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Researchers at the Marine Institute are calling on fishers from around the country to participate in a new project aimed at reducing unwanted catches across harvesting practices, in an ecological, economic, and socially sustainable way.

The project, IFISH, will use a behavioural approach involving near real time on-line mapping of unwanted catches in order to simultaneously help fishers adhere to EU quotas and promote sustainability of fish stocks. Effectively the system aims to help fishers reduce the amount of catch they don't want, avoiding discards. The project is funded by a Science Foundation Ireland SIRG grant.

According to Dr. Julia Calderwood, Principle Investigator on the project, over the past few decades fishers and the wider public began to realise that discarding of fish was a significant issue throughout fisheries worldwide.

“Discarding is the throwing back of dead or damaged fish into the sea, which can undermine sustainability,” she says. “That's why legislation was introduced by the EU meaning the discarding of many fish species is no longer allowed.”

Dr. Calderwood explains that quotas are set on how much fishers can land each year. This is rolled out initially at an EU level and is thereafter divided out between the member states to manage their own stocks accordingly. In that way the species populations should be capable of replacing themselves.

Methods to control stocks

In order to adhere to quotas, fishers adopt an array of solutions that help increase selectivity in a fishery. Technical measures include using more selective nets such as those with larger mesh sizes or escape panels so that unwanted catch aren’t retained in them. However, marine researchers around the world are now considering ideas at a more sophisticated level of planning. For example, scientists at the Marine Institute have previously worked on a project to develop probability maps to help understand where and when the species subject to quotas were most likely to be caught.

“The maps didn't reveal anything truly surprising,” says Calderwood. “Fishers told us that they were generally useful as a reference tool, and broadly agreed with their own knowledge. But they were limited because they were based on catch information collected over broad areas, and over broad timeframes or seasons.”

“So, the fishers said it might be something that they would check in on every now and then, but the maps weren’t going to be used every day, because they weren’t giving them the up-to-date information on where the fish are right now.”

The IFISH system

Dr. Calderwood and her team then decided to try something more innovative. The idea is to create a mobile phone app using a near real-time mapping system to provide advice to fishers about where they might avoid fishing to not catch unwanted species or sizes of fish, helping them to stay within their quotas and improve their catch efficiency so they are still making a viable living.

“That's the IFISH project,” she says. “The idea is for skippers to provide live information on unwanted catches they encounter using our app. So, for example, they could log in and very simply and easily click on the map to indicate that, say, right here, right now, we're catching lots of something that we don't want, like undersize fish or species which aren’t marketable.”

“The app would then create an alert that would be shared among vessels who are signed up to use the app together, helping them to avoid areas with this unwanted catch. It's a win-win situation for everyone, but we need fishers to help us by signing up to help develop and test the app.”

The project aims to have an app in use during 2022 but is currently designing what is needed for this app alongside industry so that the final product best addresses their needs. The project is currently asking fishers to sign up and join in the design process. Further information and contact details can be found at www.i-fish.org

This focus on research is presented as part of the Marine Institute’s four-week Oceans of Learning campaign, which will enable everyone to engage with our ocean from anywhere. Oceans of Learning includes a new podcast series, videos and short films, news and online resources all about our ocean. There’s something for everyone and the Oceans of Learning series will explore all aspects of our marine resource - from our rich marine biodiversity, to our changing ocean climate, and our oceans future.

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The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) says that a Spanish-registered fishing vessel was "operating within the waters of Bantry Bay and therefore within Ireland's 12-nautical mile limit" during what Irish fishermen in the South West claim was an attempted ramming incident.

The incident was filmed by the crew of the Irish trawler.

The Irish skipper can be heard on VHF radio telling the Spanish boat to 'stay away from us.'

The CEO of the Irish South and West Fish Producers, Patrick Murphy, called SFPA Chair Susan Steele and asked for immediate action.

Fishermen also called for the Navy to protect Irish fishing boats.

The CEO of the Irish South and West Fish Producers, Patrick MurphyThe CEO of the Irish South and West Fish Producers, Patrick Murphy

"The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority are aware of a situation that arose when a Spanish registered vessel was encountered by an Irish-registered vessel operating within the waters of Bantry Bay and therefore within the IRL 12-nautical mile limit. The situation continues to be closely monitored by the National Fisheries Monitoring Centre at the Naval Base, Haulbowline," the SFPA said in a statement.

The incident happened on Friday morning, two days after fishermen staged a demonstration in Cork protesting at the dominant quotas held by non-Irish EU vessels in Irish waters.

"This was an attempt to force Irish boats off our own fishing grounds. It is intimidation. Our authorities must take action against this vessel acting extremely dangerously at sea and endangering life," the Chief Executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers' Organisation, Patrick Murphy, said. "It is appalling. This was a threat to life at sea, so action must be taken against the vessel which tried to do the ramming. The Spanish boat should be arrested and stopped from fishing in Irish waters."

Published in Fishing

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue T.D., said that Norway unilaterally announced this morning that it would give itself a 55% increase in its share of the Mackerel Stock in 2021. In tonnage terms, this means an increase from 191,843 tonnes to 298,299 tonnes – an increase of 106,456 tonnes for 2021. The Norwegian decision seeks to increase its share of the Mackerel Stock from 22.5% to 35%.

Mackerel has been managed under a UN Coastal States Agreement that involved the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands for the period 2014 to 2020. Iceland had refused to participate in the management agreement and the three parties set aside a share of the stock for it. In 2021, after Brexit and the UK departure from the EU, the new parties involved have not been able to put a new Coastal States Agreement on Mackerel in place.

Minister McConalogue said, “This declaration by Norway to hugely increase its fishery for mackerel is a direct threat to the sustainability of the mackerel fishery and the future of the Irish pelagic fishing industry. There is no justification for this unilateral, opportunistic and unsustainable move. This is all the more disappointing because it undermines the critically important arrangements for joint management of mackerel by the Coastal States under the UN structure. As the scientific advice sets the sustainable level of fishing each year on mackerel, an increase by Norway means either the stock is overfished or other parties must take a smaller share. Neither option is acceptable.”

The mackerel stock is a widely distributed, migratory fish that inhabits much of the north-eastern Atlantic shelf ranging from south of Ireland and the Bay of Biscay to north of Norway. It is fast swimming forming dense shoals when migrating from its spawning grounds to the south and west of Ireland and migrate to northern waters to feedThe mackerel stock is a widely distributed, migratory fish that inhabits much of the north-eastern Atlantic shelf ranging from south of Ireland and the Bay of Biscay to north of Norway. It is fast swimming forming dense shoals when migrating from its spawning grounds to the south and west of Ireland and migrate to northern waters to feed

Under the EU /UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement, there was a 26% reduction in our mackerel quota within the EU by 2026, with 60% of this reduction applied in 2021. Mackerel remains Irelands most important fishery with a quota for 2021 of 60,849 tonnes valued at approximately €80m and it underpins the important Irish pelagic fish processing industry in the North West. Ireland is the largest Mackerel quota holder in the EU.

Minister Mc McConalogue made clear that; “I am calling on EU Commissioner Sinkevičius to reject completely this unilateral action by Norway to claim a much higher share of the mackerel stock. I am writing to him immediately to ask him to respond without delay to this provocative and irresponsible action. I will ask him to outline what actions the European Commission will take to protect the important EU mackerel fleets and mackerel processing industry. It is vital that the EU Commissioner takes urgent steps to counteract this irresponsible action by Norway. Norway must understand that responsible partners do not get rewarded for such unacceptable action.”

Minister Mc McConalogue added, “Our mackerel fishermen have already taken unacceptable cuts to their share of the mackerel stock under the EU/UK TCA. I am working with them to pursue all avenues to deliver a more equitable burden sharing within the EU. I am very concerned that this action by Norway will add further uncertainty to the mackerel industry already trying to adjust to reduce quotas after Brexit.”

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A flotilla of 73 Irish fishing vessels participated in a mass demonstration yesterday which may be the first in a series of protests, according to industry leaders.

The “Show and Tell” event organised by the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) delivered a letter to the constituency office of Taoiseach Micheal Martin in Cork, seeking direct talks with him.

Vessels from Clogherhead, Co Louth right round to Rossaveal, Co Galway, and including all southern ports, participated – leaving berths up to 24 hours beforehand in some cases to make it to Cork harbour.

“This is the first stage in a campaign, where we want to show the Irish people what is actually happening to our industry,” IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy said.

80 per cent of the beamer fleet from south coast Irish ports also took part, Murphy noted.

80 per cent of the beamer fleet from south coast Irish ports took part in the Cork Harbour campaign Photo: Bob Bateman80 per cent of the beamer fleet from south coast Irish ports took part in the Cork Harbour campaign Photo: Bob Bateman

The loss of 15 per cent overall of Irish fish quota in the Brexit deal and the reintroduction of an administrative penalty points system were key issues that the event aimed to highlight.

The protest also aimed to emphasise the impact of the recent withdrawal of the EU control plan - which means all fish catches have to be weighed on piers.

The Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association has called on Irish Marine minister Charlie McConalogue to demand evidence from the EU for what it has described as a “blunt, crude” decision by the EU Commission.

“What makes this unbearable is that all this is happening during a global pandemic, where the Irish fishing fleet was designated an essential service for the continuity of food supply,” Murphy said.

The fleet assembled at Roche’s Point off Cork harbour early on Wednesday and steamed up to Cork Port.

“Fishing crews, mechanics, engineers, oil companies, net manufacturers, shops, supermarkets all supported us –it was a real community event,” Murphy said.

Murphy paid tribute to the Garda, Naval Service and Port of Cork for accommodating the peaceful protest, and to members of the public for supporting it.

“Fishermen are putting themselves before the public, to show them the boats they have, the huge investment, creating jobs, the families with long traditions who face being forced out of fishing,” he said.

“Many businesses throughout the country, through no fault of their own, will not survive the current climate financially,” the IS&WFPO has warned.

“ The countless job losses, financial worries these people have of maintaining mortgage payments and putting food on their tables is unimaginable,” it says.

A photo gallery of the trawler protest at Roches Point is here

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Fishing vessels are steaming up the river Lee to Cork city this morning in protest over serious issues affecting the Irish industry.

A beautiful morning in Cork Harbour has allowed the fleet to assemble at Roches Point in perfectly flat sea conditions.

See photo gallery below

The “Show and Tell” campaign, spearheaded by the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO), aims to deliver a letter to Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s constituency office in Turner’s Cross, Cork.

The IS&WFPO says it has the co-operation with the Port of Cork Company and the Garda for the event and is inviting the public to “come and view these vessels, meet the men and women who work these vessels, hear their stories and talk with our representatives”.

The protest fleet assembled off Roches Point, Cork Harbour at 7 am on Wednesday, and a public address will be held at Horgan’s Quay, Cork at 12 noon, before the walk to Turner’s Cross.

 
Published in Cork Harbour
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Fishermen from the South West Coast will head for Cork Port on Wednesday to "show and tell the crazy scenario" facing their industry.

"We are not being treated fairly by either the EU or the government who are not protecting the natural resource of Ireland to which Irish people should have the major rights," according to their Chief Executive Patrick Murphy.

"Fishermen don't want to be in this situation. It is not what they want to be doing, but they are left with no choice; things are so bad. The fishing industry is a vital part of our coastal economy and we need community support for it," says the CEO.

The planned flotilla will assemble at 7 a.m. on Wednesday at Roche's Point and sail up the River Lee to the city quays.

The 'show and tell event' is being coordinated with the Port of Cork and An Garda Síochána to minimise any disruption to harbour traffic and commercial business.

Listen to Tom MacSweeney's podcast with Fishing Chief Patrick Murphy below and read Afloat's report by Lorna Siggins on the protest here

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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Fishing vessels are due to steam up the river Lee to Cork city on Wednesday in protest over serious issues affecting the Irish industry.

The “Show and Tell” campaign, spearheaded by the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO), aims to deliver a letter to Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s constituency office in Turner’s Cross, Cork.

The IS&WFPO says it has the co-operation with the Port of Cork Company and the Garda for the event, and is inviting the public to “come and view these vessels, meet the men and women who work these vessels, hear their stories and talk with our representatives”.

The protest fleet will assemble off Roches Point, Cork Harbour at 7 am on Wednesday, and a public address will be held at Horgan’s Quay, Cork at 12 noon, before the walk to Turner’s Cross.

The impact of the loss of 15 per cent overall of quota in the Brexit deal, the reintroduction of an administrative penalty points system, and the recent withdrawal of the EU control plan which means all fish catches have to be weighed on piers are issues which the protest aims to highlight.

The IS&WFPO says that “what makes this unbearable is that this is happening during a global pandemic, where the Irish fishing fleet was designated an essential service for the continuity of food supply”.

“Fishermen were asked to put aside their fears of being hundreds of miles away from medical help if it were needed for the benefit of our people,” it says.

Patrick Murphy, Chief Executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ OrganisationPatrick Murphy, Chief Executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation

“ One would think that our government should thank us like all others on the front line and recognise our vulnerability as an industry and the importance of maintaining the national fleet,”it says.

“Many businesses throughout the country, through no fault of their own, will not survive the current climate financially,” the IS&WFPO says.

“ The countless job losses, financial worries these people have of maintaining mortgage payments and putting food on their tables is unimaginable,” it says.

“ The vast majority of our members share these worries, but not because they cannot trade or continue the profession that was passed down to them from their fathers and mothers- but because their rights have been stripped away and they now find themselves the pawn on the chessboard of Europe to be sacrificed so larger countries may triumph,” it states.

Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogueMinister for Marine Charlie McConalogue

The organisation welcomes the recent setting up of a ministerial taskforce by Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue as “some recognition by Government that our industry is on the verge of collapse”.

Listen to Tom MacSweeney's podcast with IS&WFPO Chief Patrick Murphy here

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The Government has been urged not to delay in establishing a formal liaison between marine users including fishermen and the offshore renewable energy industry.

As The Times Ireland edition reports today, the Department of Housing – currently lead agency for marine planning - says it is “acutely aware” of communication issues between the fishing industry and offshore renewable energy.

Draft terms of reference for forming a seafood/offshore renewable energy “working group” are still being worked on, it says.

The National Inshore Fishermen's Association (NIFA) says that liaison and State guidelines should not be “long-fingered” if confrontations are to be avoided.

NIFA has said difficulties have already arisen in the Irish Sea, where one wind energy company “reneged” on its commitment to fishermen.

As a result, several NIFA members had to engage expensive legal advice, NIFA secretary Alex Crowley said.

NIFA is calling for establishment by the State of guidelines for wind energy companies dealing with other stakeholders including the fishing sector.

Sligo fishermen David Downes, who fishes out of Raghley on the east side of Sligo Bay, says that there has been no direct contact by an energy company in relation to its recent application to conduct an offshore wind energy feasibility study off the Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal coast.

Aniar Offshore Array confirmed that it has submitted an investigatory foreshore licence which, if granted, would allow it five years to conduct investigations and assessments of feasible sites for both fixed and offshore wind.

“If the licensing authority decides to grant this application, Aniar Offshore Array will publish all application documents to the website and update all stakeholders of the development,” a company spokeswoman said.

The company confirmed the total area to be surveyed is 1,162.26 km2 off Sligo, Leitrim and South Donegal.

It said it was considering a two-phase project - a first phase involving a static or fixed turbine development of approximately 500 MW situated within 10 to 22 km off the coast, covering an area of approximately 125km2.

The second phase would involve another 500 MW approximately of floating turbines, within 14 to 33 km off the coast and comprising an area of approximately 180km2, the company said.

Downes said this was a substantial sea area and, “even at this stage” consultation with all stakeholders was important, and not just with representative organisations.

The Government is committed to increasing the current target of offshore wind energy from 3.5 gigawatts (GW) to five GW off the Irish east and south coasts by 2030.

It has prioritised the Maritime Area Planning (MAP) Bill – formerly titled the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill – which will issue marine area consents for offshore wind projects.

Minister for Environment and Climate Eamon Ryan has said the legislation would provide for a “ steady predictable phased routine process” of licensing and approving offshore wind.

Read The Times Ireland here

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An environmental group has called on Taoiseach Micheál Martin to separate the State’s Sea Fisheries Protection Agency from control by the Department of Agriculture and the Marine.

As The Times Ireland edition reports today, the Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) believe EU penalties imposed on the Irish fishing sector are a consequence of the SFPA's lack of independence.

The entire Irish fishing sector is now having to bear the burden of penalties arising from an EU audit of specific breaches which were not sufficiently addressed by Irish authorities, FIE says.

The 2018 EU audit had identified “severe and significant weaknesses in the Irish control system” for the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy, detailing irregularities, including the manipulation of weighing systems in some instances.

Ireland is already negotiating terms of a payback quotas, as the EU auditors found that Ireland had overfished its quota of mackerel by 28,600 tonnes; horse mackerel quota by 8,100 tonnes and blue whiting by 5,600 tonnes between 2012 and 2016.

The EU’s recent decision to withdraw Ireland’s control plan for weighing catches has caused consternation within the industry, as all seafood catches by both large and small vessels now have to be weighed at the point of landing.

Ireland had previously secured a derogation to allow weighing in factories, due to the loss of quality involved in weighing at the pier.

The FIE has published the full EU audit report on its website, and has also written to the National Bureau of Criminal Investigations and to the Criminal Assets Bureau, asking both agencies if they are aware of the audit team’s recommendations in relation to tackling fraud.

SFPA chair Dr Susan Steele,who is due to take up a post as head of the EU’s fisheries control agency in Vigo, Spain in September, said the EU decision on weighing catches at the point of landing is a “clear marker of tougher fisheries controls across the EU”.

However, the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) has said it is “simply flabbergasted” that what it described as “this bewildering move which has such a direct and draconian impact on all aspects of Irish fisheries” could “be considered without any advance notice”.

In its letter to the Taoiseach, the FIE says that that the root cause of the problem is an undermining of the independence of the SFPA by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Noting the department's “ development priorities”, FIE Director Tony Lowes said the “necessary and appropriate checks and balances incumbent on the department in the exercise of its functions are impossible”.

“The compounding procedures brought against Ireland by the EU are because the SFPA, like the Marine Institute, is administered by the part of the Department of Agriculture also responsible for the promotion of the seafood industry,” he said.

He has urged the Taoiseach to transfer administration and financing of the SFPA to “one of the many non-marine divisions”.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine said it was "not accurate" to suggest it undermined the SFPA's independence.

It said the SFPA's independence is laid down in legislation that is "fully respected", and it said it had also increased the SFPA's budget with further recruitment planned for this year.

Read The Times here

Published in Fishing

Dun Laoghaire Harbour’s strategic location as an EU port in the middle of the Irish Sea may have been overlooked by commercial fishing fleets for years but since Brexit, it appears Belgian fishermen have been quick to see the advantage of the Dublin Bay port.

Not only did two Belgian trawlers take shelter from today’s forecasted south-easterly gale but both 38-metre boats also offloaded catch at the harbour’s number two-berth on the Carlisle Pier.

It brings to four the number of big Belgian vessels using the port this month, more than doubling the sporadic arrival of such visits last year.

Is it a possible positive Brexit spin-off for the Victorian harbour that is itself the subject of its regeneration plans?

The Jasmine alongside at Dun LaoghaireThe Jasmine alongside at Dun Laoghaire

The trawlers, that catch Whitefish, on Cardigan Bay off the Welsh coast used to land in Liverpool but current Brexit arrangements are causing difficulties leading to the requirement for deepwater alternatives.

The six-metre draft of the trawlers is just too deep for other east coast ports (other than Dublin) so Dun Laoghaire Harbour is proving a convenient and well-serviced location.

The Carlisle Pier provides easy access for trucks to take the catch to market. And it's not the only port the Belgians are accessing, they are also landing fish in Cork, according to local sources.

The main fishing grounds of the Belgians are the southern and central North Sea, accounting for 44 per cent of total catches. Other important fishing grounds are the English Channel (26 per cent), the Celtic Sea (18 per cent) and the Irish Sea (8 per cent).

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