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A total of 13 fishing vessel owners have accepted decommissioning offers to date under the Government’s whitefish scrappage scheme.

Figures released by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) confirm that a further 20 offers which it has issued to applicants are being appealed.

The final closing date for acceptance is March 2nd, 2023.

The Government is seeking to decommission up to 60 vessels from the whitefish fleet, as a result of the overall loss of 25 per cent quota due to Brexit, and letters of offer to 57 owners were issued in January by BIM.

BIM said this would ensure that over 9,000 tonnes of quota fish valued at €35 million annually would be available for remaining whitefish vessels to catch, ensuring the remaining fleet's economic viability into the future.

However, Irish industry organisations, who have been seeking a meeting with the Taoiseach on the issue, said there is considerable anger among a number of those who received offers.

Some received offers well below the quoted maximum sum of 12,000 euro per gross tonne.

Applicants who received funding for temporary tie-ups as a Brexit impact measure have also been told this money must be paid back under State aid rules.

Irish South and East Fish Producers’ Organisation chief executive John Lynch said this was “particularly petty”, given that these vessels were not catching quota when tied up.

The funding for the decommissioning scheme is being paid from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) awarded by the EU to Ireland. The sum of almost 1 billion euros must be used up within two years or returned.

Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO) chief executive Aodh O’Donnell has said the Irish government should be keeping tonnage within the State to ensure there is a route for young skippers seeking to buy vessels at a later date.

Marine minister Charlie McConalogue increased funding for the scheme from 60 million euros to 75 million euros in January, but the IS&WFPO says a realistic scheme would cost at least 96 million euros.

BIM said, “the requirement to repay the tie-up money is an EU rule”.

“The tie-up money is deducted from the overall grant. Any savings go back into Ireland’s BAR,” it said.

BIM said that selling or donating vessels to be decommissioned to third parties is not allowed under EU law.

“The re-purposing of vessels is allowed for in EU legislation, but it was decided that this created difficulties from a taxation point of view and would in practice be difficult to monitor,” it said.

“Several vessels are in the process of being scrapped,” BIM said.

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A fundraising appeal has been issued for the family of the fisherman who died off the Donegal coast last weekend.

Madis Lētsārs (37), from the Baltic States, lost his life after falling from the deck of a crab vessel north of the Donegal island of Árainn Mhór last Saturday evening (Feb 4).

His crewmates on the Séimí recovered him from the water and made efforts to revive him but he did not survive.

The young crewman was the father of two children, and his cousin Janis Miklasovs has set up a GoFundMe page on behalf of Madis’s wife Liene.

“It is with a heavy heart I write this message, as you may already know we sadly lost our cousin Madis in a tragic accident,” Miklasovs writes.

“ Madis was only 37 years old with his whole life ahead of him. He worked around the clock to provide for his family,” he says.

“Madis leaves behind a loving wife & 2 children & we hope to support them in every way possible,” he says.

“I kindly ask if you could make a donation, no matter how small, as this will greatly help the family financially. Your support is key in relieving some of the stress the family are currently facing,”he says.

“Rest easy Madis, you will never be far from our thoughts and always in our hearts,” he says.

The GoFundMe page is here

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Ireland is facing into the worst year in its fish processing history; it is better to have no deal than to have a bad deal, according to the country’s major fish producer organisations as EU-Norway fisheries talks enter a fifth round.

Norway is demanding unfettered extra access to Irish waters to catch blue whiting but has not offered any concessions or advantages from its own resources in return to the Irish industry.

“If the EU wants to strike a deal for such additional access with a non-EU Third Country, they need to adequately compensate the Irish fishing industry. This is a shared and strongly held sentiment within the entire industry here, which is united on that attitude,” says a statement from the industry.

“The Norwegian proposal comes at a time when the Irish fleet is still reeling from the Brexit legacy because of EU cuts to Ireland,” says Aodh O’Donnell, Chief Executive of the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation.

“Norwegian access to fish blue whiting in the Irish Box is a ‘new element’ in the negotiations. The EU should not concede to this additional access unless it is paid for,” according to Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation CEO, Sean O’Donoghue.

“The truculent Norwegian position confirms that they expect Ireland to roll-over again, as the government has done over the last thirty years. It is time to say stop,” says Patrick Murphy, Castletownbere-based CEO of the Irish South and West FPO, while Brendan Byrne of the CEO  Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association says Ireland “is facing into the worst year in its fish processing history. “The Brexit quota cuts are continuing to bite hard along with, already, some business closures.

The Irish industry is united in our opposition to the Norwegian demands.”

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The fisherman who lost his life off the Donegal coast last weekend has been named.

Madis Letsars (37), a father of two, went overboard the crab vessel, Séimí, while crab fishing about 70 miles north of Arranmore Island, Co Donegal, on February 4th.

It is believed he may have got caught in a rope while the vessel was shooting pots.

Originally from the Baltic States and living in Co Armagh, he was one of five on board the vessel at the time.

Emergency services were alerted to the incident, but an Irish Coast Guard rescue operation was stood down after crew members had managed to recover him from the water.

Efforts to revive the young man were unsuccessful.

The boat subsequently returned to Ballyglass in north Mayo, where it was met by the National Ambulance Service and the Garda.

The body of the crewman was taken by ambulance to Mayo University Hospital for a post mortem. His funeral is expected to take place later this week.

Members of the crew of the Séimí are said to be devastated by the loss of the crewman who had been on four or five trips with the crab vessel.

The Séimí is one of a fleet of vessels owned by West Coast Crab Sales Ltd in north Mayo.

An inquiry into the circumstances of the incident will be conducted by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board.

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A German-registered Spanish fishing vessel is being escorted into West Cork by the Naval Service after it was detained off the southwest coast earlier this week.

The vessel is the fourth detention to have been recorded by the Naval Service this year.

The Naval Service ship LÉ Samuel Beckett inspected the fishing vessel during routine patrols and detained it on February 7th.

It is expected to reach port at the weekend, where it will be handed over to the Garda Siochána.

Last month, a separate German-registered Spanish vessel was detained by the LÉ George Bernard Shaw.

At a court sitting, the skipper of the Pesorsa Dos was charged with 12 offences relating to alleged illegal fishing activities in Irish waters on various dates in January this year.

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A post-mortem investigation will be performed on the body of a fisherman who drowned on Saturday evening (February 4th) off the coast of Donegal.

The man, who was in his late 30s, fell overboard from a boat off the northwest coast when it was crab fishing.

At the time, the boat was situated 70 miles north of Rainn Mhór.

Around 8:30 pm, emergency services were notified of the incident, but after the man's crewmates pulled him from the water, a rescue effort was called off.

He was not revived despite efforts.

The National Ambulance Service and garda were waiting for the boat when it arrived at its home port of An Baile Glas in Co. Mayo.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board has been informed.

RTE News has more here

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Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, today announced the allocation of €37.3m for capital projects in 2023 in Ireland’s six state-owned Fishery Harbour Centres at Killybegs, Ros an Mhíl, An Daingean, Castletownbere, Dunmore East and Howth through the Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme.

The Minister noted “The six Fishery Harbour Centres are critical infrastructure for our seafood industry. Approximately 90% of all fish landings into Ireland come through these facilities. This demonstrates how successful these Harbours have become as economic hubs for the Seafood industry. The continuous development of the infrastructure in these Harbours has been critical to the fishing fleet and the land-based seafood processing industry. These Harbours are the economic development drivers for the largely peripheral coastal communities and hinterlands where they are located. The Government is committed to continuing to develop these Harbours to underpin our seafood industry and drive on economic development in these areas.”

Senator Sean Kyne, Minster for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue TD, Anne Rabbitte TD and Eamon O'Cuiv TD at Ros an Mhíl where €16m will be invested in the Deep Water Quay project in 2023Senator Sean Kyne, Minster for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue TD, Anne Rabbitte TD and Eamon O'Cuiv TD at Ros an Mhíl where €16m will be invested in the Deep Water Quay project in 2023

The Minister added that “Ireland's 200 miles Exclusive Economic zone provides rich nursery and fishing grounds for our own fleet and for other EU fleets. The Irish Seafood industry and Government, working on the strategy set out by the industry led Seafood Taskforce, are committed to overcoming current challenges and building a strong sustainable Irish seafood industry on a bedrock of sustainably managed fish stocks. A critical element for the future of our fisheries dependant coastal communities is top class landing infrastructure, where a modern seafood industry can operate effectively and be efficiently serviced. Our geographic position close to the fishing grounds and the likely rising real cost of energy in the coming decades provide a strategic opportunity for our harbours and coastal communities to become growing seafood hubs offering best facilities that attract landings from a greater portion of the fish caught in our 200 mile zone. This will help realise the maximum opportunities for primary and secondary processing of seafood in Ireland and provide for a strong Irish seafood processing industry to service our fishing fleet and others and maintain these coastal communities. These are the reasons why I am announcing this significant Government capital investment programme in our Fishery Harbour Centres today.”

In addition to the Fisheries and Seafood Production industries, the Fishery Harbour Centres are accommodating an ever-increasing amount of diverse marine commercial business, including commercial cargo traffic, cruise liners, restaurants and other leisure, tourism and social activities. All of these activities complement the critical economic activity generated by our fishing industry and help to maintain the vitality of these coastal communities.

€7.5m will be invested in the Smooth Point Pier Extension, Killybegs flagship project in 2023€7.5m will be invested in the Smooth Point Pier Extension, Killybegs flagship project in 2023

In 2021, approximately 88% of the sea fish landed in the state was into the six Fishery Harbour Centres. For 2021, Bord Iascaigh Mhara reported that the Irish seafood industry contributed €1.26 billion to the Irish economy.

Two flagship projects are already contracted under the 2023 Programme. These include the Deep Water Quay at Ros an Mhíl (€16m in 2023) for which the Minister announced a contractor had been appointed in December 2022 and the ongoing Smooth Point pier extension at Killybegs (€7.5m in 2023) which should be substantially completed this year. The funding announcement will also enable completion of the major Castletownbere development project which the Department has been undertaking for the last four years.

The Programme also supports maintenance at Cape Clear and a small number of piers, lights and beacons around the coast in accordance with the 1902 ex-congested Districts Board Piers, Lights and Beacons Act. Additionally, the Department’s commitment to supporting the Government’s environmental and sustainability objectives is demonstrated with a number of pertinent projects planned under this year’s programme including changeovers to energy efficient lighting and power and water metering to monitor resource consumption.

The Minister concluded by saying that “Fishing has always been of significant social and economic importance to Ireland with over 16,000 direct and indirect jobs across fisheries, aquaculture, processing and ancillary sectors and the seafood industry plays a vital role in the sustainable economic viability of many coastal communities across Ireland. With this €37.3m announcement and my recent announcement of €55.3m investment this year in 164 public marine infrastructure projects in Local Authority piers, under the Brexit Adjustment Local Authority Marine Infrastructure Scheme 2022-23, I believe this unprecedented investment in state-of the-art facilities around the coast reinforces this Government’s strong commitment to support the seafood industry, other marine related industries and coastal communities”

The funding provided under the Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme is in addition to the funding of €55.3m for the Brexit Adjustment Local Authority Marine Infrastructure Scheme 2022-23 gov.ie - McConalogue announces increased Brexit Investment in Public Marine Infrastructure - total now €55.3 million (www.gov.ie) which the Minister announced in December 2022. That scheme provides funding to local authorities to revitalise Ireland’s public marine infrastructure.

Table (.pdf attached) provides the details of the overall Fishery Harbour & Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme 2023. Funding for the Programme comes from the Department’s Vote and the Fishery Harbour Centre Fund.The table above provides the details of the overall Fishery Harbour & Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme 2023. Funding for the Programme comes from the Department’s Vote and the Fishery Harbour Centre Fund.

The Fishery Harbour Centres and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme delivers on Action 174 of the Balanced Regional Development Section in the Programme for Government to “Invest strategically in harbour infrastructure to attract increased landings into Ireland of sustainably caught fish in our waters, driving the development of the seafood processing sector and the blue economy in coastal communities.”

The Programme also delivers on Action MA/23/10 of The Marine Environment section of the Government’s Climate Action Plan 2023 to “Reduce fossil fuel dependency/consumption across Fishery Harbour Centre infrastructure”

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The North Western Waters Advisory Council (NWWAC) is seeking “well-informed” and “sustainably minded” organisations to join its members.

In “an unpredictable political landscape and with the effects of climate change underway, the range and complexity of marine and fisheries management issues are only set to intensify”, it says.

It is inviting more participation to “improve its contribution in addressing these issues and reaching the objective of the EU Common Fisheries Policy”.

The NWWAC facilitates a forum for fishing sector stakeholders and other interest stakeholders to achieve unanimous advice for EU policy-makers and managers.

It says prospective members “will have the opportunity to sharpen the impact of NWWAC advice, connect with the current NGO and fishing sector membership, and engage in internationally important scientific projects with access to exclusive resources”.

“Having stakeholder groups coming together and finding common ground on key issues is essential to develop fair, effective, and environmentally sensitive contributions to northwestern waters fisheries policy and management,” its chair, Emiel Brouckaert, said.

“In this regard, the NWWAC has a great opportunity to work towards consensus advice and sharpen the impact of such advice. We hope to welcome new members soon to share the exciting work ahead in 2023 and beyond.”

The council is one of 11 fisheries advisory councils across Europe, “generating multi-stakeholder advice to feed into the European Commission and member states on key fisheries policy developments affecting their area of competence”.

NWWAC advice focuses on matters related to EU fisheries management and ecosystem considerations in the Irish Sea, the Celtic Seas and the Channel.

NWWAC website is here

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Fishing industry representatives are seeking a meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar amid widespread dismay over the details of offers made under the Government’s fleet decommissioning scheme.

The meeting is being sought by the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) which hosted a forum on the issue in Limerick on Wednesday (Jan 18).

“This scheme is unworkable, and seems to be designed to force skippers off the water and to pit fisherman against fisherman,” IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy said.

He was speaking after a gathering of vessel owners in Limerick’s Radisson Blu hotel, which was closed to the press.

A total of 57 offers have been made by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), which is administering the scrappage scheme on behalf of the EU and the government

Over half of these applicants attended, Mr Murphy said. The meeting was open to both producer organisation members and non-members who had received letters of offer.

“We had people from Donegal right down to Castletownbere and from the south-east coast, and many are very angry and upset,” he said.

Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue

Initiated in response to loss of quota due to Brexit, the EU-funded scheme aims to take 60 vessels out of the whitefish fleet to ensure the remainder could continue to fish.

BIM said it “will ensure that over 9,000 tonnes of quota fish valued at €35 million annually will be available for remaining whitefish vessels to catch, ensuring the remaining fleet's economic viability into the future”.

McConalogue announced an increase in funding for the scheme from 60 million euro to 75 million euro in early January, but the IS&WFPO said that this increase was still not sufficient to make it worthwhile for many owners.

There were 19 applicants in Castletownbere, west Cork – almost half the fleet of 40 boats- but disappointment over offers means many are reluctant to accept, he said.

Applicants expected to be approved for a maximum of €12,000 per gross registered tonnage of the vessel's recorded catch, but reported offers have been €10,000 per gross tonne and lower.

Patrick Murphy of the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO)Patrick Murphy of the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO)

“This is less than the market value of many vessels, and those who were catching less, for various reasons, have also been penalised,” Murphy said.

“Our organisation did not like this scheme when proposed by the Government’s’ seafood task force, and we can see the criteria make it unworkable,” he said.

“The funding for this is from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve – as in European funding to compensate for the impact of Brexit – and not from the Exchequer, so we cannot understand this approach,” he said.

The organisation is seeking further clarification over how evaluations were calculated, and the tax implications, Murphy said.

“Some people did get large offers, but not sufficient to meet market value,” he said.

He said his organisation had presented detailed evidence to McConalogue’s department to illustrate how applicants had received offers which did not cover the value of vessels both before and after Brexit.

“The Irish government calls this scheme voluntary, but how can it be when vessels that continue to fish may find themselves being arrested due to the lack of quota – which the government should be seeking to redress,”he said.

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The European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) has chartered three new patrol vessels and an aircraft for monitoring and control in European waters.

All three vessels will fly the Portuguese flag, and will be deployed primarily for fisheries patrols but will have coast guard functions, the EFCA says.

It says that “following the mandate from the EU institutions to strengthen EFCA ́s operational capacity for assisting member states and the European Commission in the monitoring, control and surveillance of fisheries, as required by the Common Fisheries Policy, EFCA has reinforced its fleet”.

It says that these are the “only patrol vessels whose operations are managed by an EU agency”. They have been named as Ocean Guardian, Ocean Protector and Ocean Sentinel.

EFCA executive director Dr Susan Steele EFCA executive director Dr Susan Steele

They will support operations as part of different EFCA joint deployment plans from the Mediterranean and Black Sea to western waters off Ireland, the North Sea and Baltic Sea.

They will be able to provide support during search and rescue situations, maritime surveillance and pollution response, the EFCA says.

EFCA executive director Dr Susan Steele said it was an “important milestone in the history of the agency”.

“The chartering of three inspection platforms marks a turning point, and materialises our strong commitment to support member states’ authorities and the European Commission promoting compliance with the fisheries rules, as well as contributing to a safe, secure and sustainable sea,” she said.

“The vessels ́ modern facilities and technologies ensure a safe and comfortable stay onboard. Their deployment could be seen as a specific oceans safeguarding measure which enhances the EU capacity to improve the effectiveness of fisheries control operations in the EU and beyond,” she said.

A consortium led by Sentinel Marine Netherlands secured the control for the vessels, with a contract for an initial year which may be renewed for up to six years. DEA Aviation secured the contract for aerial surveillance.

The aircraft, which is a DA62 fit for mid-range maritime multirole surveillance missions, will be deployed until the end of May 2023.

The EFCA says the intention is to have an aircraft deployed for fisheries patrol purposes on a more permanent basis and in tandem with EFCA chartered offshore patrol vessels “as appropriate”.

The three EU ships are multi-role emergency response and rescue Vessels (ERRV) with an overall length of 62 meters each.

Two ships were built in 2018 with the third one in 2020, and all three have dynamic positioning equipment “to better maintain their position and balance the environmental forces such as wind, waves and currents during the duty while reducing fuel consumption to a minimum”, the EFCA says.

 It says the offshore fisheries patrol vessels are “fully equipped with ergonomic and modern onboard facilities to ensure a comfortable stay and an enjoyable working environment during the patrols, including space for physical exercise and after work relax [sic]”.

“On each of the ships, seven ensuite cabins for single or double use will be available to the agency, as well as a meeting room with digital projection capacity and high broadband internet connection for live video conferencing as well as access to various fisheries control systems/databases,” it says.“

The vessels were also required to prove ecological responsibility and have been certified with the ISO 14001, the international standard for environmental management,” the EFCA says.

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