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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.

Published in Fishing
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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MFV Ellie Adhamh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in MCIB

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

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

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

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

European Maritime and Fisheries Fund

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

Payments to fishing vessel owners for temporary cessation

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

Covid-19 Fleet Tie-up Scheme

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

To Qualify for the Scheme

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

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

Size of vessel

Payment over 1-month tie-up period

Payment over 2-month tie-up period

> 24m

€6,000

€12,000

18 < 24m

€4,600

€9,200

15 < 18m

€2,000

€4,000

12 < 15m

€1,900

€3,800

10 < 12m

€800

€1,600

8 < 10m

€750

€1,500

6 < 8m

€500

€1,000

<6m

€500

€1,000


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Fishing
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Two Irish fish industry groupings have questioned the methodology used in a report published last week which claims Ireland is among the top five EU states who are “overfishing”.

The Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) has questioned how the report by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) could place Ireland in an overfishing league when Ireland has a low share overall of quotas in European waters.

The Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO ) has also questioned the methodology, while the European Commission says fish is now being caught at sustainable levels.

An analysis of catches over 20 years by the British-based think- tank – which is reliant on trusts and individuals for contributions – found that most “excess tonnage” of fish has been caught by Britain, Denmark and Spain – at 1.78M tonnes, 1.48M tonnes and 1.04M tonnes respectively

However, it claimed that Spain, Ireland, Portugal, the Netherlands and Germany all gained the highest percentage of quotas “above scientifically advised levels for sustainable limits” over a 20-year period.

In an initial response, the European Commission’s maritime directorate DG Mare has said that while 70 per cent of stocks in the north-east Atlantic were “overfished” in 2003, there have been “significant improvements over the past 20 years” which have led to a forecast this year that 99 per cent of all fish landed is at “sustainable levels”.

The IS&WFPO says that Irish vessels tend to have lower quotas for some whitefish species than French or Spanish boats fishing off the Irish coast. It cites hake as one example - it says France's quota for hake was 7.5 times that of Ireland in 2019.

It also points out the Irish fleet also doesn't have access to whitefish quotas in other EU waters beyond Britain, and is largely confined to the Celtic Sea/Atlantic/Irish Sea.

It says that the landings of French, Spanish and German-registered vessels into Castletownbere, Co Cork has increased by 25-30 per cent per annum over the past five years, and says that the NEF is “not comparing like with like to rank states purely in terms of quotas set above scientific advice”.

The report’s author, Griffin Carpenter, said that the question was “whether the EU council of ministers followed scientific advice when setting quotas, and which member states were then fishing the excess total allowable catch (TAC) agreed”.

He said that Ireland’s marine minister Michael Creed is “on record arguing or higher TACs than scientific advice”.

“For some TACs Ireland has a small share, while for others it has a large share,” Mr Carpenter said.

“For some TACs the December Council agreement follows scientific advice, while for others it departs from advice. This study puts all TACs together and across 20 years rather than pick one or two anecdotes,” he said.

“Of course it’s disappointing when a country is near the top of the list but the methodology is peer-reviewed and is pretty straight forward,” he said.

Fintan Kelly of Birdwatch Ireland said that “securing quotas above scientific advice is overfishing”.

“If the fishing mortality resulting from the TAC is greater than that stocks ability to replenish its biomass through growth and reproduction then the size of the stock will decrease,” he said.

“ This will mean that everyone who has a slice (relative stability) of the pie (the TAC) will be worse off in time,” he said.

“The scientists with the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) tell the EU Council exactly what level they should set the TAC at to ensure that the stock does not decrease in size,” Mr Kelly said.

“ Indeed NGO’s would consider the ICES advice to be a limit rather than a target since fishing below that level would allow a stocks size to increase until it has reached the carrying capacity of the environment,” he said.

“ Considering that most stocks are at a fraction of their historical size, countries like Ireland should be trying to increase the amount of fish in the sea,” he noted.

“An analysis of the stocks that Ireland has a share in shows that many of them are among the most overfished in the north-east Atlantic,” Mr Kelly added.

He cited Celtic Sea herring stocks as an example and said that “the narrative that Ireland isn't responsible for overfishing because we only have a small share of quota doesn't hold up”.

Published in Fishing
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A new environmental report on fish catches in EU waters ranks Ireland among the top five in a European “overfishing league table”.

The report by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) has claimed that Spain, Ireland, Portugal, the Netherlands and Germany all gained the highest percentage of quotas “above scientifically advised levels for sustainable limits” over a 20-year period.

However, most “excess tonnage” of fish has been caught by Britain, Denmark and Spain – at 1.78M tonnes, 1.48M tonnes and 1.04M tonnes respectively – over two decades, the report says.

In an initial response, the European Commission’s maritime directorate DG Mare has said that while 70 per cent of stocks in the north-east Atlantic were “overfished”, there have been “significant improvements over the past 20 years” which have led to a forecast this year that 99 per cent of all fish landed is at “sustainable levels”.

Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation chief executive Sean O’Donoghue questioned the methodology used and said that on an initial examination, the NEF report did not appear to make a valid case for its conclusions.

The NEF and non-governmental organisation “Our Fish” claim that collectively the EU member states have overfished by 8.78 million tonnes during the last two decades.

The NEF is a London-based charity which is funded by a number of trusts and foundations.

Fish QuotaA report by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) has claimed that Spain, Ireland, Portugal, the Netherlands and Germany all gained the highest percentage of quotas “above scientifically advised levels for sustainable limits” over a 20-year period

The two organisations have called on the EU and its member states to “include ending overfishing” and “restoring ocean health” in the EU Green Deal on the basis of their findings.

The report was prepared before the full impact of the Covid-19 pandemic which has tied up many fleets due to a dramatic fall in prices and restrictions or closures of market and supply chains.

Its analysis for Ireland over the past two decades says that “on average, quotas were set 24% above scientific advice in Ireland’s favour, placing Ireland second on the “overfishing league table” behind Spain.

It says that from 2001 to 2020 Ireland set 765,000 tonnes of quota above scientific advice, placing Ireland sixth in tonnes.

The report notes that “some quotas are consistently set above advice including pollack in the Celtic Sea, herring to the west of Scotland and Ireland”.

It says that “the Irish fishing industry and government work in close coordination, with Minister [Michael] Creed, explicitly citing an industry representative as shaping his behaviour”.

Our Fish spokesman Mike Walker commented that “as Irish political parties negotiate a new government, this report should serve as evidence of the causes of the biodiversity and climate emergency, and exemplify how responsible fisheries management could restore the marine environment and the communities who rely on it”.

NEF senior researcher Griffin Carpenter said that if the EU “delivered on its commitment to end overfishing and rebuild damaged fish stocks to sustainable levels, it could create over 20,000 new jobs, provide food for 89 million people, and generate an extra €1.6 billion in annual revenue”.

The NEF analysis calculates that six out of ten total allowable catches (TACs) were set above scientific advice between 2001 and 2020 on average.

“While the percentage by which TACs were set above advice declined throughout this period (from 39% to 10% in all EU waters), the proportion of TACs set above advice has had a lesser decline, from eight out of ten TACs to five out of ten,”it says.

A European Commission spokesman said that “while we are yet to familiarise ourselves with the details of this report and the underlying methodology, it is important to note that the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has led to significant improvements in sustainable fisheries in the north-east Atlantic over the past 20 years”.

“In certain cases, scientists do not have enough data to determine with confidence the sustainable catch level,” the spokesman said.

“ We are working with member states to improve the data for the scientists continuously,” the spokesman said.

“The interpretation of catch levels for those stocks with limited scientific assessment can lead to different conclusions as regards the overall sustainability of fisheries,” he said.

“Oceans not only contribute to climate change mitigation but also provide us with healthy and nutritious food,” the spokesman said, with “a much lower environmental impact” compared to terrestrial food production.

“. It is important that seafood is derived in a sustainable way, which does not compromise marine ecosystems. In this respect, the CFP will play a key role in ensuring the continued provision of sustainable fish protein to the consumers,” the spokesman said.

“The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund will also play an important role in this transition. One-third of the future fund is expected to contribute to climate objectives, thus contributing to the achievement of an overall target of 25 % of the EU budget supporting these objectives,” the spokesman said.

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