disastrous Brexit agreement,” he said.

“ Under this agreement, 40% of the EU quota transferred to the UK came from Ireland, far more than was taken from any other EU State. The national response to this has been to shrink the whitefish fleet by 30 % through a permanent decommissioning instead of seeking a fairer quota,” he said.

“Most of our stocks are in a healthy state. We need fair treatment and to steer a new course if our seafood sector is to survive and grow, like Norway’s,” he said.

IFPEA chief executive Brendan Byrne said the Government “must maintain the position that any new access for Norway to our fishing grounds must be treated separately from the existing EU-Norway historical agreement”.

“To cede any part of Ireland’s traditional fishing grounds requires a separate arrangement by the EU which compensates us for any displacement,” he said.

IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy said that if Norway is seeking access to any part, however small or large, of Ireland’s fishing grounds south of 56 degrees or east of 12 degrees, then “this is a new request”.

“Ireland must not allow pieces of these fishing grounds to be ceded away in a piecemeal fashion,” he said.

“ A firm position must be taken until a clear arrangement is reached which benefits Ireland as much as Norway. Ireland must no longer attend the table as a perpetual loser; we must be prepared to walk away and refuse to countenance any additional unfair deal with a non-EU member,” Murphy said.

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Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue has said he is increasing the budget for scrapping whitefish fishing vessels from 60 million to 75 million euros.

As Afloat reported earlier, offers will be made to 57 owners, he said, and tax reliefs will increase proportionately as part of the budget increase.

He also pledged to continue conveying “Ireland’s concerns” at EU level over Norway’s bid to gain greater access to fishing grounds off the west coast.

McConalogue made the commitment at a meeting on Tuesday with fishing industry representatives in the Marine Institute in Galway, on the eve of resumed negotiations between the EU and Norway on a fisheries agreement.

“Our interests relate to blue whiting and the level of the transfer of blue whiting quota to Norway to pay for other fishing opportunities that the EU is seeking and the level of access to EU waters which, in practice, involves fishing in Ireland’s 200 miles zone,” he said.

“These negotiations will re-commence on Wednesday. The discussions with Irish industry representatives today were very useful and enabled a full consideration of the issues and the negotiating options,” he said.

He said he was pleased that a number of industry representatives would attend and “assist my team as the negotiations progress”.

“I advised that I am continuing to engage directly with EU Fisheries and Environment Commissioner Sinkevicious to ensure that he understands Irelands’ concerns and its priorities in these negotiations,” he said.

The marine minister said he also used the opportunity to provide an update on the voluntary scheme to decommission fishing vessels as recommended by the Seafood Taskforce.

Updating the industry on voluntary decommissioning, which aims to voluntarily remove 8,000 GT and 21,000 KW to “rebalance” the whitefish fleet and improve the viability of the remaining fleet, he said that an increase in budget was required.

He said this was due to the level of interest from vessel owners and the calculations from BIM on the levels of direct payments required to meet the objective of the scheme.

McConalogue said he has successfully sought additional funds from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and secured an updated EU State Aid approval to increase the budget from 60 million euro to 75 million euro, with “tax reliefs increasing proportionately”.

“Offers for voluntary decommissioning will now be made to 57 vessel owners, and the decommissioning of those vessels will make available an extra €34m in quota for the remainder of the whitefish fleet, improving their profitability and securing the future of the fleet,” he said.

“I am satisfied that I have now enabled all those who have chosen to apply for this scheme to receive the full value of the scheme payment as guided by the Seafood Taskforce recommendation,” he said.

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A new permit scheme giving non-EEA migrant fishers the same rights as EU crew members has been welcomed by the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO).

The Department of Justice confirmed the new arrangements this week, which provide for a “more streamlined process”, the IFPO says.

Under the new scheme, all holders of a current valid permission to work as a non-EEA crew member under the Atypical Working Scheme (AWS) in the Irish Fishing Fleet expiring on or after January 1st 2023 will be granted a Stamp 4 immigration permission.

IFPO chief executive Aodh O Donnell said the award of Stamp 4 permission” is a critical and much embraced change to the status of crew employed in the Irish fishing fleet under the auspices of the problematic Atypical Working Scheme”.

“Our members have worked hard with us, as a representative body, to support the right of all non-EEA migrant fishers to fair treatment and for fit for purpose permitting. This is positive news with the introduction of measures to protect migrant fishers and to grant them the full rights and entitlements under employment legislation,” O’Donnell said.

“This legislative change gives qualifying non-EEA crew the same full entitlements as EU crew and the option to avail of the share-based remuneration. Furthermore, the process of permitting is streamlined for both crew and vessel owners. Costs of administration are also radically reduced to the benefit of all stakeholders,”he said.

The IFPO paid tribute to Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue and Minister of State with responsibility for Employment Affairs Damien English for “spearheading this much needed legislative initiative”.

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