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An investigation into a fire and sinking of a fishing vessel in the Irish Sea last year has found that its fire detection system failed to work, even though it had been surveyed only ten months beforehand writes Lorna Siggins

Three crew on board the MFV Suzanne II had a fortunate escape, as their emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) activated, and gave their latitude and longitude.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) inquiry records that the three crew had set out from Arklow, Co Wicklow, in the early hours of May 2nd last year, and were working about 30 nautical miles east of the fishing port.

Weather conditions were good, and the three had taken a break when one of the crew noticed smoke coming from the engine room.

The 17-metre French-built timber vessel with aluminium shelter deck was built as a trawler but fitted with a pot hauler in 2018. The vessel had been surveyed and certified for fishing in July 2018.

The inquiry states that the skipper went to investigate the source of the smoke and “soon realised that there was a serious fire in the engine room”.

“He made an attempt to fight the fire but the level of smoke hampered any effort. The smoke and fire very quickly engulfed the vessel’s accommodation and wheelhouse,” it states.

“ The crew retrieved the vessel’s EPIRB and abandoned ship to an inflatable life raft,” it states.

Activation of the EPIRB alerted the Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Dublin at 14.21 hours, as the skipper had tried unsuccessfully to seek assistance via VHF radio.

The liferaft was spotted by an angling boat named the Highlander en route from Wales to Ireland, and two of the fishing crew were transferred to the RNLI Arklow lifeboat.

The skipper, suffering from smoke inhalation, was airlifted to hospital in Waterford by the Irish Coast Guard Rescue 117 helicopter.

The MCIB says this was “a very serious marine casualty resulting in a major fire, an abandoned ship and the subsequent sinking..."

A tug boat with fire-fighting capabilities tried to extinguish the blaze, but the Suzanne II sank within three hours.

RNLI Arklow lifeboat coxswain Ned Dillon praised the crew at the time for their rapid actions.

The MCIB says that the fire detection system failed to work, and had been tested as part of a survey in July 2018. There was no record of its most recent test as the vessel’s logbooks were lost in the sinking.

Under existing regulations, testing of fire systems should take place monthly.

The MCIB’s recommendations include requesting the Minister for Transport to issue marine notices reminding of the requirement for all crew to have basic safety training, and the requirement to ensure fire alarms are regularly tested and maintained.

It says this marine notice should include “guidance on the inspection and testing of fire detection systems onboard fishing vessels of 15-24 metres in length”.

Published in MCIB
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Construction of amenity facilities has been granted planning permission at Rossaveel Fishery Harbour Centre in Connemara, reports Galway Bay FM. 

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine have been awarded the permission to progress the works at the small craft harbour in the village.

The development comprises of welfare facilities including a canteen at ground floor level and administrative offices at first floor level.

An Bord Pleanála granted permission with 9 conditions attached.

One states that the developers must pay a contribution of just over €2,000 to the local authority, while another limits work on site from 7am to 6pm weekdays and 8am to 2pm on Saturdays.

Published in Irish Harbours

Minister for Marine Michael Creed has paid tribute to Irish trawler owners who have signed up to the State’s “fishing for litter” scheme.

Mr Creed said that 96 per cent of trawlers in the fleet have registered to participate, as in 168 boats, along with 56 other vessels.

All 12 ports are involved in the “Clean Oceans” initiative which is run by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

By this year’s third quarter, 150 tonnes of marine plastic waste was collected from the 12 fishing ports and 54 tonnes of used fishing nets have been collected for recycling by BIM’s mobile shredder, named the “Green Machine”.

 “Fishermen have risen to the challenge I set for them early this year and I am sincerely thrilled that 96% of our trawlers are now signed up and onboard, but we need to get every single trawler on-board for this,”Mr Creed said.

When he initiated the scheme last January in Union Hall, Co Cork, Mr Creed called for the entire trawler fleet to sign up by December 31st of this year.

"There are over 2,000 vessels in the Irish fleet"

There are over 2,000 vessels in the Irish fleet, the vast majority of which are multi-purpose and range from smaller inshore boats to whitefish vessels.

“ I’m delighted that the fisheries producer organisations endorsed this Initiative and are encouraging their members to sign up and get involved,” Mr Creed added.

Protecting oceans is one of 17 “global goals” that make up the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Applicants can sign up online at http://www.bim.ie/fishing-for-litter/ or by contacting BIM at telephone (01)2144100.

Published in Fishing
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All trawling by vessels over 18m in length within Ireland’s six-mile zone will be outlawed from January 1st, Minister for Marine Michael Creed has reminded the fishing industry.

However, a “phased” system will operate for vessels fishing for sprat during 2020 and 2021, he says.

The new protection of inshore waters will “both support our small scale and island fishermen and provide wider ecosystem benefits, including for nursery areas and juvenile fish stocks”, Mr Creed said today.

“This new policy will, I believe, support the development of small scale inshore and sea angling sectors which is a Government commitment,” he said.

New EU conservation measures for the Celtic Sea, agreed at the December fisheries council last week, involve a 25% increase in the size of mesh in nets used to fish for mixed whitefish in this area, Mr Creed also noted. 

“The new measures agreed for the Celtic Sea to help rebuild the depleted cod and whiting fish stocks will also provide substantial benefits for all our whitefish stocks including for our inshore waters,” he said.

“ As this will involve a change in the fishing gear used by Irish fishermen, I have asked BIM to provide grant aid support to them to reduce the costs of the required fishing gear change,”he said.

Published in Fishing
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Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine Michael Creed has hailed EU agreement on next year’s fish quotas, while the deal has been condemned by environmental NGOs Birdwatch Ireland and Our Fish writes Lorna Siggins

Mr Creed said that securing agreement on rebuilding measures in the Celtic Sea was “one of the most difficult aspects” of the negotiations, and said the total package agreed is 195,000 tonnes – worth 275 million euro for the Irish industry next year.

Increases in key stocks include mackerel (41% increase), haddock (+30%), monkfish (+7%) and megrims (+3%) in the Celtic Sea.

Mr Creed said Ireland’s second most important fishery, prawns, has been reduced by 15% in accordance with the scientific advice “due to the decline in stock density in some important prawn beds”.

“Some stocks such as cod and whiting in the Celtic Sea remain in very poor shape and at this Council, agreement was reached on the introduction of significant additional safeguards designed to rebuild these stocks,” he said.

Measures to protect cod and whiting “were trialled by our experts in BIM and the Marine Institute, working closely with our fishing fleet”, he said.

“ By taking these necessary steps now, we can rebuild the stocks in our Celtic Sea fisheries and avoid the need for closures,” he said.

He said that for 32 of 47 target stocks of interest to Ireland, the quotas for 2020 were set at or below the scientific advice where available, meeting maximum sustainable yield criteria. Restrictive quotas were set for four vulnerable stocks of interest to Ireland, while very small quotas for three depleted herring stocks were set to allow for the collection of scientific data.

However, EU fisheries ministers have been criticised by NGOs, including Birdwatch Ireland and umbrella group Our Fish.

Our Fish accused ministers of continuing to prioritise economically important species over vulnerable non-profitable species and was critical of the failure to introduce monitoring at sea to ensure the ending of discards.

Our Fish said a preliminary assessment of available information suggested that a number of all total allowable catches (TACs) have been set above scientific advice, including several vulnerable cod stocks such as west of Scotland and North Sea and southern hake.

Birdwatch Ireland said that EU ministers, including Mr Creed, had “failed abysmally to meet the EU’s legal deadline to end overfishing” by 2020.

“Both the Irish Government and the European Parliament have declared a climate and environmental emergency. This is just another example that EU leaders neither comprehend the scale of the existential crisis we face or have any intention of doing anything about it,” it said.

“While Minister Creed will say that meeting the 2020 deadline was too great a challenge due to the poor state of many stocks, the reality is that he has played a significant role in creating the situation. Ireland has one of the worst records in the EU at driving overfishing,” it said.

“The Celtic Sea Herring fishery had to close this year due to the state of the stock and there are no signs it will open next year. While the minister has argued that he has been fighting for the interests of the fishing industry, the facts are that overfishing is costing jobs,” it said.

EU fish deal table

fish table

Published in Fishing
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Despite having the richest fishing waters in Europe, Ireland’s fishing industry and fishing communities are swimming against the tide.

A new documentary series begins on TG4 on Wednesday, 8th January called Tabú. This first episode, called "Gafa sna Líonta" and chronicles fishermen's' stories and the challenges each season brings on sea and on land for our coastal communities. 

Filmed in the fishing towns of Castletownbere, Dunmore East and Heilbhic, this immersive documentary chronicles the challenges each season brings on the sea and on land for our coastal communities.

Frank and honest interviews with the fishermen who find themselves trapped by quotas and who are heavily policed by Irish and EU regulations give this documentary a here and now approach to an ongoing problem concerning one of our richest natural resources.

The documentary features just some of the many types of fishing taking place our shores by our native fishermen. From Pelagic to Potting, Seining to gillnetting, the documentary offers just a taste of the life of a fisherman and the challenges they face on a daily basis.

The documentary follows the Irish Navy as they perform routine inspections on boats in Irish waters. The dangers of this industry are highlighted by a dramatic event which took place while filming where the emergency services were called upon to attend.

Damien Turner, whilst not originally from a fishing family – his father was a merchant seaman – came into fishing at an early age and excelled from day one. Now, Damien is rarely off the water, and yet his family are foremost on his mind having proudly named his boat, the Róise Catríona, after his daughter. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Damien has navigated the tricky challenges that have been placed before him over the years and has earned the respect of the fishing industry at large for his innovative conservation and efforts to be proactive within the fishing industry.

Patrick Murphy is the CEO of the South and West Producer’s Organisation. His passion for the fishing industry is palpable in this documentary. He himself comes from a mussel farming family in the stunning Roaring Water Bay of West Cork where they have class A waters for farming their product which is exported to France and the Far East. Patrick is adamant that if we fought just a little more for our rights within our own waters, the benefits to the country’s exchequer are boundless.

John Nolan manages the Castletownbere Fishermen’s co-op. Despite this being a logistical challenge within itself, John took on the role many years ago and has made it his own.

Pulling no punches, John has all the facts and figures at his fingertips and sees the pitfalls of the industry first hand every single day, but also offers reasonable solutions.

Shane McIntyre fishes out of Dunmore East and has had many a challenge over the years. Recently he made the costly decision to adapt his boat when whitefish fishing became just too challenging from a financial perspective. Having made the changes to make his boat suitable for lobster and crab pots, he now faces an unannounced challenge to the fishing grounds he has fished for years. His fears for how events will unfold at sea after Brexit are painted vividly and expresses a deep-seated desire for our authorities to fight our corner so he can simply provide for his family and do what he loves best.

Gafa sna Líonta forms part of the Tabú series on TG4 and kicks off a season of 9 individual thought-provoking documentaries that offer a startling, compelling and
uncompromising look at lesser spoken of topics in Ireland today. Subjects such as Homelessness, Children with chronic health conditions, Allergies, Direct Provision,  Being Transgender in Ireland, Worldwide frontline emergency medical workers, Ireland’s Offshore Fishing industry, The Coast Guard and the imminent closure of the Bord na Móna bogs are discussed as 1-hour stand-alone documentaries that provide insightful yet engaging viewing.

Published in Maritime TV
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As EU fisheries ministers gather in Brussels today for their annual catch and quota negotiations, one Irish industry leader has warned that the impact of Brexit is already being felt with a “doubling” of non-Irish vessels fishing in these waters writes Lorna Siggins

Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation chief executive Patrick Murphy warned that while “the harsh language of a “no-deal Brexit” may have softened in the run-up to the British general election”, there could be “further twists in the weeks ahead”.

Irish vessels which catch some 34% of landings off Britain will continue to be able to fish in those waters for now.

However, full British withdrawal from the Common Fisheries Policy would result in loss of Irish access and transfer of effort by other EU vessels into these waters.

The EU has a legally binding commitment under Article 148 of the withdrawal agreement with British prime minister Boris Johnson to discuss fishing access and trade together.

Irish vessels which catch some 34% of landings off Britain will continue to be able to fish in those waters for now

However, British cabinet minister Michael Gove appeared to ignore this recently when he told Scottish fishermen that Britain would be an “independent coastal state” in full control of its waters after Brexit.

Mr Gove said that access to British waters and trade would form “two separate negotiations”, telling reporters that “I know there are some people who are worried that somehow access to our waters and access to the EU’s markets will be mixed up - absolutely not...”

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed has laid down a clear marker that this will not be tolerated, warning that the issue of fisheries is central to agreeing a trade deal between the EU and Britain.

“What we will be saying is ‘you want your financial passporting into the European Union from the City of London and elsewhere, you want open skies and we want access to your waters’,” Mr Creed said in an interview with The Sunday Business Post.

Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation chief Sean O'Donoghue warned on RTÉ Radio Morning Ireland this morning (mon 16) that if trade negotiations stretch beyond the end of next year, a "hard Brexit" could follow for the Irish fishing industry.

Britain’s financial services sector relies on financial passporting for access to every EU state, while British airlines require an “open skies” agreement to ensure access to EU airports with minimal bureaucracy.

“That’s the quid pro quo, I mean nothing less can be countenanced for us, otherwise we lose effectively overnight a third of our fishing industry,” Mr Creed told the Sunday newspaper.

He noted that political rhetoric had raised expectations among British fishermen.

The “take back control” rhetoric “kind of resonates more with the fishing industry in terms of pulling the ladder up behind them and kicking all of us out of their waters,” Mr Creed said.

In a statement on the eve of the EU fisheries council, Mr Creed said that while there were “many challenges ahead”, there was also “significant progress” towards ensuring sustainable catches.

Mr Creed said that of 74 stocks of “interest” to Ireland, some 35 of these were now fished at maximum sustainable yield - where total allowable catches and quotas are set at levels that ensure long-term sustainability.

“This figure has been improving, year on year, since 2013,” he said.

He noted that the European Commission’s proposal includes increases to a number of important stocks for the Irish fleet, including mackerel (41% increase), haddock (30% increase), monkfish (7% increase) and megrim (3% increase) in the Celtic Sea.

Mr Creed said Ireland supported the additional measure to improve selectivity and reduce quantities of cod and whiting caught in mixed fisheries in the Celtic Sea.

Mr Creed noted that the ban on discarding fish at sea – known as the landing obligation - had been fully implemented for the first time last year.

“Implementing the landing obligation is not without its difficulties, but we will continue to work with industry and our experts in Bord Iascaigh Mhara and the Marine Institute to make it work,” he said.

Last week, a consortium of environmental non-governmental organisations in “Ocean avenger” costume staged a protest at Brussels, calling on agriculture and fisheries ministers to end overfishing.

Five non-governmental organisations, Our Fish, Seas at Risk, ClientEarth, Fishsec and Sciaena delivered a six-point plan, outlining why EU leaders must act to end overfishing to protect marine biodiversity and strengthen the ocean’s resilience against climate change.

Several months ago, EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly recommended that the EU fisheries council should “proactively” release documents on annual quota negotiations into the public domain.

Ms O’Reilly said that the documents should be made public at the same time as they are circulated to member states, or “as soon as possible thereafter” to “promote greater transparency of environmental information”.

Mr Creed met stakeholders, including industry representatives and environmental NGOs on November 25th, and pledged to meet them again in advance of today’s council opening.

He paid tribute those who had participated, and singled out “the contribution of the men and women of the fishing industry, who are on the front line of these changes”.

In a related development, the State’s Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) has confirmed it intends to re-introduce weighing pelagic (mackerel/herring/blue whiting) catches at point of landing in ports to comply with EU regulations.

A highly critical audit conducted by the European Commission had recommended restoration of weighing at piers, rather than only in factories, as one of a series of measures to ensure proper controls.

SFPA chairwoman Susan Steele said the requirement would be applied to a “small portion of landings”.

“Co-operation with our officers will ensure that weighing operations are completed efficiently,” she said.

Published in Fishing
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A Government plan to streamline marine planning and consent has been stymied by refusal of one key department to become involved writes Lorna Siggins

A new “one stop permit shop” for offshore wind farms, ocean energy and other marine activities will not now cover fish farming or sea fisheries.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed intends to retain responsibility for aquaculture and sea-fisheries related development, his department has confirmed.

As a result, these activities may be omitted from the long-awaited Marine Planning and Development Management Bill, which is due to come before the Oireachtas shortly.

The new legislation billed as “revolutionary”, intends to underpin a single maritime area consent system for economic activity off the coast which avoids conflicts between competing interests.

The failure by Mr Creed’s department to sign up was criticised at a consultation meeting on the Government’ s new national marine planning framework in Galway this week.

Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development Damien English, who is spearheading the new framework, told the meeting his department would be hiring planners with a marine background as part of the approach.

However, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Aquaculture Executive Teresa Morrisey, who represents fish and shellfish farmers, challenged Mr English to explain why Mr Creed’s department had declined to sign up.

She said that the current system of aquaculture licensing had been acknowledged as not fit for purpose.

“How many government departments does it takes to manage the native flat oyster?"

Mr Diarmuid Kelly of Cuan Beo, the Galway Bay environmental organisation, also highlighted the anomalies when he asked Mr English if he knew “how many government departments it takes to manage the native flat oyster”.

“Seven,” Mr English replied, acknowledging there was an issue of duplication.

“The situation with the Department of Agriculture is not finished yet,” Mr English added, referring to the new legislation.

The national marine planning framework has been hailed by Mr English as a “milestone” and “Ireland’s first complete marine spatial plan”.

Under the associated legislation, maritime area consents will be granted by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment for developments such as offshore renewable energy.

The Government’s target of 70% renewable energy by 2030 as part of its climate action plan means Ireland “will have to prepare now for a significant offshore wind capacity in our system”, Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton said recently.

Maritime area consents for all other development will be granted by the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government.

A newly designated “nearshore” area will fall under local authorities, which will regulate “minor activities” such as horse racing on beaches.

Just three months have been given for submissions to the marine planning framework, which is one central piece in a jigsaw designed to meet the EU requirement for national marine spatial plans by 2021.

Mr English’s department is hosting a series of regional consultative meetings around the coast before the submission deadline of February 28th, 2020.

Published in Environment
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The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D., today hosted the 19th meeting of the National Inshore Fisheries Forum (NIFF) at Agriculture House, Dublin.

The Inshore Fisheries Forums, established in 2014, are currently going through a renewal process with some members coming to the end of their terms and new chairs and vice chairs being appointed to represent their region at the National Inshore Fisheries Forum.

The Minister took the opportunity to pay tribute to those who are departing: “I wish to thank all of you who stepped forward to represent your sector. Without your drive and dedication, this initiative would not have emerged as the influential voice for the sector that it has since become.” From having first met on 15 January 2015, the National Inshore Fisheries Forum has now been given seats as the inshore fishing representatives on a number of consultative platforms including the Quota Management Advisory Committee and the EMFF Operational Programme Monitoring Committee.

Noting the record of policy development of the Inshore Fisheries Forums the Minister observed, “Eight conservation measures have been introduced due to the work that started in one of the six regions which was then supported at NIFF. BIM is working with the NIFF to implement the first ever industry-led inshore strategy because the NIFF made that a priority. At times there have been challenging engagements but I sincerely hope that the proactive approach of the NIFF will continue to be felt no matter who is in the seat for their region. Facing challenges like Climate Change and the roll-out of new policies like Marine Spatial Planning it is essential that there is a strong representative voice capable of leading for the Inshore Fisheries Sector.”

Published in Fishing
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A new deckhand fishing training programme, aimed at attracting young entrants to the fishing industry has been announced by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s seafood development agency today (Wednesday, 27th November). Trainers on the programme include experienced mariners and former skippers who will provide mentoring and training in a range of areas including essential safety skills, operating a marine VHF radio, working with ropes and nets, conditions affecting vessel stability and fish handling and food safety.

Brian Vaughan, Principal BIM National Fisheries College Greencastle, spoke of the challenges facing the industry and how the attraction and retention of skilled staff is one of the biggest threats to the future of the industry. He said:

“This training is the first step for someone who is serious about a career in the fishing industry. This is an industry that’s built on skill, resilience and hard work. It’s highly rewarding and highly demanding work. You learn very quickly how to think on your feet; how to work as a team and how to safely respond to different scenarios that could affect you, the crew and the boat. This training is happening at a critical time in the history of the industry. The sustainability and the future of the industry is dependent on having a skilled workforce. The deckhands of today are the skippers of tomorrow.”

The Irish seafood sector was valued at €1.25 billion in 2018 according to the BIM Business of Seafood report. There are currently 2,127 registered fishing vessels in Ireland. The sector is a key economic driver in rural communities in Ireland. In coastal Donegal, 12 in every 100 adults work in the seafood industry.

The new Deckhand Foundation Programme is being held in BIM’s National Fisheries College in Greencastle, Co Donegal and will run for six weeks from February 2020.

Published in Fishing
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The Half Ton Class was created by the Offshore Racing Council for boats within the racing band not exceeding 22'-0". The ORC decided that the rule should "....permit the development of seaworthy offshore racing yachts...The Council will endeavour to protect the majority of the existing IOR fleet from rapid obsolescence caused by ....developments which produce increased performance without corresponding changes in ratings..."

When first introduced the IOR rule was perfectly adequate for rating boats in existence at that time. However yacht designers naturally examined the rule to seize upon any advantage they could find, the most noticeable of which has been a reduction in displacement and a return to fractional rigs.

After 1993, when the IOR Mk.III rule reached it termination due to lack of people building new boats, the rule was replaced by the CHS (Channel) Handicap system which in turn developed into the IRC system now used.

The IRC handicap system operates by a secret formula which tries to develop boats which are 'Cruising type' of relatively heavy boats with good internal accommodation. It tends to penalise boats with excessive stability or excessive sail area.

Competitions

The most significant events for the Half Ton Class has been the annual Half Ton Cup which was sailed under the IOR rules until 1993. More recently this has been replaced with the Half Ton Classics Cup. The venue of the event moved from continent to continent with over-representation on French or British ports. In later years the event is held biennially. Initially, it was proposed to hold events in Ireland, Britain and France by rotation. However, it was the Belgians who took the ball and ran with it. The Class is now managed from Belgium. 

At A Glance – Half Ton Classics Cup Winners

  • 2017 – Kinsale – Swuzzlebubble – Phil Plumtree – Farr 1977
  • 2016 – Falmouth – Swuzzlebubble – Greg Peck – Farr 1977
  • 2015 – Nieuwport – Checkmate XV – David Cullen – Humphreys 1985
  • 2014 – St Quay Portrieux – Swuzzlebubble – Peter Morton – Farr 1977
  • 2013 – Boulogne – Checkmate XV – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1985
  • 2011 – Cowes – Chimp – Michael Kershaw – Berret 1978
  • 2009 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978
  • 2007 – Dun Laoghaire – Henri-Lloyd Harmony – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1980~
  • 2005 – Dinard – Gingko – Patrick Lobrichon – Mauric 1968
  • 2003 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978

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