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11th March 2011

Marine is Back

I was pleased to hear Simon Coveney tell a presenter on a Cork local radio station that he had not been appointed just Minister for Agriculture but was also Minister for the Marine. He went further to tell the programme interviewer that he had been in boats since he could stand and had a deep interest in and commitment to the marine sphere and followed his father, Hugh, a former Minister for the Marine.

It is a reminder which I hope that the media in general will note and that his tile of Marine will be used as often as agriculture is. The general media has been notorious, in my view, for disregarding the marine sector unless there is disaster, emergency or controversy involved.

The return of the title 'Marine' to a Government Department is, to put it bluntly, a kick-in-the-ass which civil servants needed. It was a betrayal of this island nation's heritage when those in charge of the former Department of Transport held a meeting which decided to remove the title marine from the Department's name, even though the then Minister had been assigned the role of Minister for Transport and Marine. The man in charge of that Department, Noel Dempsey, did not demonstrate a lot of interest in the marine, being more noted for trying to shut down the coastal radio stations at Valentia and Malin, where he was beaten off by public opposition, which also happened when he tried to remove 24-hour rescue helicopter service in the south-east and for his introduction of laws which criminalised fishermen.

Hopefully, the restoration of 'Marine' to a Department's name will be the harbinger of better things for the marine sphere.

I have heard some disappointment expressed that the marine is not a department on its own, but what the Fine Gael and subsequently Coalition Programme for Government agreed by Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore said was: "Marine responsibilities will be merged under one Department, for better co-ordination in policy delivery."

They have been, though some of the finer detail remains to be seen, such as will the ports be moved away from Transport, to where port companies and commercial interests originally campaigned to have them moved? And how will the split of marine tourism work between Agriculture and Marine and the separate tourism department? A similar issue may arise in regard to sailing and sport, but it seems to me a positive step that the disregard which Fianna Fáil and the Greens showed for the marine sector is being changed.

It was also right to end a separate department for defence. With a small army and navy, smaller than the marine sector, it was nonsense that it should have been a department of its own.

Let us therefore, hope for the future and take a positive view of the change as being for the better.

Published in Island Nation

It maybe the second last item on the programme for government issued by Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore yesterday but the indications are good that the marine sector will see a reinstated Department of the Marine. the Fine Gael and Labour coalition say 'marine responsibilities will be merged under one Department, for better co-ordination in policy delivery'. Here is the relevant excerpt:

Coastal communities, fisheries & marine environment

We will negotiate the best possible deal for fishermen in the review of the Common Fisheries Policy.

We will support the development of sustainable aquaculture and fish farms by streamlining the licensing process and reducing associated bureaucracy.

Marine responsibilities will be merged under one Department, for better co-ordination in policy delivery. We will develop an integrated marine and coastal planning process in order to maximise the potential of Ireland's coastline in fishing, aquaculture, ocean energy and tourism.

A Sea Fisheries Sustainability Impact Assessment, based on consultation with all major stakeholders, will be brought before the Dáil annually before EU fisheries negotiations commence.

We will replace criminal sanctions system for minor fisheries offences with administrative sanction system to bring Ireland into line with other European jurisdictions. Safety at sea and decent working conditions must underpin the development of the fisheries sector. We will explore the provision of an emergency towing vessel for the Coastguard.

Published in News Update
As I write this week's blog there is still no definite word emanating from the closed cloisters inhabited at present by the leading negotiating lights of Fine Gael and the Labour Party on the future governing of this island nation. It is unlikely that the future of the marine sphere is foremost in the minds of the negotiators and I wonder what will be the priority attached to the marine when the new Government is announced.

Fine Gael can, logically from the support which the party garnered in the General Election, be expected to dominate a Coalition Government. In that context, the question arises as to whether they will deliver on their pre-election manifesto commitment to re-establish the Department of the Marine?

The promise to do so was unequivocal, a clear undertaking that the situation created by the former Fianna Fail and Green Party Coalition which had decimated maritime issues by spreading them over several Departments of State, would be changed and all would be contained in one Department.

In the event of a Coalition being formed will we hear that "circumstances" have changed and adjustments must be made in the context of Coalition arrangements?

I had the opportunity to question Joan Burton of the Labour Party, one of the party negotiators, prior to the election at an event organised by the European Association of Journalists. She accepted that politicians had not paid enough attention to the marine sphere and said that this attitude should be changed and accepted that the nation could benefit economically as a result.

I hope that I am not being overly cynical towards politicians, born of long years of journalistic experience, in fearing that pre-election promises may be subjected to change.

• This article is reprinted by permission of the EVENING ECHO newspaper, Cork, where Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website: www.eecho.ie
Published in Island Nation

I am reflecting this week on a varied list of maritime issues which have arisen in my writings on marine topics.

Following recent pieces I wrote about the attitude of political parties in the General Election towards the marine sector, I had a telephone call from a senior Fine Gael politician and, lo and behold, the party included the marine sector in its manifesto, pledging to restore the Department of the Marine, abolished by Fianna Fail. I await post-election developments with interest.

It has been a good week for those interested in protection of whales and dolphins. Hundreds of dolphins were spotted off the Old Head of Kinsale, apparently following shoals of herring and sprat on which they were feeding.

In the Antarctic the Japanese whaling fleet was forced to give in to pressure to stop culling. The Japanese have killed hundreds of whales every year, claiming this was for "scientific purposes," even though it has been identified worldwide as for human consumption. The fleet was ordered home by its Government after increasing international pressure.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group published its annual report this week. It was formed in December 1990, dedicated to the "conservation and better understanding" of cetaceans - whales, dolphins and porpoise - in Irish waters through "study, education and interpretation." IWDG turnover in 2010 was around €300,000. It has dealt with up to 10,000 queries a month for information on its website. A total of 92 strandings of 128 individual cetaceans was reported to the IWDG in 2010. This compares to 137 strandings of 169 animals for 2009.

This week oil prices rose because of the unrest in Libya and David Surplus, Chairman of B9 Energy Britain's largest windfarm operator, warned that sooner or later oil will run out. BP is examining the possibility of building a fleet of carbon-neutral, wind-powered sail ships planned, to carry world trade.

On the international sailing scene the new AC 45, forerunner of the next generation of America's Cup boats was launched in New Zealand and had its first capsize. The wing-sailed catamaran is designed for speed and close racing, capable of making up to 30 knots, while intended to be handled in tight, tactical courses. An exciting boat to sail, it will also be very testing of ability. The first capsize of the new boat occurred on Auckland's Hauraki Gulf, hit by what was described as "a freak gust of wind," while the crew were doing maintenance on board before a sailing test.

FIRST_CAPSIZE_OF_ADMIRALS_CUP_45

Back in dock after the capsize

It capsized fully, ending upside down. Three support vessels were needed to pick up the crew and right the boat which was sailed back to its base in Auckland. There was damage to the wing sail, but no injuries to the crew. However, helmets may be an additional precaution needed for sailing these boats, which are to be used in the AC World Series! This will be a circuit of eight regattas for which venue bids are being made at present, with fleet and match racing, to raise the profile of high-performance sailing on worldwide television. Racing is to start in July, with regattas running until May of next year, leading into preparations for the next full AC series in the bigger AC72 catamarans in 2013 in San Francisco.

As the past week showed, there is always something interesting in the sea.

This article is reprinted by permission of the EVENING ECHO newspaper, Cork, where Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website: www.eecho.ie

Published in Island Nation

Fine Gael has pledged to reinstate the Department of the Marine in its election manifesto published today. Under the heading 'steering the marine' Fine Gael also says it will replace the Boards of all State Port companies and Harbour Commissions within one year of entering government. The full chapter dealing with Marine is below:

1.11 Supporting the Seafood Sector and Marine
Expanding the Industry: Fine Gael believes Ireland, as an island nation with a strong and valued fishing tradition has huge potential to succeed as a serious competitor in the international seafood sector. The seafood industry currently generates annual revenues of €718 million and provides direct employment for 11,000 people. With an estimated 40 million tonnes of seafood to be required annually by 2030, there is significant scope for further expansion.

Common Fisheries Policy:

We will negotiate the best possible deal for Irish fishermen in the context of the ongoing review of the Common Fisheries Policy. Our priorities are:
• A progressive reduction of discards, fishery by fishery and in all maritime regions in the EU.
• Protection of the Hague Preferences.
• A uniform and transparent regulation regime.
• A clear, independently audited database of infringements across the EU.
• The development of a sustainable aquaculture plan.
• A strong focus on seafood marketing, labelling and country of origin to ensure imports meet the same
standards on safety, hygiene, traceability, recall, information and audit.

Sea Fisheries Bill:

We will publish legislation to replace the criminal sanctions system for minor fisheries offences with an administrative sanction system to bring Ireland into line with other European jurisdictions.

Funding for Fisheries:

Fianna Fáil and Green Party in-fighting has limited Ireland's ability to draw down EU funds for seafood development. We will resolve difficulties blocking the drawdown of available funds. Aquaculture Licensing: An additional 42 million tonnes of farmed seafood will be required to keep pace with demand each year by 2030, just 20 years away. We must increase our raw material supply and expand our aquaculture sector. We will remove administrative obstacles and clear the backlog of aquaculture licences currently preventing the creation of thousands of jobs in the aquaculture sector.

Value Added Products:

Currently, 85% of all Irish seafood is commodity traded. There is a significant opportunity to generate more value from this raw material base. Fine Gael will task Bord Iascaigh Mhara with assisting Irish companies in adding value to their products through innovation.

Single Food Label:

We will create and market a single label for all Irish produce and will drive a targeted marketing campaign to grow the Irish brand in new markets.

1.12 Steering the Marine

Marine Department:

Marine and fisheries policy is currently spread across three Departments. Fine Gael will merge these responsibilities under one Department for better co-ordination in policy delivery.

National Marine and Coastal Plan:

We will develop an integrated marine and coastal planning process to reach the full potential of our coastline in fishing, aquaculture, ocean energy and tourism.

Ports Development:

We will support the development of our ports and marine sector as important drivers of economic growth. We will also replace the Boards of all State Port companies and Harbour Commissions within one year of entering government.

The manifesto is HERE

Published in News Update

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At A Glance – Boot Dusseldorf 

Organiser
Messe Düsseldorf GmbH
Messeplatz
40474 Düsseldorf
Tel: +49 211 4560-01
Fax: +49 211 4560-668
Web: https://www.boot.com/

The first boats and yachts will once again be arriving in December via the Rhine.

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