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The Government’s soft-touch approach on access to Rockall’s fishing waters for Irish boats is “totally unacceptable”, a former state marine scientist has said.

As Times.ie reports today, Dr Peter Tyndall has also called on the government to push for a renationalisation of European waters to allow coastal states greater access to their own fish stocks.

He said the EU could still handle the management of shared and migratory stocks under a “more honest” Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

Dr Tyndall, formerly a BIM gear technologist, was commenting after last month’s warning by Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue of “increased risk of enforcement action” by Scottish authorities around Rockall while “engagement continues”.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon CoveneyMinister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney

Their joint statement was issued four days after Donegal vessel Northern Celt was boarded by a Marine Scotland fisheries patrol while fishing within 12 miles of Rockall.

Ireland has never made any claims to Rockall, located some 230 nautical miles off north-west Donegal, nor has it recognised British sovereignty claims or a 12 nautical mile territorial sea limit.

Ireland is due to bear the brunt of a return of EU quotas to Britain, at a 15 per cent overall reduction in Irish quotas.

Tyndall said that the CFP, which is due for review in 2023, is “clearly a failure”.

He said he Irish government should now “engage the best legal minds” before 2023 to challenge a management system which is “in breach of the Treaties of Europe on the rights of fishing communities to an income”.

“The CFP is rife with injustices and the British Tory party actively worked this emotive subject to influence votes in the Leave campaign,” he said.

“ The effect that the CFP has had in Europe is totally disproportionate to its economic contribution. Norway rejected EU membership on two occasions while Iceland decided not to join. Greenland, a home rule dependency of Denmark, pulled away,” Tyndall recalled.

“ Even with the new agenda of reducing carbon emissions there is a strong argument that those closest to the resource should access them proportionately,” he said.

“Ireland’s leaders should have the courage to initiate this conversation with our European partners in the knowledge that it can lead to a fairer system and healthier stocks which would be more in keeping with the stated aspirations of European partnership,” Tyndall said.

Asked to comment, the Department of Foreign Affairs referred to Mr Coveney’s Dáil response on February 3rd

Read more in Times.ie here

Published in Fishing
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Wicklow RNLI lifeboat brought two fishermen to safety today after their vessel developed engine trouble six miles east of Greystones harbour.

The all-weather lifeboat under the command of Coxswain Tommy McAulay was tasked by the Coast Guard at 12:15pm and proceeded north to assist the fishermen.

The seven-metre fishing vessel with engine failure was located thirty minutes later, near the East Codling Buoy. Conditions on scene were sea state slight with good visibility. A towline was passed to the fishing vessel and a course was set for Greystones Harbour.

The fishing vessel was brought alongside at Greystones harbour and the two crew were landed safely ashore just before 2pm this afternoon.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

The Chief Executive of the State agency, Water Safety Ireland, has made an appeal to all fishermen to take a "risk-based approach" to safety throughout the year to reduce tragedies which coastal communities have endured.

John Leech says that the first quarter of the year "normally brings with it some of the worst fishing vessel tragedies of the year."

"I would like," he says, "to see all our fishermen use a risk-based approach throughout the year and that their families support them in their endeavours. This will help reduce these awful tragedies that our coastal communities have endured each year.

Formerly the Naval Officer who led that Service's Diving Unit and took part in many search-and-rescue operations, John Leech delivers a message about the need for "an enhanced maritime safety culture" on this week's Podcast.

As well as being CEO of the State agency responsible for promoting water safety he is also an experienced sailor, crewed aboard Ireland's round-the-world yacht, NCB Ireland and is one of the top Race Officers for sailing events.

His message, to fishermen, in particular, can also be applied to everyone working in the marine sector and to those who go on the water for leisure, sailing, motorboating, windsurfing, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, all the maritime sports.

The fishing vessel, Alize, from Kilmore Quay that disappeared south of Hook HeadThe fishing vessel, Alize, from Kilmore Quay that disappeared south of Hook Head

"This time last year we all learned of the tragic news that the fishing vessel, Alize, from Kilmore Quay had disappeared approximately south of Hook Head.

"All around our coast we have sacrificed so many lives to the fishing industry with several memorials dotted around our coastline to remember these brave fishermen to whom we all owe a great debt of gratitude for keeping our fishmongers supplied with fresh fish and for keeping our fish processors in business," he says,

Podcast below.

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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The search for a missing fishing vessel with three people on board continues off the coast of North Wales.

HM Coastguard has been co-ordinating an extensive search to find the vessel since just after 10 am today (28 January) after it failed to return when it was expected.

Rhyl, Bangor and Llandudno Coastguard Rescue Teams have been sent along with RNLI lifeboats from Rhyl, Llandudno, Conwy and Beaumaris.

The HM Coastguard search and rescue helicopter from Caernarfon and a fixed-wing Coastguard aircraft have also been assisting with the search.

North Wales Police are also involved and broadcasts have been made to alert vessels in the nearby area. Despite the extensive search to find the vessel and its crew, nothing has been found so far.

Duty Controller for HM Coastguard Rob Priestley said: “We are continuing to search a wide area to try and find this vessel with all the assets we have at our disposal. We’re also asking other vessels in the area to keep a look out for anything that might also assist the search.”

Published in Coastguard
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Marine minister Charlie McConalogue says he has expressed Ireland’s “serious concerns” at EU level about a “ disproportionate burden being borne” by it in relation to fish quotas lost under Brexit.

Mr McConalogue said he conveyed this at an informal EU agriculture and fisheries council on January 25th, and Ireland was “awaiting to hear how this matter will be urgently addressed.”

An Oireachtas agriculture and marine committee was told last week that Ireland had taken a disproportionately large hit in the final deal.

Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation chief executive Sean O’Donoghue said that if the total loss to nine coastal states is valued at €182 million, Ireland should have lost some €20 million in quotas.

Instead, Ireland’s loss has been calculated at over €42 million, he noted.

Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation chief executive Sean O’DonoghueKillybegs Fishermen's Organisation chief executive Sean O’Donoghue

The frontloading of cuts over five-and-a-half years to 60 per cent this year was also unexpected, he said.

“We have formally requested our government to go back to Brussels and demand that the eight other EU coastal countries step up to the plate and take a proportionate hit on the Brexit deal,” he said.

Mr McConalogue said this week that he had made it clear that "ministers at council must have a direct engagement in the negotiations between the EU and UK to ensure that the fishing industry and other stakeholders have confidence that their concerns and voices are heard and understood".

The informal EU council meeting focused on the preparation for discussions between the EU Commission and the UK on setting TACs and fish quotas for 2021, he said.

Existing provisional quotas are due to end in March, and full-year TACs must be negotiated with Britain before then.

New procedures for interactions with the UK are being put in place, Mr McConalogue said, and member states’ priorities for the negotiations were discussed at this meeting.

“In relation to setting TACs for 2021, I made clear that Ireland is fully committed to respecting setting quotas in line with fishing at maximum sustainable levels (MSY) where this is known, and for other stocks all available data and information must inform TAC setting,” he said.

Published in Fishing
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Tributes have been paid to fishing industry leader Hugo Boyle, who died unexpectedly earlier this week.

Mr Boyle, a father of four from Falcarragh, Co Donegal, was chief executive of the Irish South and East Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&EFPO).

“A gentleman who was highly respected right around the coast” is how south-east vessel owner Caitlín Uí Aodha of the IS&EFPO described him.

Fellow industry leaders said his loss would be felt both in Ireland and Europe.

Mr Boyle, a former fisherman and vessel owner who was based in Achill Sound, Co Mayo, had been ill for several years.

However, he had remained involved in all aspects of the industry, including monitoring the crucial Brexit negotiations.

He had participated in the fishing industry’s emergency online meeting on December 28th last with Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Cabinet colleagues over the damaging impact of Brexit deal.

“He had an incredible legal mind, was a calming but informed influence, and knew what battles to pick,” Ms Uí Aodha said.

“At the time of our own loss with the sinking of the Tit Bonhomme, he was very supportive to me and my family,” she said.

Her husband Michael and four of his five crew died when the vessel hit rocks at Adam’s island on the mouth of Glandore Harbour, Co Cork, on January 15th, 2012.

Her sentiments were echoed by Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation chief executive Sean O’Donoghue, who also expressed his condolences to Mr Boyle’s wife Ellen, and daughters, Alison, Denise, Elaine and Aisling and wider family.

“I knew Hugo since the mid-eighties when I was in the Department of Marine, and he was very involved in discussions on Celtic Sea herring,”Mr O’Donoghue said.

“He was both a good friend and a good colleague, and was very calm – always seeking solutions, rather than dwelling on problems,”he said.

“His experience as a vessel owner and a fisherman served him well in his role with the IS&EFPO, and he had the ability to seek compromises – our French counterparts will miss him for his role in seeking solutions to the scallop issue in the English Channel, “Mr O’Donoghue said.

Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO) chief executive John Ward said the fishing industry had “lost a good friend”, recalling how he was a member of the IFPO when he was fishing.

Mr Ward said he was experienced and with an “infectious good humour and big smile”.

Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation chief executive Patrick Murphy said that “Hugo's commitment to the industry never faltered”.

It was “evident right up until recently, when he participated, contributed and clearly outlined his organisation’s position in the numerous online meetings we had with officials”, Mr Murphy said.

“Hugo’s practical sensible proposed measures, once implemented would in my view certainly mitigate much of the damage which was decided behind the closed doors in Europe that will hurt the people he worked so hard to protect,” he said.

Mr Murphy recalled one instance of Mr Boyle’s many gestures of kindness, after a late arrival of fishing industry representatives into Dublin Airport.

“Hugo being the gentleman he was insisted on driving me to the hotel where I was staying. Despite our tiredness and the late hour, Hugo insisted upon this detour, taking at least an hour of his time, as it was out of his way on his long journey home,” Mr Murphy said.

Published in Fishing
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EU coastal states “haven’t taken the same hit” as Ireland in losing access to British fishing grounds and “must burden share”, an industry leader said.

The fishing industry is “not interested” in financial compensation, and wants to ensure it “gets fish back” if coastal communities are to survive, Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) chief executive Sean O’Donoghue has said.

Speaking on Newstalk Radio’s Pat Kenny Show today before appearing at an Oireachtas committee, Mr O’Donoghue said that if the total loss to nine coastal states is valued at 182 million euro, Ireland should have lost some 20 million euro in quotas.

Instead, Ireland’s loss has been calculated at over €42 million, he noted.

Dedicated junior fisheries minister

Also speaking on The Pat Kenny Show, Donegal priest Fr John Joe Duffy of Burtonport accused the Government of taking a “subservient” approach to Europe on the issue, and called for a dedicated junior fisheries minister.

Ireland’s overall quota loss has been valued in a post-Brexit economic analysis at 43 million euro, which is some 9 million euro more than originally estimated by Government ministers

After the Brexit deal was signed, Irish foreign affairs and marine ministers Simon Coveney and Charlie McConalogue had stated that the loss to Ireland of fishing quotas was €34 Million or 15% of €252 Million.

An economic analysis of fish quotas increases the Irish loss figure to €43 Million - but the landing figure for 2020 has been adjusted upwards to €288 Million to maintain the 15% cut total.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine has not responded to queries about the figure change.

The recently published analysis calculates that the final quota reduction (after the transition period) for key stocks amounts to a 26% reduction in the western mackerel quota share, Ireland’s largest fishery

It calculates a 14 per cent reduction in Ireland’s largest non-pelagic fishery, Nephrops (prawns).

It says that the whitefish fisheries where there are notable reductions are: Hake (Celtic Sea) 3%, Haddock (Celtic Sea) 11%, Haddock (Irish Sea) 16%, Haddock (Rockall) 22.6%.

Other reductions are Megrim (Celtic Sea) 8%, Megrim (West of Scotland (19%), Anglerfish/Monkfish (Celtic Sea) 7%, Anglerfish/Monkfish (West of Scotland) 20%, and Pollack (Celtic Sea) 9%.

It calculates a 96 per cent reduction for herring (Irish Sea).

It also says that several smaller whitefish quotas in the Donegal/West of Scotland area have seen sizeable quota share reductions.

The reductions are graduated over the 5.5 year period of reciprocal access, but the largest part of the reduction, 60%, is between 2020 and 2021.

The analysis notes that the Brexit agreement contains a list of 105 stocks for which the UK has, or will receive, a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) share.

“ For 41 of these stocks, the UK’s share will remain unchanged from its current relative stability share. For eight stocks there is no transition period and the new UK quota shares, it is understood, apply from 2021,” it states.

“For the remaining stocks, 60% of the transition to the new shares occurs in 2021, followed by 70% in 2022, 80% in 2023 and 92% in 2024,” it says, and by 2025 the transition to the new quota share is “complete”.

The Brexit fisheries impact is discussed on The Pat Kenny Show here

Published in Fishing
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"Someone needs to bang the table and bang heads together. Do State agencies talk to each other?"

That blunt statement caused me to think a lot this week when I am still disappointed at official attitudes towards the marine sector.

I was talking to a man who has forty years' maritime experience and is the 'go-to' marine scientist and biologist often quoted and interviewed in the media about climate change, warming seas and the effects on waters around the coast.

Kevin Flannery of Dingle knows the State system from the inside. He was a fisheries inspector, and he was in an angry mood when we spoke.

There are times when I am astonished by what I am told about State organisations and their attitude towards the maritime sector. What he said was a shocking example, raising the question – Do State agencies talk to each other?

Anchovies & Sardines

Afloat highlighted recently the discovery of a potential new fishery on the South/West Coast, anchovies and sardines, an indication that species not before in Irish waters in big numbers are moving here, as other species may be moving away because of the effects of climate change on water temperatures. Anchovies are a little silver fish mostly found in the Mediterranean, Pacific and Atlantic, noted for their salty flavour and used, amongst other food consumption purposes, on pizzas, salads, sandwiches, sauces, dressings and dips.

Irish fishermen catching Bluefin Tuna

"My worry is that other nations will claim rights to them like they did to stop Irish fishermen catching Bluefin tuna in our own waters and another fishery will be lost because of neglect. This fishery is sustainable, so why are our agencies not organising to ensure it remains ours? There is an urgent need and potential for development and diversification. The fishery is sustainable, so why are our agencies not organising to ensure it remains ours?" Kevin Flannery told me. "There are also stocks of sardines showing, bream, octopus, and we are getting reports of all these. Are the agencies talking to each other at all, or is it 'never the 'twain shall meet between them? Somebody needs to bang heads together and say these resources are ours".

Listen to the Podcast to below how upset Kevin Flannery is about the attitude of State agencies.

Marine tourism projects involving boats

And, following up on my report last week about the Department of Finance refusing pandemic financial assistance to Killary Fjord Boat Company because its boats move, I remain astonished that this attitude persists amongst the officials of that Department. I had a few 'interactions' with the Department when seeking an explanation. Their Press Office told me they were referring my questions to 'the Revenue', then came back with a long statement, the core point of which was that a "qualifying business premises is a building or other similar fixed physical structure in which a business activity is ordinarily carried on.' The statement had a Departmental pun. In preparing the support scheme, "it was necessary to provide appropriate anchor points." Maybe the civil servants responsible think boats are best anchored!

It doesn't show a particularly positive attitude towards marine tourism projects involving boats. "Significant additional resources were allocated by Government in the Budget to provide help to different sectors including tourism," the Department said. But does this include boats which move?

A loss to Irish fishermen

A final point about official attitudes, where I saw the Department of the Marine contradict its own Minster. It issued a "preliminary analysis" of the transfer of fishing quota shares from Ireland/EU to the UK under the Brexit deal where it estimated the loss to Irish fishermen at €43 Million. This contradicted the lower figure of €34 million given by its own boss, Marine Minister Charlie Monologue and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney after the deal was agreed on Christmas Eve.

From the past week, I am left wondering if the reality of Ireland being an island nation is fully understood.

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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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 Fishing
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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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