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Skippers and crew working on the 2,022 registered fishing vessels in Ireland can now access an interactive digital fisheries chart which provides guidance on a vast number of conservation and fisheries management regulations designed to help fishermen understand the rules that apply and support sustainability in sea fisheries.

The chart, developed by BIM in partnership with the Marine Institute and the Sea Fisheries Protection Agency (SFPA) and funded under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund provides guidance on European and national regulations concerning closed areas, mesh size and restrictions on the use of certain fishing gears.

The online version of the fisheries management chart can be accessed at www.fisheriesmanagementchart.ie. The print format of the Fisheries Management Chart produced annually, will continue to be distributed and is available to download from www.bim.ie

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Micheál Martin and new marine minister Charlie McConalogue are expected to meet fishing industry representatives over the Government’s controversial re-introduction of a penalty points system to regulate commercial fishing.

The meeting has not yet been confirmed by Government, but KFO chief executive Seán O’Donoghue said he understood that both Mr Martin and Mr McConalogue were due to meet industry representatives in “the very near future”.

The Donegal TD, who this week became Mr Martin’s third appointee to the agriculture, food and marine brief in two months, is on record as stating that the “needs of the fishing sector” should be taken into account in relation to penalty points.

Penalty points as administrative sanctions for fishing offences have been sought by the EU as part of the Common Fisheries Policy.

The industry says it does not oppose it in principle, but is seeking a system which allows for adequate appeal.

“The existing one was thrown out by the courts on the basis that it did not allow for a right of appeal, except through a court of law, and penalties could still remain on a license if the case is thrown out,” Mr O’Donoghue explained.

“The new Programme for Government had said any new system must be fair, and we took that to mean there would be more consultation,” he said.

Mr O’Donoghue said he believed Mr Martin was not fully aware of the legislation he was approving late last week during an “interregnum period” when he was acting marine minister.

“His two previous ministers – Barry Cowen and Dara Calleary - were both aware that there needed to be more consultation,” Mr O’Donoghue said.

Mr McConalogue was appointed to the agriculture, food and marine brief this week to replace Mr Calleary, who resigned after The Irish Examiner reported that he was one of 81 people who attended an Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in Clifden, Co Galway last month.

Mr McConalogue’s Dáil statement on penalty points two years ago was quoted earlier this week by Sinn Féin marine spokesman Padraig McLochlainn in a Twitter thread for the Taoiseach’s attention.

Speaking on a Fianna Fáil private members’ motion to annul the existing system – which was carried on May 29th, 2018 – Mr McConalogue had said that the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine’s “track record in introducing a penalty-points regime has been poor”.

Other EU member states afforded the option to challenge the imposition of points “using lesser forms of proof”, but Irish fishermen were being denied this in this system, Mr O’Donoghue said.

The Government said earlier this week that fishermen who remain within the law have nothing to fear.

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When new marine minister Dara Calleary recently rolled out EU monies to help coastal communities diversify, there was some dismay within the fishing industry.

As The Sunday Times reports today, a garden trail, an art website, a tower house restoration and new stand up paddleboards are among some 93 projects which were awarded grants totalling 1.2 million under the Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG) scheme late last month.

“The one thing that unites all these projects is their contribution to the economic and social development of traditional fishing communities,” Mr Calleary stated when releasing the list of FLAG grants.

“Grant aid for materials for painters and decorators by the looks of it, yet nothing specific and meaningful yet to help the hundred of inshore fishing enterprises that face a very uncertain future,”the National Inshore Fishermen’s Association responded.

Its members have already expressed bitter disappointment at the small level of compensation offered by Government for a temporary tie-up scheme due to COVID 19, amounting to between 500 euro and 6,000 euro for a maximum of two months, depending on size of vessel.

Dr Kevin Flannery, chair of the FLAG committee for the south-west, says it is “time to revamp this fund to ensure people with links to the fishing industry have a role in technical evaluation, and that coastal communities are actually benefiting”.

“Marine tourism has such potential that it deserves its own agency,” Dr Flannery added.

Defending the FLAG scheme, Mr Calleary said neither his department nor Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) have a say in the allocation of funding.

BIM also said it “does not have a say”, and “provides administrative and technical support”.

Read more on The Sunday Times report here

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A leading fishing industry representative has warned of “skirmishes at sea” throughout Europe if there is a “no-deal” Brexit.

Speaking to The Irish Examiner for Ocean Week 2020, Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) chief executive Sean O’Donoghue says there could be “flashpoints everywhere from Rockall to the North Sea to the Celtic Sea and English Channel”.

Fisheries biologist Dr Peter Tyndall of the National Fishermen’s Development Group says Brexit is an opportunity for Europe to accept that Ireland suffered a serious injustice in the original EU access deal.

"Ireland's moral right to greater access to its own waters must be central to any Brexit negotiations"

“So, if Britain wants to play hardball, then the quotas given to the British-registered Spanish vessels for stocks off the Irish west coast should revert to Ireland,” says Dr Tyndall.

Founding editor of the fishing industry’s monthly The Skipper publication Arthur Reynolds believes that recognition that Ireland has a moral right to greater access to its own waters must be central to any Brexit negotiations.

“Germany didn’t have to open up access to Ruhr coalfields. France didn’t have to open up access to its vineyards. Ireland and Denmark were the only two member states with a surplus of fish when the CFP was drawn up,” Reynolds says.

Reynolds cautions that he is not talking about increasing catches to an unsustainable level to compensate Ireland, but about a more equitable share out among EU coastal states of the existing resource.

The Covid-19 pandemic may have knocked Brexit off headlines, but it also exposed how dependent the British fleet is on the European market — a market which collapsed from March, when restaurants closed.

Castletownbere Fishermen’s Co-op manager John Nolan was disappointed to see how protectionist some EU partners became in the early stages of the Covid-19 related crisis on markets.

“Our Irish whitefish industry is largely export-led, and we experienced a situation where prime Irish monkfish could not be sold in France, and we ended up having to let it go for fishmeal at 10c a kilo,” Nolan says.

For more on The Irish Examiner, read here

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A German-registered Spanish fishing vessel detained last week by the Naval Service near Rockall had been at the centre of an alleged confrontation off the Scottish coast last month.

As The Irish Examiner reports, the 29-metre Pesorsa Dos was detained by Irish navy patrol ship LÉ William Butler Yeats some 250 miles off Malin Head, Co Donegal for “alleged infringements of EU fishing regulations in Irish waters” on July 16th.

Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has highlighted the Irish detention, noting the British authorities said they could not take any action over an incident involving the same Spanish vessel off Scotland.

However, defence force sources have said the Irish detention was for a separate alleged infringement.

Video footage of the gill netter, from the Spanish port of La Coruna, filmed on June 11th, showed it allegedly trying to foul the propeller of a Scottish fishing vessel, Alison Kay, some 30 miles west of the Shetland islands.

The British Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) was urged to investigate the incident, which Scottish skippers claimed to be the latest in a series of such confrontations over fishing grounds.

However, the MCA said it had no jurisdiction to investigate it as it was outside the 12-mile jurisdictional limit in which it could take action against foreign-flagged vessels.

It said its maritime investigations team had written to the German maritime administration “to raise its concerns”, as it was the responsibility of the flag state.

The German federal police department for maritime security has been reported as stating there is “no suspicion of an offence under German law”.

It is understood the vessel was gillnetting near Rockall, and had ten tonnes of monkfish on board when it was boarded and detained by the LÉ William Butler Yeats.

The vessel was escorted to Killybegs, Co Donegal and handed over to the Garda and the Sea Fisheries Protection Agency (SFPA).

Mr Carmichael said the fact that “the Irish authorities were able to detain the Pesorsa Dos entirely undermines the argument of the UK and German authorities that there was nothing to be done about its dangerous activities”.

He told the MCA in a letter that the actions of Spanish fishermen had “caused a great deal of anger and frustration for trawlermen in my constituency and across the north of Scotland in recent years”, due to both “aggressive acts such as those outlined, and the wider use of gill-nets which can cover large areas and thus prevent other fishermen from working in those areas”.

The SFPA said that a 24-hour detention order for the vessel was granted on July 21st at Carrick-on-Shannon district court in Co Leitrim. It said it could not comment further as the case was before the courts. It was the Naval Service’s seventh detention at sea this year.

Read more in The Irish Examiner here

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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.

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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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