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Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue today announced approval for a scheme which will provide €45 million in funding for capital investment projects in seafood processing enterprises.

The scheme is based on a recommendation of the Seafood Taskforce which was established by Minister McConalogue to assess the impacts of Brexit and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement on the fishing sector and coastal communities. The Taskforce recommended that the sector be provided with a stimulus to drive transformational change and thereby overcome constraints arising from Brexit and incentivise change through the provision of graduated grant aid rates for capital investment projects in the industry. This scheme is proposed for funding under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve

Announcing the approval of the scheme, the Minister said, “Our Seafood Processors are of vital importance for our coastal communities, sustaining over 4,000 jobs and supporting the local economies in which they operate. I am pleased to announce that this new scheme will introduce significant levels of support to enable processors develop their enterprises, navigate the challenging trading environment and support jobs in the seafood sector.”

In line with the Taskforce recommendation, the scheme is designed to provide greater levels of funding to those capital investment projects which result in higher value-added activities. It will, in particular, assist seafood processors seeking to move away from commodity production to the production of higher value-added products. It will also help and to those seeking to diversify their product offering and enter new markets. Funding will also be available for seafood processors seeking to improve environmental performance and those aiming to achieve greater production efficiencies.

Minister McConalogue added: “I believe this scheme will significantly assist processing enterprises to adapt quickly, to become more sustainable in both a business sense and environmentally. Through the supports on offer, processors will be able to invest in innovative equipment, diversify their product lines and reach new, valuable markets.”

An Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) will be administering the scheme, and the Minister has requested that BIM open its call for applications as soon as possible. Due to the time limitations placed on BAR funding, investment projects must be completed before the end of 2023 to qualify for funding.

Minister McConalogue concluded: “The suite of schemes and measures I have announced will support fishers, the wider seafood sector and the coastal communities which are most dependent on the sea for their livelihoods. The scheme will assist the Seafood Processing industry in making transformational change and moving further up the value chain. These investments will ensure that Ireland maintains its reputation as a source of premium quality seafood, protect food supply chains in times of uncertainty, grow coastal economies and sustain the natural environment”

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Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, in collaboration with Chef Network Ireland and Fáilte Ireland on Monday 9th May 2022 announced the Taste the Atlantic, Young Chef Ambassador Programme for 2022. The aim of the programme is to engage with five ambitious young chefs, and over a four-month period mentor them through an exciting journey of learning about Ireland’s premium seafood offering along the Atlantic seaboard. This is the second year of the successful programme. Five chefs took part in the programme in 2021.

The selected chefs will benefit from on-site farm visits with Taste the Atlantic seafood producers where they will learn first-hand how organic salmon, mussels and oysters are sustainably produced in Ireland. They will also receive training in social media, business, culinary and fish handling skills from experienced industry mentors, such as Michelin starred chef, JP McMahon. Each chef will be paired with a Taste the Atlantic producer to learn about the provenance of the seafood they produce, broadening their knowledge and inspiring them to create Irish seafood recipes. At the end of the programme, the chefs will work together to create a Taste the Atlantic menu, showcasing the skill and knowledge they have gained on their journey as ambassadors helping to highlight the quality and sustainably produced seafood on the Wild Atlantic Way as well as raising awareness of food tourism.

Máirtin Walsh, Development Executive with BIM said, “BIM is delighted to announce the second year of the programme and looks forward to building on the success of 2021. It was inspiring to work with last year’s chefs and to watch them develop such an appreciation of Ireland’s valuable aquaculture sector. As a sector, providing direct employment to almost 2,000 people, it’s a significant contributor to rural, coastal communities, and was valued at €175 million in 2021. The consumption of seafood in Ireland grew by 3% to €418 million in 2021, with the hospitality sector being the main contributor. We look forward to guiding this year’s chefs on their Taste the Atlantic seafood journey!”

Sarah Browne from County Kerry was one of the Young Chef Ambassadors in 2021 and went on to work at Cava Bodega in Galway after the programme. Speaking at the launch of this year’s programme, she said:

“I’m passionate about sustainable food and I was so impressed when meeting the producers last year how much emphasis they place on sustainability and how future-focussed they were. The programme really boosted my confidence in my culinary skills around seafood and it was a huge stepping-stone for my career. I’d highly recommend it.”

JP McMahon, chef-proprietor at Michelin-starred Aniar restaurant, will provide mentorship to the chefs again this year and he spoke about why he is so supportive of the programme. “This program offers a fantastic opportunity for young chefs to develop their appreciation and understanding of the wealth of Irish seafood available to them. They will get to know producers, understand how the seafood is produced and develop their culinary creativity and confidence, learning how to prepare beautiful seafood dishes. Locally sourced produce is key to any good menu, and it doesn’t get much better than the seafood offering along the Wild Atlantic Way!”

Chef Network is a professional network connecting chefs across the island of Ireland, with over 4,500 members. Programme Manager, Ruth Hegarty said, “The Taste the Atlantic Young Chef Ambassador programme is a really exciting collaboration which brings together Ireland’s up and coming culinary talent with our wonderful seafood producers to explore the food tourism potential along the Wild Atlantic Way. It is so important to keep young chefs motivated and curious through opportunities to gain experience, upskill, and explore their creativity, and in my experience, meeting food producers is hugely inspiring and motivating for chefs, which is why I am genuinely delighted that Chef Network have the opportunity to run this programme alongside BIM and Fáilte Ireland.”

The Ambassador programme is now open for nominations, with full details available on www.chefnetwork.ie. The closing date for nominations is May 24th. Interviews will take place in June, following which we will announce the five successful 2022 young chef ambassadors, who will embark on their Taste the Atlantic seafood journey from June-September

The Young Chef Ambassador Programme is co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union, under the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF).

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The European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) and the EU’s agency for the space programme (EUSPA) have signed a cooperation agreement for an initial two years.

The memorandum of understanding will allow the EFCA to benefit from Galileo, the European global navigation satellite system managed by the EU space programme.

“This cooperation will further strengthen EFCA’s capabilities when it comes to modern and emerging technologies and services, which could be made available to member states' fisheries control authorities,” EFCA said in a statement.

“This would lead to an improved capacity for detecting, identifying and categorisation of suspected non-compliance fishing activities, providing additional tools for the operational activities coordinated by EFCA,” it said.

The two European agencies have identified some initial EU funded projects which could be of common relevance in relation to vessel management systems and search and rescue activities.

“Given the operational reality and specificities of fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance, and its connection with the EU maritime security strategy, EFCA as a central hub, seeks to further develop and expand its services in support of member states fisheries control authorities,” the Vigo-based fisheries monitoring agency said.

It said that EUSPA “will offer its technical expertise in satellite navigation as well as its “market knowhow” in global navigation satellite systems and earth observation to produce joint studies and develop space solutions with EFCA that will “positively contribute to the EU’s blue economy”.

The EFCA’s mission is to “promote the highest common standards for control, inspection and surveillance under the Common Fisheries Policy”.

EUSPA’s core mission is to implement the EU Space Programme and to “provide reliable, safe and secure space-related services, maximising their socio-economic benefits for European society and business”.

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The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has written to all Irish sea fishing boat licence holders to inform them of the incoming legal requirement for masters of such boats to formally register. This follows the passage of the Sea-Fisheries (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2022 which comes into effect on 3rd May 2022. To date, more than 500 applications have been received and are being processed by the Department.

The register of Masters, namely the Irish Fishing Master Register (IFMR), will apply to any Irish citizen who is the master, skipper or other person for the time being in charge of an Irish sea fishing boat. Registered masters will be issued with a Master’s Certificate, which must be carried on board at all times while acting as a master of a sea fishing boat. It will be an offence for anyone to lawfully take charge of a sea fishing boat unless registered on the IFMR and in possession of a Master’s Certificate. It will also be an offence to knowingly employ someone as a master who is not registered as such on the IFMR.

Anyone who has not yet applied to be registered is advised to do so before 3rd May 2022.

Application forms are available in Harbour Master offices at the six designated State-owned Fishery Harbour Centres, located at Castletownbere, Dingle, Dunmore East, Howth, Ros An Mhil and Killybegs.

Application forms can also be downloaded from: gov.ie - Irish Fishing Master Register (www.gov.ie)

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The Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) has called on the European Commission to act immediately on the presence of Russian trawlers in waters intended primarily for oil and gas exploration.

A fleet of Russian midwater freezer trawlers are currently operating in a zone shared between the UK and the Faroe islands - having been issued licences by the Faroes.

“What is most galling about this is that the Faroese are not just facilitating the access of the Russian boats, but they are also using their excessive blue whiting quota as a trade-off to ‘print currency’ or purchase cod quota from Russia,"* said Sean O'Donoghue, KFO Chief Executive.

 Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation

“It flies in the face of sanctions which have been agreed against the Russians by the EU and while the Faroes have a degree of autonomy on fisheries, they form part of the Kingdom of Denmark and do not have independence on critical issues such as military strategy.

“It is paramount that our Government does everything in its power to compel the European Commission to nip this issue in the bud. Quite apart from the disregard for stocks and scientific advice, we are all acutely aware that any profits accrued to Russian businesses are indirectly funding the catastrophic war effort in Ukraine.

“Our counterparts in Scotland have vocally condemned the Faroese, highlighting the damage it will do to the stock. This year, the Faroes unilaterally increased their blue whiting quota from 82,000 tonnes to 267,413 tonnes. It appears that the Faroese are swapping the fish in an area they share with the UK for cod quota in Russian waters.

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The European Commission has proposed additional crisis measures to support the EU fishery and aquaculture sectors in the context of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The legislative proposal involves an amendment to the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), using funds leftover from the 2014-2020 programme.

It will need to be adopted by the European Parliament and the European Council before it can take effect, the Commission said.

If approved, it will complement the first package of crisis measures adopted under the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) on March 25th.

It comprises financial compensation for additional costs, for income forgone and for the storage of products, as well as for the temporary cessation of fishing activities where they are currently unsafe.

EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said that the fishery and aquaculture sectors are “heavily impacted by the war in Ukraine”.

“There are still financial resources available under the EMFF. With this proposal, we give the possibility to member states to reallocate them to specific measures mitigating the socio-economic impact of the crisis.”

The Commission said that the military aggression of Russia against Ukraine had increased the prices of energy and raw materials, “generating very high additional operating costs and squeezing profit margins in the fishery, aquaculture and seafood processing sectors”.

“The war has also led to a precautionary interruption of fishing activities in certain areas. Once today's proposal has been adopted, Member states will have the possibility to quickly grant financial support for the additional costs and economic losses stemming from the crisis, in particular,” it said.

The proposal also introduces flexibility mechanisms to facilitate the quick implementation of new measures.

This includes a simplified procedure for amending the operational programmes of member states; retroactive eligibility of expenditure as of February 24th, 2022 for these measures; and the possibility of reallocating the fixed amounts initially reserved for certain EMFF measures (i.e. control and enforcement, data collection) to the new crisis-related measures.

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In its annual Business of Seafood Report, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) announced that the Irish seafood economy grew by 15% in 2021, to €1.26bn.

Despite the dual challenges of Brexit and Covid-19, the industry recovered from the trading difficulties experienced in 2020, with a growth in GDP of 15.3% year-on-year – the highest value seen since 2016. This growth was driven by strong exports to the EU and Asia increasing the total value by 11% - to €674m.

Foodservice purchases of seafood in Ireland increased by 12% in 2021, following from a decline of 53% in 2020. Domestic consumption grew by 3% to €418 million, while the seafood balance of trade (exports – imports) also grew by 45%, driven by the strong export growth, particularly in EU markets. Overall investment in the sector increased during 2021 to €454 million (+8%), showing renewed confidence.

BIM Seafood report 2021 infographic

BIM chief executive Jim O’Toole said that the sector had proven to be highly resilient and innovative:

“The key insights from this report are the sector’s success in both identifying and driving opportunities in different markets along with an increase in value for some categories.

While Brexit, and the additional impacts of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement [agreed between the EU and the UK] reduced quotas for key species, Government support along with private investment helped mitigate some of these impacts.

“The industry continues to adapt, for example in the seafood-tech sector there are now over fifty companies employing more than 700 people from disciplines including engineering, fintech and marketing and we have seen turnover more than double in the past few years.

“Although we have seen significant growth last year there are further challenges now being encountered with cost increases for fuel, energy, and materials as a result of the conflict in Ukraine. Support to the industry to help withstand this economic shock will undoubtedly be required.”

Domestic hospitality sector

Seafood consumption grew by 3% in 2021, driven by a partial recovery in the domestic hospitality sector. For much of 2021 the hospitality sector was severely hampered in its operations due to Covid-19 health restrictions, but it did grow by 12% as these eased into the summer. Normal operating conditions should see strong growth and recovery in 2022.

Supply and demand on the international markets

While the volume of produced Irish organic salmon remained stable in 2021, the value decreased by 14%. This was due to increased international supply of organic salmon by competitor countries such as Norway and Scotland.

The reopening of the food service sectors internationally led to strong price growth in shellfish species such as crab, lobster, shrimp and razor clams - with prices increasing over 20%.

The impact of Brexit

Under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement there were substantial transfers of fish quotas from the EU to the UK. Ireland was heavily impacted by these quota transfers resulting in a reduction of volumes landed by Irish vessels of 7%. Despite this, total value of Irish landings grew by 2% driven by higher prices.

Brexit also introduced a change in trading patterns. Previously the UK had been the main source of seafood imports into Ireland. During 2021 there has been a shift away from sourcing from the UK. The EU is now the main import market for the first time, with the value of imports from the UK dropping by 57%.

Investment in the sector

In 2021, Government investment in the seafood sector continued to grow, amounting to €232 million, an increase of 11%. Support from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) along with national investment programmes contributed to a wide range of projects across all parts of the industry.

Private investment, after falling quite significantly in 2020, increased by €23 million (+5%), totalling €221 million, reflecting the ambition of the sector as it emerged from many challenges.

Employment in the seafood sector

Employment in the sector also remained stable in 2021 despite the hurdles encountered. A total of some 16,650 people were employed directly and indirectly, an increase in overall employment of 1%. This comprised 8,700 employed directly in fisheries, aquaculture and processing, with a further 8,000 in downstream employment in ancillary and support sectors.

Rising Costs – the new challenge

The price of marine diesel has increased by almost 150% since the start of the Ukrainian crisis, while the price of materials and equipment has also increased steeply. Coming so soon after the economic shocks of Covid-19 and Brexit, the resilience of the sector is going to be tested to the full during 2022 and beyond.

It will require a collective effort from the industry, backed with financial and technical support, to withstand this new challenge and remain profitable.

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The Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation has advised its members not to sign up to the Irish Fishing Master Register.

“This is akin to what happened in South Africa in the 1950s and also in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s which is the creation of a Register for an ethnic minority.” said the CEO of the Organisation, Patrick Murphy.

The Board of Directors of the South West FPO told members that they had not yet seen the legislation applicable to what the Minister stated in his communication as the Act is not yet published, but that it is their belief “that this is utterly discriminatory to Irish citizens and it should be challenged. We are currently seeking professional and legal advice.

It has advised its members to “hold off from signing on to the Register or providing the information sought until we have an opportunity to see the actual legislation and its details.”

Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue announced that from May 3, upon the commencement of the Sea-Fisheries (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2022 the Irish Fishing Master Register will be set up “to bring Irish legislation in line with EU Council Regulation 1224/2009, which established a community control system for ensuring compliance with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and establishing a level playing field across the EU on fisheries control.”

“Under the Act, it will be an offence for anyone to lawfully take charge of a sea fishing boat unless registered on the IFMR, whether owner of the boat or not. “It will also be an offence for a registered sea fishing boat licence holder to knowingly employ someone as a master who is not registered as such on the IFMR.”

The Act defines a ‘Master’ as the ‘Master, Skipper or other people for the time being in charge of the boat.”

All Masters must be registered on the IFMR upon the commencement of the act on 3 May 2022.

Published in Fishing

The Unfair Trading Practices Enforcement Authority want to hear the views of primary food producers about any Unfair Trading Practice related issues they face within the food supply chain, including whether buyers are treating them fairly and lawfully in compliance with Unfair Trading Practices Regulations.

This is an invaluable opportunity for fishers to be heard on this important issue.

Visit www.utp.gov.ie to complete the short online survey by 15th March.

All results received will be processed anonymously by a market research company and the survey findings will be made available in the coming weeks.

Published in Fishing

Ireland‘s unique opportunity to help Europe reduce its dependence on Russian oil could be hampered by a severe skills shortage for developing offshore renewable energy, industry experts have warned.

And unless the Government moves quickly on establishing a stakeholder liaison group, offshore wind and the fishing industry are on a “collision course”, a conference at the National Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI) was told.

Ireland can be a leading wind and wave energy supplier, but it will only capture just over 20 per cent of jobs required unless the Government co-ordinates specific training, Wind Energy Ireland chief executive Noel Cunniffe said.

Wind Energy Ireland chief executive Noel CunniffeWind Energy Ireland chief executive Noel Cunniffe

Cunniffe was speaking at the event hosted by Simply Blue Energy, on the theme of “Our Offshore Renewable Energy Opportunity – Is Ireland Ready” which dealt with maritime qualifications and certification.

His organisation, which represents the wind energy industry, has urged development of specialist marine apprenticeship schemes and a skills plan for renewable energy involving schools and universities, he told the conference at the NMCI hosted by Simply Blue Energy.

This was echoed by Dr Alan Power of the Government’s expert group on future skills needs, who said that marine careers are a “significant growth area”.

To meet the Government’s five GW target for offshore wind by 2030, a range of key occupations will be required including engineers, ecologists, marine biologists, hydrologists, and people with construction and technical skills, Power said.

Marine operators and ship crew, wind turbine technicians and experienced professions in transport and logistics will also be required, he said.

Marine renewable expert Prof Tony Lewis of University College Cork recalled a similar discussion on skills shortages in oil and gas 40 years ago when the Kinsale gas field was being developed.

Prof Tony Lewis of University College CorkProf Tony Lewis of University College Cork

“We missed that opportunity then,” he said, urging a coordinated approach with an “enterprise focus” to ensure Ireland could supply the required expertise without losing out to foreign companies.

Mark de Faoite of Údarás na Gaeltachta said renewable energy jobs could also help to sustain Gaeltacht areas, but a holistic approach to skills and training was required by all Government departments and agencies.

Mark de Faoite of Údarás na GaeltachtaMark de Faoite of Údarás na Gaeltachta

However, offshore wind and the fishing industry are on a “collision course”, with fears about the impact on fishing now greater than the impact of Brexit, John Lynch, chief executive of the Irish South and East Fish Producers’ Organisation said.

“There is no question that we do require renewable energy and it is a great opportunity,” Lynch said, but it had “got off to a bad start”.

He described how renewable energy companies came to meetings with fishers with “a presentation, a map” but with “pre-determined sites” in inshore coastal areas.

“We had no input into the position of those sites,” he said, and “co-existence would have been far easier” if there had been prior consultation.

Even if fishing was allowed near an offshore wind farm, the risk of snagging gear, accidental damage to equipment and the risk of prosecution over same would pose serious challenges and could cause insurance problems, Lynch explained.

Co Waterford vessel owner Caitlín Uí Aodha said “the hunters are being hunted off their grounds”.

“We want to be green, but we need you to understand fishing is not just a job, but a way of life, a tradition, a heritage,” Uí Aodha said, emphasising the need for seafood protein suppliers to survive.

“I am not convinced that those involved in this [renewable] industry are there to look after me..you’re there to make money,” she told renewable energy representatives at the conference.

In his opening address, Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue acknowledged delays in establishing an offshore renewable energy/seafood liaison forum, and recruitment was ongoing for a chairperson.

Attracta Uí Bhroin of the Irish Environmental Network identified delays in marine spatial planning by Government as being critical.

Ireland is required to extend its network of marine protected areas, but any attempt to co-locate offshore wind farms in protected areas cannot be a “box-ticking exercise” in relation to protected of the marine environment, she said.

Published in Power From the Sea
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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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