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A European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) surveillance aircraft was involved in the recent detention of a German-registered Spanish vessel in the Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

In a joint statement, the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) and Naval Service said that the apprehension was the result of a joint operation under the EFCA western waters joint deployment plan.

The vessel, named Ortega Tres, was the fourth detention to have been recorded by the Naval Service this year.

The patrol ship LÉ Samuel Beckett detained it on February 7th, and it was escorted into Castletownbere where it was handed over to the Garda authorities on February 13th.

At a subsequent court hearing in Bandon, the skipper of the German-registered gillnetter, Ramon Novo Martinez, was charged with a total of 25 fishing offences on various dates between a date unknown in December 2022 and February 3rd 2023 while fishing within the exclusive fishing limits of the Irish State.

The SFPA and Naval Service said it followed “extensive analysis of the vessel’s Electronic Logbook (ERS) and Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) positions over a number of weeks”.

“An intelligence-led operation with multi-agency cooperation led to the detention,” the statement said.

An “intel report” from a confidential source on January 6th was received by both bodies on January 6th last, and the fisheries monitoring centre (FMC) then tracked the vessel once it entered the Irish EEZ in late January, the statement said.

The Naval Service then requested aerial surveillance by an aircraft chartered by the EFCA, which had a flight plan for the Irish EEZ at that time under the joint deployment plan.

“The flight plan was amended to monitor this vessel, and the video footage gathered verified the intel received as well as additional evidence gathered,” the statement said.

“The Naval Service had a sea-fisheries protection officer on-site at the EFCA Coordination Centre ... analysing this aerial footage as it was live steamed back to both the SFPA and the FMC,” it said.

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Fishing industry representative Patrick Murphy intends to contest the next European elections in the Ireland South constituency.

Murphy who is chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO), may also stand for the local elections next year.

Murphy says he has been selected by political party Aontú, which is estimated to have 4% national support in a recent opinion poll.

Aontú is lead by Peadar Tóibín, a former member of both Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin.

Tóibín resigned from Sinn Féin in 2018 over his anti-abortion stance, and formed Aontú in January 2019.

Toíbín has said his party aims to win an Ireland South seat in the five-seater Ireland South constituency, which is currently represented by MEPs from three government parties and Independent Mick Wallace

As The Southern Star reports, Murphy gained national attention last year after he “took on the Russian navy and secured a deal for them to move their controversial manoeuvres further away from West Cork fishers’ grounds”.

Murphy (52), who is married to Rose, with four children, is a Heir island native, and is from a well known fishing family. He has been involved in mussel production in Roaringwater Bay for the past 25 years.

He told the newspaper it was time to “put his money where his mouth is” and fight for the rights of the fishing community.

“I see what is coming down the tracks from Europe, especially with regards to fishing, and getting a fairer deal for what’s left of our fishers is my main objective now,” he said.

“ I’ve spent my whole life intimately involved in the life of our coastal community,” he said.

“I’ve coached the Gabriel Rangers Gaelic football team and set up the Ballydehob Youth Centre,” he said.

He is also a member of the local community First Responders and a qualified instructor and also holds a qualification in childcare from Rossa College in Skibbereen.

“Through my work with the IS&WFPO, I’m acutely aware that the Irish people and specifically, our coastal communities are so dependent on fishing for their livelihood and survival, and that they are being failed at a European Union level,” he said.

“ We need politicians to represent us in the European Union who have the strength and courage to stand up to vested interests working in and around the European Council, Commission and Parliament in Brussels while protecting our Irish interests and specifically the interests of our fishing and farming communities,”he said.

“We need people who understand how the legislative and lobbying systems operating in Brussels affect the daily lives of ordinary people here in Ireland,” Murphy said.

Read more in The Southern Star here

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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 - McConalogue announces increased Brexit Investment in Public Marine Infrastructure - total now €55.3 million ( 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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