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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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A message issued on World Fisheries Day (21st November) by Cardinal Peter Turkson calls for significant improvements in working conditions for those working in the fishing industry. With over 32,000 losing their lives while at work each year, it is one of the most perilous jobs in the world.

The Vatican’s message underlines the significance of the fishing sector for the survival of millions of people around the world. The theme for this years Day is “Social Responsibility in the Fisheries Value Chain”, which draws into focus the difficulty of monitoring and controlling human activity at sea which often puts human life at risk.

Stella Maris, the Church’s outreach to fishers and their families, is no stranger to cases of abuses, precarious working conditions, false contracts and even slavery that takes place in fishing.

Earlier this year Stella Maris in the Seychelles reported an incident in which four Filipino fishermen whose work contracts had expired were desperate to return home to their families. However, the Captain of the trawler refused to let them go and pay for flight tickets to the Philippines. Following the intervention of Stella Maris and other agencies the men were eventually paid and repatriated.

"Stella Maris, the Church’s outreach to fishers and their families, is no stranger to cases of abuses and precarious working conditions"

The Vatican’s message calls on Governments and International Organisations to implement the law and ensure fishermen and their rights are protected.

Joe O’Donnell, Chaplain for Stella Maris (Apostleship of the Sea) says "We often say that Stella Maris is like an ambulance, picking up the damaged bodies, but unable to enact change. We invite governments and partners to work with Stella Maris to promote better welfare for fishers.

Published in Fishing
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A Spanish registered fishing vessel has been escorted into Galway by the Naval Service after it was detained off the Kerry coast writes Lorna Siggins.

The vessel was inspected by the Naval Service patrol ship LÉ William Butler Yeats and detained about 59 nautical miles north-west of Valentia Island, Co Kerry, on Friday, November 15 for alleged breach of fishing regulations.

It was handed over to the Garda on berthing in Galway harbour. It is the 12th fishing vessel detained so far by the Naval Service this year.

Published in Navy
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European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has recommended that the EU fisheries council should “proactively” release documents on annual fishing quota negotiations into the public domain writes Lorna Siggins

Ms O’Reilly has ruled that the documents should be made public at the same time as they are circulated to member states, or “as soon as possible thereafter”.

She said that releasing the relevant documents while the decision-making process was continuing aimed to “promote greater transparency of environmental information”.

Her recommendation follows a complaint by non-profit environmental law organisation ClientEarth, which has offices in London, Brussels, Warsaw, Berlin and Beijing.

Welcoming the EU Ombudsman’s decision, ClientEarth said that the move could “open up the current opaque decision-making process, which blocks public scrutiny and keeps member state positions secret”.

Ms O’Reilly began her investigation last May after the lawyers’ organisation raised the issue of “many years of unexplained fishing quotas, set above the scientific advice for the recovery and long-term sustainability of fish populations”.

In her ruling, Ms O’Reilly said that she had “already taken the view that having a complete and accessible public register is key to transparency”.

“To enable the public to exercise fully the right to access documents, all documents produced and/or circulated in preparatory bodies should be listed in a public register, irrespective of their format and whether they are fully or partially accessible or not accessible at all,” her ruling stated

“ In addition, in order to enable the public to access these documents, they must be easy to find on the (EU) Council’s website. Only through a complete and accessible register of documents can the public get a proper overview of deliberations taking place in preparatory bodies,” she stated.

ClientEarth environmental democracy lawyer Anne Friel said that the EU Ombudsman’s recommendation “couldn’t have come at a more crucial moment for the EU’s fish stocks, as 2020 is the legal deadline to end overfishing”.

“If EU ministers are to meet this deadline, public scrutiny of the decision-making process is vital,” she said.

“Publishing meeting documents that show member states’ positions in a timely manner would help the public participate in the decision-making process and hold governments to account,” Ms Friel said.

“Being more transparent would also incentivise ministers to follow advice from scientists rather than caving to industry demands,” she said.

Last week, the European Commission published its proposal for fishing opportunities in 2020 for 72 stocks in the Atlantic and the North Sea.

It said that for 32 stocks the fishing quota is “either increased or remains the same”, while for 40 stocks “the quota is reduced”.

The European Commission said that sustainable fishing “has made substantial progress, with 59 stocks being fished at maximum sustainable yield levels this year - up from 53 in 2018 and compared to only five stocks in 2009.

“This means that the fishing pressure on the stocks is limited to a level that will allow a healthy future for the fish stocks' biomass while taking into account socio-economic factors,” it said.

It said it was “working with member states to support the fishermen in reaching the objective of fishing all stocks at sustainable levels by 2020, as set by the Common Fisheries Policy.

“ As the size of some key fish stocks is increasing – for instance, haddock in the Celtic Sea and sole in the Bristol Channel– so has the profitability of the fishing sector, with an estimated €1.3 billion gross profit for 2019,” the Commission said.

Fisheries ministers meet on December 16th and 17th in Brussels to determine quotas for next year, with Britain participating due to the Brexit negotiation extension.

ClientEarth called on the EU fisheries council to “implement the EU Ombudsman’s recommendation immediately and publish all relevant documents on fishing limits as soon as they are circulated in the council”.

Published in Fishing
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Ireland’s first accredited fishmonger qualification has been launched today in the fishing port of Howth, Co Dublin. Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s seafood development agency, has developed the Certificate in Fishmonger Skills accredited by nationally and internationally recognised Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI).

Ian Mannix, BIM described how the aim of the training is to retain and attract talent into the industry. He said:

“ Today’s consumer has come to expect their fishmonger to have a broad knowledge of seafood. They want them to be able to advise them when they are at the counter. This new programme will provide solid, fully certified training to anyone working in seafood retailing; practical skills they can then apply in the industry Moreover, improved skills in the workplace will ultimately lead to better sales and better retention of staff.”

The new training combines practical and classroom learning and includes modules on seafood labelling, nutrition and food safety. The programme also includes hands-on demonstrations in fish fileting and culinary skills and is aimed at existing staff in seafood retailing or those interested in pursuing a career in the industry.

Master fishmonger, Hal Dawson is one of the trainers on the new programme. He has worked in the seafood industry since 1972. He said:

“ The new course will provide professionalism within the industry. Having this qualification on your cv, will give fishmongers a real advantage.”

The value of seafood retail sales in 2018 was €297 million according to the BIM Business of Seafood report. Sales of loose fish experienced the sharpest increase (+8%) in comparison to pre-packed (+1%). Salmon remains the number one fish species bought by consumers in Ireland. However, there has been a marked increase in demand for lesser-known species owing to higher awareness of sustainability and provenance.

Laura Desmond, National Sales Manager, Oceanpath, completed the pilot fishmonger skills programme in 2018. She spoke of how the training has given her more experience in grading fish quality and food safety and said:

“ I started out in sales and engineering and made a switch to the fish business when my mother passed away in 2010. I now manage Reid’s Fish Market and Oceanpath. I love the freedom of my job. I’m in my car, and get to share my passion and knowledge of seafood to fishmongers working in the different stores.”

I can go into any of our stores now and ensure we’re selling the best quality fish.

The Certificate in Fishmonger Skills is taking place in Dublin and Cork early 2020. To find out more or to request an application form, please email seafoodskills.ie or go towww.bim.ie

Published in Fishing
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Each year up to 35,000 adult female lobsters caught by Irish inshore fishermen have a v-shaped notch removed from their tail by trained Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) staff.

This ‘V-notch’ marking is supported by legislation that makes it illegal to land, hold or sell these lobsters and as a result, if they are caught again they must be returned to the sea. This allows them to continue to reproduce on up to three more occasions before the notch is repaired, helping maintain Ireland’s lobster fishery. Ireland was the first country to introduce this measure in Europe in 1994. It arose from concerns by members of the Irish fishing sector in the early 1990s about the sustainability of the Irish lobster stock. The programme has grown in each year since that time.

Participating fishermen receive financial support from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund administered through BIM for a proportion of the value of the v-notched lobsters returned to the sea. They also make a contribution themselves in the form of the remaining proportion of the value of the lobsters.

Additional protection is provided for the lobster stock in the form of a Minimum Conservation Reference Size (MCRS) of 87mm carapace length. This is measured from the back of the eye socket to the back of the carapace and aims to protect lobsters that are not yet sufficiently mature to reproduce and contribute to the lobster stock. A Maximum Landing Size (MLS) of 127mm also forms part of the conservation.

By V-notching larger lobsters which produce much higher numbers of eggs, the lobsters are afforded the chance to grow large enough to exceed the maximum landing size and gain permanent protection. Lobsters under the MCRS and over C

Contact your local BIM Regional Development Officer Caroline Curraoin, BIM at [email protected] or + 353 1 214 418 to learn more about the scheme.

Published in Fishing
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A new EU study says that inspection authorities in 15 EU member states are failing to manage engine power as a way of controlling fishing effort writes Lorna Siggins

Physical engine power verifications conducted on board 68 fishing vessels across 14 of the 15 member states surveyed found “misreporting” of engine power to be a “widespread phenomenon within the sample”, the report says.

The report for the EU Maritime Affairs and Fisheries directorate found that “measured” engine power exceeded “certified” engine power during 51 per cent of inspections.

This meant that vessels certified to catch a certain amount of fish were, in theory, able to catch more.

“misreporting” of engine power to be a “widespread phenomenon"

The report also found there were “secondary indications of non-compliance” in some 16 per cent of inspected vessels.

There were “no indications of non-compliance” in some 35 per cent of vessels inspected, the report says.

Engine power is regarded as a good indicator of fishing effort, and also indicates the size of gear that can be towed and speed of same.

The inspectors divided inspections into categories – as in Atlantic pelagic trawlers; bottom otter trawlers in the Mediterranean, Straits of Sicily and the Adriatic Sea; North Sea beam trawlers; deep-sea long-liners off the Azores and Madeira; and Baltic Sea and Cantabrian coast mid-water otter trawlers.

Verifications were conducted in co-operation with, and under the authority of, member state authorities, and were meant to take place on an “unannounced basis”, the report states.

Power was measured with a torque meter using strain gauges installed on a temporary basis at the propellor shaft, in combination with a shaft speed meter.

Several situations were evaluated, including steaming at maximum engine speed, and propellor pitch if applicable; fishing at maximum engine speed or pulling (as in bollard pull) at a maximum engine speed.

In spite of several attempts, the consultants were unable to conduct verifications in Greece.

The report says that authorities in Germany, Ireland and Scotland questioned the authority of their own fishery inspectors to conduct physical engine power verifications.

It also says that member states didn’t have the authority to require co-operation from vessel owners, and this resulted in evasion of control by one vessel in France and contributed to a failure to inspect in Greece.

In Ireland, the inspections took place in Killybegs, Co Donegal, in conjunction with the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) and the Marine Survey Office (MSO).

The report says that “secondary” indicators of non-compliance were detected, and the applied fuel rack sealing of the main enginers onboard one unnamed vessel did not correspond to the de-rated output.

On a second Irish vessel, evidence of tampering with engine settings prior to the physical verification was found, and the master of this vessel refused to operate above 72 per cent pitch.

“An explanation for the fact that only indirect evidence has been found could be that the owners of the vessels were informed about the verification by the local authorities earlier than as agreed with the contractor”, the report says.

In the case of the Spanish fleet, several cases of a “substantial magnitude” of non-compliance were found.

The consultants had been asked to follow up complaints against a segment of the Spanish fleet and one Irish vessel.

The report notes that only 11 of the 15 member states studied for the review have implemented a sampling plan, and five-member states conducted verification only once from 2012 to 2014.

Some six member states selected a sample of vessels for verification of engine power on a recurring basis, as in every six or 12 months.

It says that the certification system needs to be improved across all member states to ensure that the certified engine power at time of installation corresponds with the actual capacity of the engine. Inspections for ongoing compliance also need to be improved, and it suggests several options for this.

Asked to comment, the SFPA that “as part of an EU-wide review, physical engine power assessment verification inspections were conducted onboard fishing vessels in 14 member states including Ireland”.

“The vessels were selected for inspection by EU appointed specialist engine power inspectors,” the SFPA said, and as the national single authority, it assisted the Commission inspection team in co-ordinating inspections in Ireland at their request.

“The verification inspections were undertaken on an unannounced basis and conducted by EU appointed inspectors, accompanied by an inspector from the MSO,”the SFPA statement said.

Published in Fishing
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Marine specialist Dr Kevin Flannery has called on Minister for Marine Michael Creed to show “leadership” on managing the brown crab fishery before the stock collapses writes Lorna Siggins

“Inaction” by Mr Creed will result in many small vessels going to the wall unless a management plan is introduced, Flannery warns.

Brown or edible crab (cancer pagurus) and lobster are not covered by EU total allowable catch provisions, and landings are primarily managed through minimum landing size restrictions.

The rising price fetched for crab has resulted in a substantial increase in effort, particularly off the south-west, according to Flannery, who is a member of Ireland’s south-west regional inshore fisheries forum.

“You have up to 75 per cent of the Irish fleet now potting, and yet we have no patrol vessel that can haul a pot,” he says.

Figures from Bord Bia, show that the total crab exports to China in 2018 reached a value of €16.4 million. The average unit price per tonne was €7.9k, an increase of 32% on 2017.

"75 per cent of the Irish fleet are now potting yet we have no patrol vessel that can haul a pot"

“The price of brown crab has gone from 1.20 euro a kilo to 5 euro a kilo, but this has led to a bonanza which is not good for the stock – or for those who have invested in pots when there is no adequate management,”Dr Flannery says.

Earlier this month, a south-west Irish seafood company confirmed it had secured a 500,000 euro deal with supermarket chain Lidl to supply 800 of its Spanish and Portugal outlets with brown crab.

Shellfish Ireland in Castletownbere, Co Cork, which says it processes 1.5 million kilos of crab annually, employs about 150 people in the west Cork fishing port.

National lnshore Fisheries Forum (NIFF) vice-chairman Eamon Dixon said that the issue was complex, and one which might require co-operation with Britain and France as brown crab is a shared stock.

Mr Dixon said good work had been done in managing a biologically sensitive area extending from Clifden, Co Galway, to Co Waterford, but a full stock assessment was required to come up with a management plan.

Earlier this year, Mr Creed introduced a minimum conservation reference size for brown crab landings, increasing the minimum size to 140mm to allow more time for stock to reproduce.

Mr Creed closed the crab fishery for three months from January to March this year, on foot of an Irish quota management advisory committee recommendation, his department points out.

His department said that the NIFF was holding a series of meetings to come up with a management recommendation.

However, Dr Flannery said it was unfair to expect stakeholders to come up with a management regime without department leadership and a “rapid solution”.

The Marine Institute says that the minimum size increase to 140mm enabled better spawning levels, as maturity is on average 120mm.

However, it said that “no analytical assessments are undertaken” and “methods for assessment of poor stocks continue to be explored”.

Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has recently initiated a consultation on managing the brown crab.

The Northern Irish authority said this was in response to industry concerns about the health of the fishery, which recorded landings in ports worth over £1.239 million in 2017.

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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