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An Taoiseach Leo Varadker launched Inland Fisheries Ireland’s electric fleet of cars along with Richard Bruton TD, Minister of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and Sean Canney TD, Minister with responsibility for the inland fisheries sector. The organisation is introducing energy efficient vehicles with a view to achieving a 24 per cent reduction in the Co2 emissions from its fleet. The electric vehicles have been wrapped in a fish-themed design with an electrically charged eel swimming across the side to promote the organisation’s shift to zero-emission cars. 

The four vehicles will be driven by Project Officers from the organisation’s National Strategy for Angling Development’s (NSAD) Project Management Office which works with angling clubs and community groups around the country to support the development of the fisheries resource. Project officers travel to rural and peripheral areas to work with local groups to support them in undertaking environmentally sustainable fisheries development works. This enables communities to realise the many economic and recreational benefits which the fisheries resource can accrue for their area.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “I am pleased that Inland Fisheries Ireland is setting a really positive example by switching to a more carbon friendly fleet. As a country, we all need to do more to tackle climate action, so it is important to see our public bodies taking the lead. We will all need to make adjustments to how we live and how we get around; these cars will send a positive message, as well as reducing the carbon footprint of the organisation.”

Richard Bruton TD, Minister of Communications, Climate Action and Environment said: “It is vital that every aspect of our society seek ways to reduce their carbon impact and the public service must be the first to show that it takes policies for sustainability seriously, if we are to persuade the rest of society to make the step changes which we need to make. Today’s announcement shows that Inland Fisheries Ireland is leading by example and making changes to adapt. As a result of this new electric fleet, they will reduce their carbon footprint by 24 per cent.” 

Seán Canney TD, Minister for Natural Resources said: "This initiative by Inland Fisheries Ireland clearly demonstrates the ambition by all stakeholders to reduce emissions. It is the first step in de-carbonising our transport and sets an example for all other State and Semi-State companies and agencies to follow." 

Inland Fisheries Ireland has over 300 staff with many using vehicles to allow them to carry out their protection, environmental, promotional and research duties. Ireland has 5,600km of coastline, 70,000 kilometres or rivers and streams and 144,000 hectares of lakes and ponds, all of which fall under Inland Fisheries Ireland’s remit. In addition to moving to energy-efficient vehicles, the organisation has implemented a fleet management system to generate additional efficacies and to ensure the fleet is being used in the most appropriate manner and that driver safety remains a priority.

Dr Ciaran Byrne, CEO of Inland Fisheries Ireland said: “The energy reduction target of 33 per cent by 2020 is an opportunity to refocus the philosophy of our organisation. As an environmental agency, we are very aware of the critical nature of climate change and the impact it is having on our fisheries resource. We are looking at every aspect of our work to see how we can reduce our environmental footprint. The move to ‘green’ vehicles is just one of the many changes which we are making to ensure we reduce our overall emissions. 

Our new fleet represents a €160,000 investment by the organisation which will allow us to operate in a more efficient manner and to carry out our duties as custodians of the fisheries resource in a more sustainable manner.”

Published in Fishing

The EU Commission today issued a Brexit Contingency Plan, agreed with Ireland and seven other impacted Member States, which sets out how fisheries would be managed in a No Deal Brexit. Fisheries is recognised as one of the most immediately critical issues facing the EU in a no-Deal Brexit.

The Communication sets down the preparations in the EU, agreed with the eight Member States directly impacted, in the event of a no-Deal Brexit. It identifies the need for mitigation measures and in particular compensation for temporary tie up of fishing vessels. It gives the EU Commission a strong co-ordination role.

"compensation for temporary tie up of fishing vessels"

Minister Creed today said “This communication reflects the high level of planning by Ireland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and Sweden working closely with DG Mare. When I met Commissioner Vella last February, I emphasised the real risks of a concentration of fishing into Ireland’s 200 miles fishing zone by EU fleets if they are excluded from UK waters. I pointed out that inevitably this would lead to displacement of our own fleet and depletion of fish stocks if no action is taken.”

Minister Creed added that “I stressed to the Commissioner the need for a European approach to addressing this issue and agreed with him that the key Member States and DG Mare needed to put in place a contingency plan. I have been working intensively over recent weeks, and have kept the fishing industry informed of the work to ensure that we are ready for this worst-case situation, while always hoping that we will never need to call upon these plans.”

Minister Creed stated, “We now have identified and agreed, co-ordinated and fully prepared measures that will be immediately available to address a no-Deal Brexit situation if the UK were to decide to deny EU vessels access to UK waters. I am seeking additional EU funds to support this mitigation measure if they become necessary. If we need to call on these arrangements, it will be essential, as we have now agreed at EU level, that all involved EU fleets must co-operate under these structured arrangements to manage the situation. We have now agreed that the Irish fleet would not be disproportionately impacted and have ensured that each Member State impacted would take a fair share of the pain.”

A copy of the EU Communication is here

Published in Fishing

President Michael D Higgins has turned down an appeal made to him by lawyers for four mussel fishermen to refer controversial new legislation on access to Irish inshore waters to the judiciary.

The legislation restoring access by Northern Irish vessels to Irish waters within the six nautical mile limit was voted through the Dáil last week.

It was signed into law by Mr Higgins yesterday. 

In a letter to lawyers for four mussel fishermen - who won a Supreme Court case in 2016 challenging the legality of the “voisinage” or reciprocal access to waters - the President’s secretary general Art O’Leary explained that Mr Higgins may only refer a Bill to the Supreme Court “in circumstances where there is a question” that it, or part of it, “may be repugnant to the Constitution”.

The letter did point out that individuals or groups could still take a case to the courts to challenge the constitutionality of legislation.

The fishermen’s legal advisers are still awaiting a response from EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella over their concerns that the legislation was passed without understanding the real impact on the Irish fishing industry.

“We have no problem with Northern Irish fishermen in Northern Ireland making their living, if this was what this was all about, ”one of the four fishermen, Gerard Kelly of Greencastle, Co Donegal, said.

"Mr Kelly had gone on hunger strike outside the Dáíl last week to try and highlight the issues"

Mr Kelly had gone on hunger strike outside the Dáíl last week to try and highlight the issues to politicians and halted his action after the legislation was finally passed.

“Our problem is that this new law gives sufficient loophole to international companies who might register in Northern Ireland and could then gain access to our inshore waters at a time when the stocks cannot take this amount of effort,” Mr Kelly said.

“The key phrase in the legislation is “owned and operated in Northern Ireland” which is not clearly defined," he said.

“We are not just talking about the impact of increased effort on the mussel fishery, but about the impact on inshore stocks such as Razorfish and clams.”

Vessel length will be restricted when a new ban on trawlers over 18 metres inside the six-nautical-mile zone comes into force in 2020.

The Sea Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, which was voted through by 72 votes to eight, has been flagged as reinstating the voisinage (informal neighbourhood) arrangement in place between Northern Ireland and the Republic from 1965 to 2016.

Access by Northern Irish-registered vessels to Ireland’s baseline to six-mile limit was suspended in 2016 after Mr Kelly and three colleagues won their Supreme Court case.

The court ruled then that Northern-Irish registered vessels had been unlawfully allowed to harvest mussel seed in Irish territorial waters.

The fishermen contended available mussel seed had dropped from 30,000 to 2,400 tonnes in 2012, and the court heard from a shellfish expert who noted the mussel seed fishery was “sustainable” with some good practices, including fishing seed later in the season to reduce mortality, until 2003/2004.

These “good practices” could no longer exist, the expert noted, after Northern vessels had entered the fishery.

The legislation to restore “voisinage” had been in abeyance until the recent detention of two Northern Irish fishing vessels in Dundalk Bay by the Naval Service. Although the two vessels had pleaded guilty and were released without conviction, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had described it as a “really regrettable incident”. The Democratic Unionist Party had accused the Government of trying to implement a “hard border” at sea.

Mr Varadkar did state it would be helpful if the British government gave assurances that it would not itself withdraw from the 1964 London Fisheries Convention (LFC). Britain declared two years ago that it intended to leave the convention, which preceded the EU Common Fisheries Policy, this July. (2019).

The Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation has argued that the new legislation may give all European parties to the LFC the right of access to Irish waters from six miles into the baseline even after Britain leaves.

A British government spokesman said that “we have always been clear that the voisinage arrangement exists separately from the LFC” and Britain’s withdrawal from it has “no legal effect on voisinage”.

“For this reason, there will be no requirement for Britain to alert other member states in the LFC to any change in Irish legislation”.

British government fisheries spokesman Lord Gardiner of Kimble stated in the House of Lords on March 11th that a number of representations were made by the British government since 2016 to restore “voisinage”.

He said that Mr Varadkar had “committed on March 1st” to “changing the law to restore the status quo to what it was before 2016, and has indicated that he is confident the legislation can be passed quickly”.

“The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Minister Creed, has made similar commitments,” the House of Lords was told.

Mr Creed has denied that the amended legislation has anything to do with Brexit, but elements within the fishing industry believe his decision to push through the Bill before Britain leaves the EU is tied into efforts to guarantee future access by Irish vessels to British fishing grounds after Britain withdraws from the Common Fisheries Policy.

Published in Fishing

#navy - In Dundalk Bay, two Northern Ireland-registered fishing vessels were detained on Tuesday evening of this week.

As RTE News reports, they were detained by the crew of the LÉ Orla who were carrying out their normal patrols in the area.

The Irish Naval Service has confirmed the two boats were detained for alleged breach of fishing regulations.

They were escorted to Clogherhead where they were handed over to gardaí yesterday.

Gardaí say the vessels, The Boy Joseph and The Amity, were detained under the 2006 Fisheries Act and an order to hold the boats for 48 hours was issued at Dundalk District Court.

The fishing boats remain at Clogherhead.

The detention of the two vessels comes amid an ongoing dispute caused by the demise of an informal deal between the UK and Irish governments.

For further reading on the fishery detention, click here.

Published in Navy

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D., today was presented with the ‘Strategy for the Irish Inshore Fisheries Sector 2019-2023’. The strategy is the first industry-led blueprint for the Inshore Sector and was presented to the Minister by the Chair of the National Inshore Fisheries Forum.

The Strategy presented today follows an extensive development process involving the National and Regional Inshore Fisheries Forums which have been instrumental in supporting initiatives that seek to encourage a more sustainable, profitable and well-managed inshore fisheries sector. An inclusive approach was taken to identifying key issues and priorities for the sector, including a Steering Group with industry and State partners, a dedicated workshop and public consultation.

Welcoming the Strategy, Minister Creed commented:

“I am delighted to receive the ‘Strategy for the Inshore Fisheries Sector 2019-2023’. The Strategy marks a major milestone in the work of the Inshore Fisheries Forums who, since their inception, have developed initiatives seeking to protect the future of a sector which is extremely important for Irish coastal communities. I would like to thank the Forums for their support in the development of the Strategy and I look forward to seeing the outcomes it achieves.”

The Strategy sets a number of objectives that will frame the work of the Inshore Forums as industry representatives and Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) as the development agency, providing a clear direction for the development of the inshore sector over the next number of years. BIM will lead the implementation plan, in partnership with the National Inshore Fisheries Forum, to deliver the actions to underpin a sustainable future for the sector. The strategy will target financial support available under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund to where it can be most effectively used.

The Minister also announced that he has approved an increase to the minimum conservation reference size for brown crab. This new conservation measure, which was initiated by members of the fishing industry in the South East, will increase the minimum size of brown crab that can be landed by Irish sea-fishing boats from ICES areas VI and VII to 140mm. The Minister invited the National Inshore Fisheries Forum and the marine agencies to submit views on an appropriate lead-in period for the new measure.

Minister Creed said:

“I am pleased to announce the approval of this conservation measure, particularly as it was initiated and developed by inshore fishermen who recognise the importance of cultivating a sustainable fishery. I would like to thank the Inshore Fisheries Forums and their members for continuing their proactive approach to conservation issues in the inshore sector.”

The approval of the conservation measure follows an extensive consultation process involving the National and Regional Inshore Fisheries Forums and a public consultation that was held in 2018. Industry proposed the increase as a way of supporting the sustainability of the brown crab fishery by allowing brown crab more time to reproduce. An appropriate lead-in period will be identified and the measure will be implemented by statutory instrument.

The Minister also congratulated the new Chair of the National Inshore Fisheries Forum, Trudy McIntyre from the South East Regional Inshore Fisheries Forum.

“Trudy brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her new role at a very important time in the Irish inshore sector and has already been instrumental in supporting initiatives in the inshore fisheries sector, including the first Inshore Fisheries Strategy. I wish Trudy every success and I look forward to working with her.

The Minister went on to say:

“I would like to take the opportunity to thank Alex Crowley for his work as Chair of the National Inshore Fisheries Forum. Alex has done an outstanding job and he has been resolute in his commitment to the development of the inshore sector.”

Published in Fishing

#NavalService -  Fishing boats, both Irish-registered have been detained in the Irish Sea for alleged breaches of fishing rules.

It was part of an overnight operation The Irish Examiner writes by the Naval Service patrol vessel LE Eithne when officers boarded the two boats.

The vessels are being escorted to Howth Harbour in Co.Dublin and will then be handed over to Gardaí.

It brings to seven the number of boats detained by the Naval Service so far this year.

Published in Navy

Following the conclusion of 2019 Annual Fisheries Negotiations at 3.00am this morning (Wednesday) Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D., confirmed the deal negotiated is a balanced outcome, delivering on sustainability objectives and ensuring a strong result for fishermen, against the challenging backdrop of Brexit.

2019 will see the full implementation of the landing obligation or ‘discards ban’, where the practice of discarding juvenile fish at sea will end. The application of the landing obligation or ‘discards ban’ for all Irish stocks in 2019, coupled with a move towards fishing at maximum sustainable yield levels (rebuilding stocks to a sustainable optimum), are very positive developments for fishermen and for the broader goal of sustainability.

"2019 will see the end of the practice of discarding juvenile fish at sea"

Minister Creed said today; “My primary ambition at these negotiations was to set quotas for Irish fishermen that will support the livelihoods of fishermen and at the same time respect the scientific advice for stocks. The particular challenge facing the fishing industry from the beginning of 2019 is landing all catches and ending discarding of fish at sea. Our fishing industry has been fully supportive of the new policy while seeking to find solutions that will allow fishermen to continue viable and sustainable fisheries. I am satisfied that the package agreed today delivers a balanced deal on quotas.”

The final deal negotiated provides for maintenance of quotas year on year, with an increase in value to €260m. In addition, the Commission agreed to a practical and sustainable approach in relation to key stocks impacted by the discards ban. The revised quotas will assist in delivering on the discards ban while maintaining all of our fisheries open throughout 2019.

For a number of important fish stocks there were significant increases in quota. The Minister said that; “I was pleased that the scientific advice supported large increases in a number of stocks of importance, for South and South Western ports, such as Haddock (+20%), Hake (+28%) and Megrims (+47%) in the Celtic Sea. The overall increase of 30% in whitefish quota, including offshore Haddock (+92%), for the North West will provide improved fishing opportunities for whitefish fishermen in Donegal. The increases in Haddock (+20%) and Cod (+16%) in the Irish Sea reflects the continuing regeneration of these stocks.”

Minister Creed said; “We knew coming into these negotiations that, in line with the scientific advice, some substantial cuts would be necessary to protect some of our key fisheries such as herring, mackerel and prawns. To their credit, the Irish fishing industry accepted that these cuts were necessary. In the interests of sustainability, we accepted a cut to our prawn quota of 32%, which reflects the scientific advice.”

Concluding, Minister Creed said; “This was a very challenging and complex negotiation. Some of the Commission’s quota proposals this year would, in my view, have run the risk of closing sustainable fisheries by creating a ‘race to fish’ and exhausting quotas for important fish stocks in the Celtic sea, Irish Sea and the waters off Donegal. That risk has been averted.

I believe that, on balance, it is a sustainable and viable package. 2019 will be a challenging year for the Irish fishing industry, not least with the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit, but I believe that this agreement on quotas will help us all to face those challenges head on.”

Published in Fishing

Leading fishing industry representative Joey Murrin has died this morning in Killybegs, Co Donegal, at the age of 82.

The iconic leader of the Irish Fishing Industry for over three decades. Murrin became the fishermen's champion, known throughout the country and widely in Europe. He very effectively fought for fishermen's causes throughout the 70's, 80's and 90's and many in the Industry today owe much to the work that Murrin carried out on their behalf.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D., lead the tributes "Joey's very warm and distinctive voice on Irish radio, arguing the fishermen's cause, became part of the soundtrack of people's lives over many years and raised the profile of his industry inestimably.”

The Minister went on to say that "in later years, after Joey's retirement, he kept an active interest in the fishing industry and was never afraid to speak out on issues that concerned him. In particular, he continually represented the needs of all in his home town of Killybegs and the wider Donegal community.”

Minister Creed concluded "Joey helped to steer and develop the Irish Fishing Industry in the early years of EU membership and played no small part in ensuring the development of the modern fishing industry. His family and friends can take some comfort on this sad day from the successes he delivered over a lifetime of selfless commitment to the fishing industry.”

Published in Fishing

Following the outstanding success of the Irish contingent at the recent Cheltenham horse-racing festival, Afloat.ie understands that ongoing exploratory international talks have been stepped up to ensure that existing access is maintained and developed to countries where our thriving bloodstock industry is serving a healthy export market. But there’ll be alarm in coastal communities that our fishing waters are being considered as a bargaining chip.

A tripartite agreement has been in place between Ireland, Britain and France since the 1960s, whereby thoroughbred horses with the correct paperwork – passports in effect – can travel easily and unhindered between the three countries. With highly-strung animals like top racehorses reaching the final peak of fitness in the buildup to a major race, the smoothest passible journey is essential, and this particular agreement is covered under EU law.

But the arrival of Brexit could change this very efficient state of affairs and other close and lucrative interactions between the three national bloodstock industries. While the various authorities are giving every assurance that the system can continue unhindered, Brexit is still uncharted territory, and a small specialist group in the Irish bloodstock industry is closely monitoring the situation.

In fact, according to one source, they’re going further than this, and are actively exploring ways in which links to France’s growing horse-racing industry can be strengthened post-Brexit with more direct and special treatment, while by-passing the British side of the tripartite agreement.

It’s understood that behind the scenes, the French government are prepared to consider special treatment for the Irish bloodstock industry, but only if there’s a tangible benefit for them in some other area, and they have hit on improved access for French boats to Irish inshore fishing waters as a possible solution to the need for a trade-off.

In responding to criticism of this high-handed attitude to supposedly sacrosanct Irish fishing rights in inshore home waters, a spokesperson for the bloodstock negotiating team said that it was high time people took a realistic look at the big picture, and realized the relative significance of the bloodstock and fishing industries to the Irish economy.

“The Irish bloodstock industry employs more than 100,000 people, and brings in earnings of billions of euros. Our fishing industry employs about 15,000 people at most, and on the actual boats, many crewmembers are immigrants. Not only do the people of Ireland have a very low level of fish consumption, but they don’t want to take on the tough and challenging job of catching them either – at deckhand level, they seem to prefer to leave that to foreigners.

But in the horse racing industry, Irish people are passionate about their jobs at every level. And their devotion to it is rewarded by success, and a high status in the rural and national community. Is that the case with the fishing industry? We think not. So it would be better for everyone if we secured more scope for our bloodstock industry to expand in France, and allowed the French into our inshore waters to catch fish. They’ll not only make a good job of catching the fish, but they’ll make a better job of cooking them too - they’re much more enthusiastic about eating seafood than we are in Ireland.

Faced with the probable harsh reality of Brexit, we have to realize that sacrifices will have to be made in some parts of the economy to provide for the greater good, and letting some of our small fishery go for the sake of even better times for the bloodstock industry is an obvious step”.

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Published in Fishing

This beautifully illustrated book explores the history of the fishery piers and harbours of Galway and North Clare. A testament to these structures as feats of engineering, it is also a riveting account of the human aspect that shadowed their construction; a beautiful rendering of the maritime activities that gave life to the Wild Atlantic Way – kelp-making, fishing, turf distribution, and sea-borne trade.

Humble Works for Humble People nurtures the retelling of human stories surrounding the piers, giving voice to the unacknowledged legacy of the lives that were their making. Foreign financial support, humanitarian efforts, controversies and conflict – these are all features of the piers and harbours’ development and preservation. Humble Works for Humble People is a vital contribution to the maritime history of Galway, Clare and of Ireland in general; an overlooked but culturally rich facet of Irish history.

Buy the book online from Afloat.ie's Marine Market here.

Published in Book Review
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