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Covid-19 Restrictions Forcing Collapse of Markets for Fresh Fish

20th March 2020
Killybegs fishing port Killybegs fishing port

Public demand for canned rather than fresh fish during the Covid-19 crisis and restrictions on Irish seafood exports are contributing to a looming storm in the fishing sector, an Irish industry leader has warned writes Lorna Siggins

Fishing representatives are due to hold a video-conference with Minister for Agriculture and Marine Michael Creed today amid fears that fishing vessels may be forced to tie up in port due to lack of markets.

EU fisheries ministers are also expected to hold a video-conference council in the coming days.

Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) chief executive Sean O’Donoghue said no one wanted to see vessels tied up, but the domestic market for fresh fish is simply not big enough to sustain fleet costs.

“We may have to introduce a system of vessels rotating at sea, but compensation will also be required for those forced to remain in port,” he said.

“The Irish seafood sector is export-led, and so it is severely affected by the fact that European and Asian fish markets are restricted or closing, and leading retailers like Tesco and Sainsbury’s in Britain have suspended their fresh fish counters,” Mr O’Donoghue said.

Access to sufficient cold storage could provide some relief for vessels fishing for prawns – one of Ireland’s staple export fisheries – he said.

A briefing document by two European industry organisations, Europeche and EAPO, which Mr O’Donoghue has forwarded to Mr Creed describes how the Irish Nephrops (prawns), whitefish and brown crab fleets that rely heavily on exports to the Chinese, Italian, Spanish and French markets have seen “huge prices drops and market closures”.

“This is also the case for other species in many countries. This led to the fishing activity being suspended and the whole seafood industry sector is affected,” the documents says.

EU fleets face a drop to “about zero” of all sales to restaurants and food services,” the document says.

Closures of schools, factories and businesses have also hit sales, and Mr O’Donoghue said the public demand is for canned fish at present, with European canneries working hard to keep up supply.

The European fishing industry organisations are seeking a number of measures, including ensuring vessels can carry more than ten per cent of their quota into next year.

Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Irish Sailing & Boating

Since restrictions began in March 2020, the Government is preparing for a 'controlled and gradual return to sport' and the 2020 sailing fixtures are being tentatively redrafted by yacht clubs, rowing clubs angling and diving clubs across Ireland as the country enters a new phase in dealing with the Coronavirus. The hope is that a COVID-19 restrictions might be eased by May 5th as Sport Ireland has asked national governing bodies for information on the challenges they face. 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) information

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It's caused by a virus called coronavirus.

To help stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) everyone has been asked to stay at home. But some people may need to do more than this.

You may need to either:

You do these things to stop other people from getting coronavirus.

Read advice for people in at-risk groups

Read advice about cocooning.

Restricted movements

Everybody in Ireland has been asked to stay at home. You should only go out for a few reasons, such as shopping for food.

But you need to restrict your movements further if you: 

  • live with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus, but you feel well
  • are a close contact of a confirmed case of coronavirus
  • have returned to Ireland from another country

You need to restrict your movements for at least 14 days.

But if the person you live with has had a test and it is negative, you don't need to wait 14 days. You should still follow the advice for everyone - stay at home as much as possible.

Close contact

This is only a guide but close contact can mean:

  • spending more than 15 minutes of face-to-face contact within 2 metres of an infected person
  • living in the same house or shared accommodation as an infected person

How to restrict your movements 

Follow the advice for everybody - stay at home.

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