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Displaying items by tag: Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation

The Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) has called on Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue to distribute the additional mackerel quota negotiated at the December Fisheries Council as a matter of urgency.

While the representative body said it was “highly appreciative” of the minister’s efforts in December, it also noted that, some three months into 2024, the benefits have not yet been enjoyed by pelagic fishing vessel owners who lost up to a quarter of their bottom line following the post-Brexit quota transfer.

The December deal was welcomed at the time as a “small victory” in reversing those cuts, but now the KFO says that “the reluctance to allocate and thereby activate this quota during the early months of the year when mackerel swim close to Ireland and prices are at their highest has effectively turned this into an ‘own goal’”.

Dominic Rihan, chief executive of the KFO said: “There are compelling reasons why we believe this additional mackerel quota should be immediately assigned to the pelagic vessel owners in line with the agreed ministerial policy.

“If this mackerel is allocated later in the year, vessels will have no choice than to travel to the fishing grounds around Shetland and further north incurring high operational costs in terms of fuel to catch what at that stage would be a small volume of mackerel.”

The KFO adds that for many of its members, the additional quota “is the difference between them returning a profit or not in 2024”.

As reported in January, Minister McConalogue was criticised for failing to accept an offer by Denmark to resolve a three-year row with Ireland over mackerel that was made nearly three months before the December deal.

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Sean O’Donoghue, the long-standing chief executive of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO), is to retire at the end of this year.

KFO chairman Ciarán Doherty said that O’Donoghue had “left a remarkable legacy and navigated a series of challenges and hurdles that few could have anticipated when he took over in 2000”.

“Seán has spent a total of 43 years working in fisheries, and there are few, if any, who have the level of knowledge, experience and competency around an industry which plays such a key role in our economy and, indeed, for those of us in coastal communities, our daily lives,” he said.

O’Donoghue, a civil engineering graduate, worked in the Department of the Marine and Bord Iascaigh Mhara before being appointed to the KFO post to succeed the late Joey Murrin.

“We are fortunate to have had him steer the KFO through countless and often-tense negotiations and, of course, the defining moment of a generation, Brexit and the ramifications it has had for Irish fisheries,” Doherty said.

O’Donoghue said he had been “privileged to work with many excellent people who have been fiercely committed to the betterment of Irish fisheries”.

“ That involves leaving the industry in a better place than where we found it, and I believe that through our work on more sustainable fisheries, reducing our carbon footprint while simultaneously fighting the corner of our phenomenal fishermen, we’ve achieved that,” he said.

“I think there’s an appreciation of the changing dynamic of fisheries,” O’Donoghue said.

“ We have had to adapt, pivot and modernise, and we are currently on that journey with typical zeal and determination. Brexit caused untold angst and strife, but if there’s one thing about all those associated with Irish fisheries, there’s a pride and resilience which always shines through,” he said.

O’Donoghue will leave his position on December 31st, and the KFO says his successor will be announced next month.

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The Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) has described as “an absolute scandal” the Government’s delay in paying out funding to compensate the seafood sector for the impact of Brexit.

The Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) worth almost 1 billion euro was allocated to Ireland by Brussels to cushion the impact of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, and must be spent by the end of this year.

Although the seafood sector is one of the hardest hit, only a small percentage of the BAR total has been promised to compensate for loss of quota and access to British grounds.

Ireland lost 26% of its mackerel quota and 14% of Nephrops (prawns) quota under the final deal.

“It beggars belief that a tranche of money which will provide so much relief to our members is not being disseminated,” KFO chief executive Sean O’Donoghue said.

“ We lag behind our EU counterparts and what’s of most concern to us is that if we don’t distribute this funding by year-end, it’ll be returned to Europe and permanently lost to our fishermen,” he said.

“This is potentially an appalling vista and we’re calling for the most urgent of political action by Minister [for Marine] Charlie McConalogue on this matter,” he said.

This week’s BIM report on seafood statistics for 2022 “underlines the seismic challenge” faced by KFO members, with Dublin Bay prawns now surpassing mackerel as the most valuable wild species for the industry, he noted.

The report also states that the volume of exports fell by 13% to 293,000 tonnes due mainly to the lower quotas of mackerel and blue whiting as a result of Brexit.

“In 2022 alone, we have had more than 12,000 tonnes of mackerel valued at approximately € 18 million taken from our quota as a direct result of Brexit. No business can, nor could, be expected to sustain losses on this scale,” Mr O’Donoghue said.

The KFO has warned that in the absence of financial support and other burden-sharing measures, Ireland’s pelagic sector will shed more than 1,200 jobs by 2030 because of Brexit.

From 2021 to the end of 2023, pelagic fishermen will have had more than 37,000 tonnes of their mackerel quota stripped away because of Brexit, resulting in loss of more than €52million, it warned.

“This fishery is the cornerstone of KFO members’ businesses, with fishermen in the northwest feeling the cold wind from Brexit for more than two years now and further hits to come over the next three years,” it said.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine did not respond to a request for comment.

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The Minister for the Marine will definitely "seek to address the imbalance in the quota transfers under the Trade & Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and United Kingdom."

So says Fianna Fail's MEP, Billy Kelleher, in a statement from Brussels saying he had received this confirmation from Minister Charlie McConalogue.

"It may also be necessary for the Minister to seek a separate mechanism, independent of the CFP review, to deal with the issue of burden-sharing due to opposition from some Member States. A separate, but important point is also the need for the fishing communities in Ireland to receive substantial financial support as part of the Brexit Adjustment Reserve. Ireland will receive well over €1 billion; some of this money must be used to support our fishing industry. While Ireland has 22% of EU seas, we only have 3% of total catch. As an island nation, it needs to be reflected by the EU authorities," said MEP Kelleher.

However, the Chief Executive of the Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation, Sean O'Donoghue, while welcoming a €10m EU aid deal for the Irish fleet, which had been recommended by the Task Force set up by the Minister says the aid has limitations.

He outlined why to Tom MacSweeney on the Maritime Ireland radio show. Listen in below: 

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