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Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue has come to the rescue of Donegal islanders with fishing boats registered in Northern Ireland who were blocked from landing into their nearest port by the Brexit deal.

Northern Irish vessels and boats owned by fishermen in the Republic which are on the British register were informed that they could only land into two designated ports - Killybegs, Co Donegal and Castletownbere, Co Cork – after January 1st.

The State’s Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) had recently initiated an investigation into “unauthorised” landings into Greencastle, Co Donegal.

However, Mr McConalogue says he has arranged for vessels on the British register to land into five additional ports - Greencastle, Burtonport and Rathmullan in Donegal, Ros-a-Mhíl in Galway and Howth in Co Dublin.

He said he was “ working to make sure the necessary notifications and requirements are in place to have these ports operational from Monday, February 1st”.

Under the new designations, Ros a Mhíl and Howth will be able to accommodate landings of demersal (whitefish) catch from vessels under 24 metres, Monday to Friday from 10 am to 10 pm.

Greencastle, Rathmullen and Burtonport will be designated for non-quota species landings from vessels under 18 metres and will operate from 2 pm to 8 pm from Monday to Friday, he said.

These designated hours are due to the need for oversight by the SFPA, he said.

He described it as “an important decision which will allow fishers in small vessels to continue their livelihoods in a safe manner”.

“Following Brexit, it is important now more than ever, to support our fishers and fishing communities and to do all we can do help them continue their livelihoods,” Mr McConalgoue said.

He said that any UK Northern Ireland registered boats landing into any of the seven Irish ports will have to comply with additional documentary and more procedural requirements than before Brexit.

The SFPA had confirmed last week in response to queries about its investigations that UK registered fishing vessels, including those vessels which are registered to addresses in Northern Ireland, are subject to new EU fisheries and food safety controls”.

These “reflect the UK’s status now as a third country,” the SFPA said.

It confirmed Killybegs and Castletownbere as the only two ports allowed to continue to receive landings under two separate designations - the Illegal, Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated – Third Country (IUU-TC) designation and North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) regulations.

The development prompted calls last week by a Northern Irish fish industry executive for “Dublin to reciprocate” an arrangement where all seven Northern Irish ports are still open to vessels on the Republic’s register.

The west Cork vessel Rachel Jay was first Irish vessel since the Brexit regulations came into force to land into Lisahally in Derry with mackerel caught off the Scottish coast.

Alan McCulla of the Anglo North Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation said that while he welcomed the Rachel Jay and other Irish landings, he questioned why “when Belfast saw this coming, Dublin did not”.

“The Northern Irish authorities were able to take measures to keep our ports open to Irish vessels, “he said, adding that “the EU still rules Ireland’s waves”.

Under legislation which was controversially amended in 2019, Northern Irish vessels can fish within the Republic’s six-mile limit – but the legislation does not provide for landing.

The Sea Fisheries Amendment Act 2019 formalised in law a “voisinage” agreement which had existed between the Republic and Northern Ireland since the 1960s, and which was challenged by Greencastle fisherman Gerard Kelly.

Published in Island News
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Fishing communities on both sides of the Irish Sea have marked the 20th anniversary of the sinking of a scallop dredger with the loss of seven lives off the Isle of Man.

The Celtic League non-governmental organisation has also marked the deaths of skipper Andrew Mills (known as Craig), (29), his brother Robin Mills (33), their cousin David Mills (17), Martin Milligan (26), John Murphy (22), David Lyons (18) and Wesley Jolly (17).

All seven men died when their dredger was caught in a storm off the Scottish coast on January 11th, 2000.

The men were all from the Isle of Whithorn area of Dumfries and Galloway, and had set out from Kirkcudbright in south-west Scotland the previous day.

They fished off the Manx coast and planned to steam home on January 11th, but sought refuge in stormy conditions with gale-force nine winds on the northeast coast of the Isle of Man.

Nothing further was heard of the vessel until an emergency beacon was picked up later that day.

The search and rescue mission organised included Manx lifeboats from Ramsey, Port St Mary and Douglas, as well as the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company ferry Ben-My-Chree.

An Irish Air Corps helicopter was involved in the joint search involving vessels and aircraft from Prestwick in Scotland and Anglesey in Wales. The next day two unopened lifeboats from the vessel were found.

The wreck was found 18 km from the Manx coast in 35m of water on January 15th, 2000. The bodies of the seven crew members were on board, but the British Government refused to fund the rescue operation and recovery of the crew.

The Manx government-funded the £1 million the salvage operation. The crew were later returned to their native Scotland for burial.

The British Marine Accident Investigation Branch found that the vessel capsized because its fish room flooded, making it unstable.

Water drained unnoticed into the fish room through scuttles (hatches) on the deck which did not have their covers on.

It said a pump was blocked, and an alarm which warns when the bilges are filling with water was broken - meaning the skipper had no warning the room was flooding.

In the rough seas, the vessel rolled sideways to 30-40 degrees. Tonnes of fish and gear shifted to starboard and water became trapped on the main deck.

Although buoyancy would have allowed the vessel to roll back to 20-25 degrees, the Solway Harvester never regained stability and gradually rolled onto its side.

Published in Fishing
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Marine minister Charlie McConalogue’s department has been criticised for its “chaotic” handling of a permit system for Irish fishing vessels to British waters after Brexit. 

Only a fraction of the entire Irish fleet has been given permits to continued access to British waters – albeit with a reduced quota as a result of Brexit.

“Rockall is not the only issue - the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine had no plan B,” Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation chief executive Patrick Murphy has said.

Mr Murphy described the past week as “chaotic”, and said he was shocked at how unprepared the department was.

Mr McConalogue’s department has confirmed that only 141 vessels out of the full list of 1900 Irish vessel have been given temporary permits to date.

Mayo prawn skipper Paddy Mulvany - concerned about handling of permit system to UK watersMayo prawn skipper Paddy Mulvany - concerned about the handling of a permit system to UK waters

It said that it had requested authorisation on December 31st for all 1900 Irish registered vessels to fish in the British exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between 12 and 200 nautical miles, after notification by the European Commission of the need to do so. 

It said it was “actively and urgently seeking from the UK authorities, through the EU Commission, that all Irish vessels be granted authorisation to fish in UK waters”.

Mr Murphy said arrangements should have been put in place by department officials “months ago”, as preparation for a negative Brexit outcome.

Mayo prawn skipper Paddy Mulvany, who fishes with his 20m Kristel Patrick for 40 per cent of the year in the Celtic Sea, was critical of the department’s “arbitrary” selection which did not include his vessel

He has also questioned the department’s use of the term ” priority vessel” in its response to him last week.

“What does that make the rest of us – second class?” Mulvany said.

"Unless this is sorted, anyone who wants to sell on a boat won't be able to realise its value if it does not have access to British waters," he explained. 

Ireland stands to be the biggest loser in a Brexit deal which sees EU member states lose 25 per cent of catch overall, but separate administrative authorisation for continued access “should not have been left to the last minute”, Mr Murphy said.

Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) chief executive Sean O’Donoghue said that the department’s approach was “pragmatic”, in ensuring those vessels preparing to go to sea on January 1st had authorisation. 

Mr O’Donoghue said the initial permits only last for three weeks, and expects a second list will be issue for the full year. He said he understood Britain “couldn’t handle” the full list.

Meanwhile, Mr McConalogue and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney have said there remains an “increased risk of enforcement action being taken by Scottish fisheries control authorities against Irish vessels operating in the waters around Rockall at present”.

This follows last week’s warning by Marine Scotland to a Donegal vessel fishing within 12 nautical miles of Rockall.

Sinn Féín marine spokesman Padraig MacLochlainn said he had warned the then marine minister Michael Creed in 2019, when the issue last flared up, that a 2013 agreement between the Irish and British governments “essentially recognised British sovereignty over Rockall”.

The 2013 agreement signed by former Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore established a single maritime boundary between the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of the two countries and parts of their Continental Shelves. 

“This is a shameful agreement that has never been ratified by the Dáil,” Mr MacLochlainn said. 

Ireland “could have supported the governments of Iceland and Denmark in demanding shared sovereignty and fishing rights around Rockall but chose not to do so”, Mr MacLochlainn said.

Published in Fishing
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There remains an increased risk of enforcement action being taken by Scottish fisheries control authorities against Irish fishing vessels operating in the waters around Rockall at present according to a  joint statement by the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Agriculture, Food and the Marine issued this evening.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine met to discuss recent developments in relation to Rockall.

As Afloat reported previously, the Ministers says they are 'fully aware' of interactions between an Irish fishing vessel, and a Marine Scotland patrol vessel in recent days.

The Irish Government has been in contact with the relevant Scottish and UK authorities.

The statement says that through this engagement, the Irish Government is seeking to address the issues involved, reflecting the longstanding fisheries tradition in the area. Taking account of the new EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, this may also require contact with the European Commission.

In addressing these issues, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, as well as their respective officials, are considering all options for further engagement on the issues involved and are continuing to work closely together.

While engagement continues, the government says there remains an increased risk of enforcement action being taken by Scottish fisheries control authorities against Irish vessels operating in the waters around Rockall at present.

Published in Fishing
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The BBC has reported that fishermen in the north-west are saying that Post-Brexit restrictions on where Northern Ireland boats can land their catch in the Republic of Ireland have "created a hard border on the island",

A new Irish government rule came into effect on 31 December 2020 meaning that Northern Ireland registered vessels can now land only at two Irish ports – Killybegs, the largest fishing port in the country located on the south coast of the County Donegal or at Castletownbere on the Beara Peninsula in County Cork. This has created serious problems for crews in the north-west.

Skipper Darrin McAvenue has a Northern Ireland registered boat though he fishes out of Greencastle, his home port on County Donegal's Inishowen peninsula on the Northern shore of Lough Foyle. He said he "has always "fished in Northern Ireland waters around the north coast. So we have a Northern Ireland-registered boat to do that," he told the BBC's Radio Foyle.

Up until the end of 2020 he could return to Greencastle to land his catch. "That's where we tie our boats, that is where I live and where most of the crew lives," he said.

On Wednesday, he said Irish government officials notified him he could no longer do so.
Instead, he landed his catch in Portrush on the North Co Antrim coast of Northern Ireland, before returning home. He said that when docking in Greencastle he was also told by Sea Fisheries Protection Authority officials that he "had broken the law by entering a southern port".

"I am still in shock - the last couple of years we have been told there is no hard border, then this," he said. Fishing is "the only way we know how to pay the mortgage and put food on the table. To be told you cannot make a living is hard to accept - I don't know where we stand, everything is up in the air".

It is reported that the N I Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has written to Northern Ireland fishermen to notify them of the new Irish government rules. And BBC reports that a DAERA spokesman said following the end of the implementation period the "UK is now outside the regime applying to EU fishing vessels.

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) in the Republic of Ireland has asked DAERA to point out to Northern Ireland licensees that landings in the Republic should only be at the designated ports of Killybegs and Castletownbere. The regulations say that UK licensed boats may not land into nor access services in any other ports in the Republic".

Another Greencastle skipper Liam O'Brien said the rule changes are "devastating" for the local-based crews working Northern Ireland-registered vessels. "These boys have been kicked in the stomach by their own government".

BBC also reports that fishing boats registered in the Republic are still able to use facilities in Northern Ireland and this week Sinn Féin's Donegal TD Padraig MacLochlainn told Radio Foyle that the new rules were a "huge issue for smaller vessels and boats".

The BBC has asked the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and the Marine in the Republic of Ireland for comment but has yet to receive a response.

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What would our island nation be like if we did not have thriving coastal communities?

How much awareness is there amongst government politicians and the mandarins of the civil service that there is a considerable level of fear and concern about their future because of the outcome of the Brexit Agreement negotiations and its effect on the fishing industry upon which these communities depend?

These thoughts are in my mind for this week's Podcast because, it seems to me, our coastal communities' survival is at stake, and I am not certain that this is fully understood by the public.

Why are coastal communities so important?

Because there is so much of Irish life, culture and history in the coastal communities and aspects of our land borne lives depend upon them. There is the supply of seafood, maintained during the Covid pandemic. These communities have manned the lifeboat service for generations; they provide the volunteers of the Coast Guard. How many times, when emergencies occur, are there the accounts of the magnificent response by the coastal communities?

There should be more understanding of their needs. Who doesn't enjoy visits, holidays, to the coastal communities, many of which are also big sailing locations - think Dingle – Dunmore East – Schull and some which have already seen their fishing fleets shrink – Crosshaven, Baltimore for example – because of the combined onset of EU regulatory controls and Irish government neglect and its failure to appreciate, protect and defend the importance of the Irish fishing fleet.

The government is accused by the fishing industry of failing again to defend Irish fishing. The Taoiseach and the Minister for the Marine, one from Cork, the other Donegal, admitted that the impact on the Irish fleet will be severe, but that a deal was better than 'no deal'. That is not accepted in the coastal communities where there is great anger and particularly towards the suggestion that Irish fishermen owners should "decommission" their boats - which really says to Irish fishermen that they should give up and get out of the industry.

Patrick Murphy Mof the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ OrganisationPatrick Murphy Mof the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation

As a fishermen put it to me this week: "Why should we be thrown on the scrapheap when Ireland has the richest fishing waters in Europe, but other nations benefit from them, not Ireland?" A very strong opinion was voiced on my Maritime Ireland Radio Show, such that I feel Afloat listeners should hear Patrick Murphy, Chief Executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers' Organisation in Castletownbere, West Cork as he outlines what life is really like in the coastal communities and why there is so much concern and fear about their future.

Listen to the Podcast below

Published in Tom MacSweeney

Sinn Féin has criticised the Government’s handling of a seven-year-old agreement with Britain on Rockall after an Irish fishing vessel was inspected by a Scottish patrol earlier this week.

Sinn Féin fisheries and marine spokesman Pádraig MacLochlainn was reacting to a claim by the Donegal-based Northern Celt that it was told by Scottish authorities on Monday that it could not fish within 12 miles of Rockall.

Skipper Adrian McClenaghan said he had a permit to continue to fish within British waters.

Mr MacLochlainn said he had warned the then Irish marine minister Michael Creed in 2019 that a 2013 agreement between the Irish and British governments establishing a Single Maritime Boundary between the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of the two countries and parts of their Continental Shelves, “essentially recognised British sovereignty over Rockall”.

Padraig MacLochlainn, Sinn Fein spokesman on the MarinePadraig MacLochlainn, Sinn Fein spokesman on the Marine

“This is a shameful agreement that has never been ratified by the Dáil,” Mr MacLochlainn said.

Ireland “could have supported the governments of Iceland and Denmark in demanding shared sovereignty and fishing rights around Rockall but chose not to do so”, he said.

He said that Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and his Fine Gael party had “created this mess” and “need to sort it out”.

The 2013 agreement was signed on Ireland’s behalf by then Tánaiste and foreign affairs minister Eamon Gilmore.

The Irish government maintains that Rockall, as an uninhabited rock, does not have an EEZ under Article 121 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

However, when the issue flared up last in mid-2019, two Irish maritime lawyers disagreed.

Rockall expert Prof Clive Symmons of Trinity College, Dublin and Prof Ronán Long, who is ocean governance and law of the sea chair at the World Maritime University, both stated that rocks can generate 12-mile territorial sea limits under the same UN convention.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has said it is aware of “contact between an Irish fishing vessel and a Marine Scotland patrol vessel” and has been in contact with the Scottish and UK authorities.

A Scottish government spokesperson said: “One Irish vessel was routinely inspected outside of territorial waters around Rockall”

"The master requested clarification on the access rights granted by his licence to fish in UK waters,” it said.

The KFO fears the renewal of tensions over Rockall may jeopardise the seasonal non-quota squid fishery for Irish vessels.

Up to 30 per cent of whitefish, including haddock, caught by Killybegs and Greencastle vessels is taken around Rockall.

Published in Fishing
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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s seafood development agency is today urging every seafood business who trades with or through Great Britain, no matter how small his or her operations, to continue to familiarise themselves with the impacts any new rules or processes will have on his or her operations and supply chains.

Jim O’Toole, CEO BIM, acknowledged the dual challenge the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit is having on the sector and said:

“The focus of BIM and other state agencies including the SFPA is to continue to provide support and guidance to the sector during this challenging time. By working together and taking action now, we can reduce the impact of Brexit as much as possible. Brexit has changed the way many seafood businesses operate and they need to be ready for this change.”

Any seafood business that has not already done so, is being urged to complete BIM’s Brexit Readiness Assessment questionnaire. The short questionnaire takes less than 5 minutes to complete and can signpost businesses to the steps they need to take to get Brexit ready. The assessment questionnaire covers customs and revenue, registrations, supply chain, financial management.

BIM’s online Brexit hub also includes guidance and financial support for seafood businesses. These include access to funding to support businesses that are importing/exporting products to Great Britain.

For more information go to  the BIM Brexit hub

Published in Aquaculture
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Lifeboat crew at Castletownbere RNLI were launched yesterday afternoon (Saturday 2nd January) at 15:30 to assist an 11-metre fishing boat which had lost power 18 miles south west of Castletownbere Harbour in West Cork.

The lifeboat, under coxswain Aaron O’Boyle, was launched within minutes and located the stricken vessel 51 minutes later. The Castletownbere-based fishing boat had three people on board none of whom required medical attention. On scene, there was a three-metre swell and force 5/6 north-westerly winds. The volunteer lifeboat crew attached a tow rope and proceeded to tow the vessel to Castletownbere harbour where it was berthed at the pier at just before 8.00 p.m.

This was the first call-out for Castletownbere lifeboat with Coxswain Aaron O’Boyle (above) in commandThis was the first call-out for Castletownbere lifeboat with Coxswain Aaron O’Boyle (above) in command

Commenting on callout Castletownbere RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager Paul Stevens said, ‘This was the first shout for the station in 2021 and the first call-out with Coxswain O’Boyle in command. He and the volunteer crew undertook the rescue with great skill and efficiency and there was a positive outcome.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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As details emerge on the full negative impact of Brexit on the Irish fishing industry, two Wexford skippers have called for the appointment of a dedicated minister for marine. 

Scallop skippers Will Bates and Seamus Molloy who fish from Kilmore Quay have welcomed Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s appeal for “progressive ideas” from the fishing industry. 

However, they have said the government must have a Cabinet member whose sole task is to provide leadership in relation to the difficulties facing the Irish marine sector.

Seamus Molloy - Kilmore Quay fishermanSeamus Molloy - Kilmore Quay Scallop fisherman. Screenshot: Sean Moroney

Ireland must start “taking back”, given that it will represent some 12 per cent of EU waters – but with “30 per cent of fishable waters”, the fishermen have said.

"Ireland should seek a share of the bluefin tuna quotas allocated to other EU member states"

As a first step, Ireland should seek a share of the bluefin tuna quotas allocated to other EU member states, given that the migratory fish spend up to four months off this coast, they say.

Under the Brexit deal finalised on Christmas Eve, the EU is handing back 25 per cent of its share of the catch in British waters. 

There will be a five-and-a-half-year transition period, after which both sides will hold annual negotiations on some 100 shared stocks from 2026.

Seán O'Donoghue, chief executive of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO), said the deal demonstrated the “duplicitous nature of the protracted negotiations” and that the “repeated guarantees” given to Irish fishermen had effectively been shredded.

The four and a half years of agreements have for all intent and purposes been “dishonoured by the negotiators” the KFO leader has said.

The reaction of the Kilmore Quay skippers can be heard on Wavelengths below

Published in Fishing
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