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Significant “negative impacts” of Brexit on the British fishing industry have been highlighted in a video released by the British All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Fisheries.

Seven of its group’s members outline what a post-Brexit future for the British fishing industry could and should look like and say that the fishing industry was let down by Brexit.

The group’s report, published earlier in the summer, recorded how significant financial losses were a common experience for respondents, with “fears widely expressed for the long-term viability of individual businesses, fishing fleets, and other parts of the industry including processors and transporters”.

"The British fishing industry was let down by Brexit"

“Respondents who fed into the report recommended various actions that the government should now take to support the British fishing industry, which included investing in infrastructure and new markets at home and abroad, and ensuring effective and inclusive management of domestic stocks,” the APPG says.

Tina Barnes of the Seafarer’s Charity, which co-funded the report, spoke about the human costs of economic challenges to the fishing industry following Brexit.

“The negative impacts of Brexit on the livelihoods – and therefore the welfare – of individual fishers has been significant,” she says. The report “provides compelling evidence that action should be taken to support the industry”.

APPG vice chair Alistair Carmichael MP referred to a recent parliamentary debate that he secured on the issue on October 13th last, which “provided an important opportunity for myself and other MPs to emphasise the urgency of supporting the UK fishing industry.”

APPG chair Sheryll Murray MP said that “the strength of the APPG on Fisheries lies in its cross-party nature, with the needs of fishers, coastal communities and other marine stakeholders taking precedence over party politics. This timely video, bringing together voices from several different parties on how to support UK fishing for the benefit of all, provides a fantastic illustration of this.”

Both the video and report can be found on the APPG website, and the video can be viewed is below

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Almost 60 applications have been made by fishing vessel owners to the Government’s scrappage scheme.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), which is administering the decommissioning scheme for the EU and Irish government, said it had received 36 applications by November 1st, and had a further 21 applications “in preparation”.

The closing date for applications is November 18th.

The 80 million euro scheme, comprising 60 million euros in direct payments and 20 million euros in tax adjustments, is funded from the EU Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR).

It was established to buy out vessel owners affected by loss of quotas due to the Brexit Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA).

Loss of access by Irish vessels to key stocks, including mackerel and prawns, has been estimated at 43 million euro.

Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue has pledged to push for burden sharing and a better quota deal.

As yet, there has been no Government move on introducing fuel subsidies for the Irish fleet, in contrast to subsidies introduced in other EU member states.

A target of scrapping 60 vessels to ensure the remaining fleet is viable was recommended in Government’s seafood task force report.

While the number of applications is now approaching that target figure, no offers have as yet been issued.

Irish South and East Fishermen’s Organisation (IS&EFO) chief executive John Lynch said that “we won’t know the true figure until we see the take-up on offers”.

Some vessels may be worth more on the open market than if they were scrapped, he pointed out.

The decommissioning scheme is offering applicants a basic payment of €3,600 per gross tonne(GT), and a “catch incentive premium” of up to €8,400 per GT for quota species covered under the TCA.

This will be calculated by indexing total vessel landings of quota stocks against the maximum total landings of quota stocks by any one vessel within each segment.

Landing data will be supplied by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), and will relate to a two-year period – either 2018 and 2019, or 2020 and 2021.

The fleet segments which the scheme applies to are: beamers; hake gillnetters’ prawn vessels 12-18m; prawn vessels 18-24m; prawn vessels 24-40m’ seiners; Tier 1; whitefish 12-18m: whitefish 18-24m; whitefish 24-40m; whitefish/prawn <12m.

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The quick action of a crew member on a Donegal fishing vessel probably saved the life of his skipper when his arm was trapped by a trawl door, an investigation has found.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) report into the incident involving the whitefish trawler FV Marliona has noted that the trawl door was not secured adequately and that it was in the wrong position.

This made it prone to movement from side to side. At the time of the incident, the vessel was taking a slight roll, adding to this movement, the MCIB report notes. These factors, along with fatigue, were probable causes.

The incident occurred on the afternoon of February 3rd, 2021, when the Marliona was alongside Greencastle harbour, Co Donegal.

During a repair procedure, the skipper’s left arm became trapped by a trawl door, causing severe damage to his arm.

First aid was administered by another crewmember and the bleeding was stopped. The skipper was transferred by ambulance to hospital for his injuries, and his arm was saved. He was released the same day, but continued to receive treatment and only returned to work in May 2021.

The “FV Marliona” is a white fish trawler that mainly fishes to the west and north of Donegal.

On February 3rd, 2021 the vessel had been fishing off the west coast of Donegal and had returned to the port of Greencastle, Co Donegal to unload its catch and repair its fishing gear. Its registered owner is Marliona Fishing Ltd.

In its analysis, the report noted that during the repairs, the trawl door was lower than normal, and so the skipper had to reach down lower to grab the chain-link.

It said “the absence of a risk assessment for this operation and the incorrect positioning of the trawl door were causative factors”, and the unstable trawl door and the vessel’s roll trapped the skipper’s arm.

It said that the casualty was “in serious risk of bleeding out in a short time, but due to the quick action of crewmember B he got critical attention that probably saved his life”

The crew member had recently completed a three day first aid course which was a “major factor”, the MCIB report said.

The report concluded that the operation should have been done on the quay wall, i.e., the door should have been landed onto the quay and the chain-link removed there.

It said that time sheets were inspected for the vessel, and inconsistencies were noted, but the MCIB “can make no finding about compliance or non-compliance with the regulations as that is within the jurisdiction of the Marine Survey Office.

“ Irrespective of whether there was or was not compliance with the regulations, it cannot be discounted that fatigue may have been a contributory human factor, it said.

“It is likely that another human factor was that of time pressure to effect the repairs during a limited time in port before the next fishing trip,”it said

The report made eight recommendations, including recommending that the Minister for Transport should issue a marine notice reminding fishing vessel owners and operators of the great importance of safety and risk assessments, and that these assessments and methodology are communicated fully and should involve interpreters if required.

Recommendations also included calling on the Minister for Transport to review existing health and safety training of fishers in light of this report.

It said the Minister for Transport should ensure that the Marine Survey Office has the capacity for the audit of working time to ensure compliance with relevant regulations, and to ensure adherence to the requirements in S.I. No. 591/2021 EU (Minimum Safety and Health Requirements for Improved Medical Treatment on Board Vessels) Regulations 2021.

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The “Spatial Squeeze” is a term you can expect to hear quite a lot about in the immediate future.

It’s all to do with the increasing competition for space in the offshore sector. Wind energy developers require space for wind-generating turbines, and those who already use that space find themselves pushed out.

Irish fishing organisations are expressing concern about developers choosing sites for windfarms “in the best fishing areas".

The Irish Sea could become an area of difficulty.

“Mutual respect must be given. For large wind farm developers, most of the first phase of applications for wind farms is in the rich Irish Sea fishing and spawning grounds,” according to the major fish producer organisations who said in a recent statement that: “Unfortunately, international experience indicates that the co-location of Offshore Wind with trawl fisheries is not possible. At present, we are experiencing a gold rush approach, as developers compete for space. We must defend our communities. The correct pathway must involve the recognition of traditional pre-existing fishing rights.”

The Norwegian marine insurance representative organisation. Det Norske Veritas (DNV), founded in Oslo in 1864, has issued a study of increasing demand for ocean space – ‘Ocean’s Future to 2050.’ This identifies growth in offshore wind power as a key driving force leading to a nine-fold increase in demand for ocean space by the middle of the century. By then, it predicts, “offshore wind will require ocean space equivalent to the landmass of Italy.

“The growth will be particularly pronounced in regions with long coastlines and presently have low penetration of offshore wind. Demand for ocean space is set to grow fifty-fold in the Indian Subcontinent and thirty-fold in North America and the Middle East. In all other regions, the demand for marine space should grow between five-and eight-fold.”

The Seafood Offshore Renewable Energy Group was set up by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, “to facilitate discussion on matters arising from the interaction of the seafood and offshore renewable energy industries, to promote and share best practice and to encourage liaison with other sectors in the marine environment.”

While there is general agreement, it seems – and public support about the future importance of wind energy all may not be going smoothly in getting agreement between the various interests.

Lack of enough information has been identified as a particular problem. The Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation is on the group, and its representative is Enda Conneely, who is my Podcast guest:

Podcast below

Published in Tom MacSweeney

Fishing and seafood organisations said last night that they were “hopeful”’ that a national fuel aid scheme is about to be sanctioned by Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue.

In a joint statement, the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO) and Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) said they believed the minister now recognised that escalating fuel costs are causing serious difficulties for the industry.

EU funding is already in place to support such a scheme, but to date, Ireland had failed to implement one, they pointed out.

IFPO chief executive Aodh O Donnell said ‘’the survival of the entire fishing sector is at stake”.

IFPO chief executive Aodh O DonnellIFPO chief executive Aodh O Donnell

“Following a meeting with the Minister this evening (October 20th), we believe he appreciates the urgency of the situation and will act soon,” he said.

“We thank him for the meeting, have collectively made our case and would welcome an early decision,” he said.

“The European Union has allocated unused funds in the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) to cover the additional fuel costs. Other member states responded to this some months ago and received the EU funds,” he said.

IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick MurphyIS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy

“The aid measures helped them reduce fuel costs by up to 30 %. But Ireland lagged behind on this aid, which created an uneven competitive landscape, as we still face higher fuel costs,”he said.

IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy said that some Irish vessels fishing off the southwest coast now land elsewhere.

“They have had compelling economic reasons to land their Irish caught fish at French ports to avail of cheaper fuel,” Murphy said.

“The French draw down and distribute approved EU funding,” he said.

“We have urged the minister for action for the last six months. We must implement a similar scheme in Ireland if we are to survive,” Murphy said.

O'Donnell said that forcing the Irish fleet to land catches elsewhere has put them in a “lose-lose situation” as the marine economy “loses the supply of valuable raw material, and this creates losses in onshore coastal employment”.

“The economic spin-off is benefitting our competitors in France, a market traditionally supplied by fish caught by Irish vessels. Fish caught in Ireland a processed on our shores has a valuable premium in these markets,” he said.

“Losing quotas under Brexit already posed a challenge. Forcing our vessels to land these valuable quotas in France because of cheaper fuel is a body blow to the marine economy and with a further hollowing out of supply for processing,” O’Donnell said.

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Businesses within 10 kilometres of Ireland’s coastline can apply for renewable energy grants worth up to 200,000 euro under the Brexit Blue Economy Enterprise Development Scheme.

Funding of €25 million has been provided from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR), a one-off payment to Ireland from the EU to compensate for the impact of Brexit.

A variety of sectors may qualify in seafood; coastal tourism; boat building and repair; marine leisure and sport; renewable energy initiatives, and small non-commercial harbour or pier activities.

The scheme is being administered by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) and delivered through Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs).

BIM regional officer Brenda O’Riordan said the scheme has already received some promising and innovative proposals across a range of blue economy businesses from seafood, coastal tourism, boat building and repair to marine leisure and sport.

“Given spiralling energy costs, we’re seeing a lot of interest from a wide breadth of blue economy businesses across Ireland’s coastal communities, particularly those looking to go green,” she said.

She cited examples ranging from fishmongers putting photo-voltaic units on the roof of the business to supply power and charter boat businesses upgrading their engines to hybrid/electric, to seafood companies looking at lighting, heating and refrigeration upgrades.

“With these grants, blue economy businesses can start to take greater control of their energy costs and become more sustainable by helping to reduce emissions and the impact on our environment,” she said.

The scheme is described as the largest of its kind ever and is open to three streams of projects: capital investment, business mentoring and capacity development, and upskilling and training.

Full details about the Brexit Blue Economy Enterprise Development Scheme, including how to apply, can be found here

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Changes to the permit system for non-EEA fishing crew proposed by a Government review have been given a qualified welcome by the Irish branch of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).

ITF campaign lead for Ireland Michael O’Brien said a “major omission” of the report published by the Irish government on October 11th was the situation of some 250 plus undocumented fishers and former fishers.

He said the changes will be welcomed by just under 300 fishers currently enrolled in the existing A-typical working scheme, which has been the subject of much criticism.

A cross-departmental group of senior officials in relevant Irish departments and agencies will be established to oversee implementation of the transition to the proposed new permit system, equivalent to a “Stamp 4” immigration permission with its wider entitlements.

Michael O'Brien is the Fisheries lead at the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF)Michael O'Brien is the fisheries campaign lead at the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) 

The ITF said it would “study the report in detail and play its role in briefing the migrant fishers of its implications”.

The proposed new scheme would ensure “a path will be open to all fishers currently enrolled in the Atypical Scheme to progress to a visa stamp 4, full labour market access and family reunification if desired,” O’Brien said.

“The ITF, working with our affiliates and the migrant fishers themselves, who are organised in the Migrant Fishers’ Network, will fully engage in this process to ensure the best available type of permit, pay and working conditions are obtained for the migrant fishers,” he said.

The situation of over 250 undocumented fishers and former fishers - many of whom spent years in the Atypical Scheme “before falling out of it through injury or acrimony with exploitative employers” – is a serious omission, he said.

"Our crews are the backbone of the traditional fishing activity"

“It is inconsistent to leave these fishers to continue working undocumented in the context of this review,” he said.

O’Brien also said the authors of the report had adopted what he described as “an unwarranted defensive tone in general on the performance of the Atypical Scheme over the last six and half years, and in particular on the question of human trafficking,” which the ITF has made “credible submissions” on.

The Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO) said it “unequivocally supports the right of all non-EEA migrant fishers to fair treatment in the workplace”.

“Traditionally, many crew members on Irish fishing vessels are ‘share-fishers’ and, therefore, self-employed,” IFPO chief executive Aodh O’Donnell said.

IFPO chief executive Aodh O’DonnellIFPO chief executive Aodh O’Donnell

“ But whether crew members are employed or self-employed, they have the right to fair working conditions. We support the implementation of overdue legislation to protect migrant fishers and to grant them the full rights and entitlements under employment legislation,” he said.

“On a practical level, we work proactively with our members to increase their awareness of the rights of non-EEA fishers,” O’Donnell said.

“We believe it would be useful to introduce a module on employment law in the BIM’s vessel owners/skippers training programmes, as recommended by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in their February 2022 report,” he said.

“Our crews are the backbone of the traditional fishing activity,” he said, and “these employees have valuable skill sets that are critical to our business and are much prized”.

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The Irish fishing industry is not being consulted properly about the development of offshore wind farms, according to the Chief Executive of the longest-established fish producer’s organisation in the State, the Irish Fish Producers Organisation.

According to Aodh O Donnell, "fishermen have a right to be consulted because it affects their livelihoods." Available charts indicate that most of the rich Irish Sea fishing area is targeted for turbine development. Fishing vessels could be displaced if there is an untrammelled development of Offshore Wind Turbines. Our industry has already taken too many hits, but proper consultation could allow us all to co-exist.”

According to the IFPO, Environment Minister Eamon Ryan has signed off on six Irish Sea developments, which will move to planning stage. "There is unease that this appears to be rushed.”
Mr O Donnell was one of six fisheries representatives to take part in a fact-finding mission to a Floating Offshore Wind Farm in Kincardine, Aberdeenshire. CEOs of the other fish producer organisations were also involved.

The visit was arranged by an Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) developer, Simply Blue Group.

“We are of the view that no planning should proceed until the new Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) is established. There are issues around marine interests and socio-economic or environmental impact assessments. But there are also huge questions about foreign ownership of Irish energy sources, which could affect future energy security,” Mr O’Donnell said.

. “Mutual respect must be given. For large wind farm developers, most of the first phase of applications for wind farms is in the rich Irish Sea fishing and spawning grounds. Unfortunately, international experience indicates that the co-location of Offshore Wind with trawl fisheries is not possible’.

“At present, we are experiencing a gold rush approach, as developers compete for space. We must work hard to defend our communities. We must avoid a lose-lose situation. The correct pathway must involve the recognition of traditional pre-existing fishing rights’.

“There is a lot of sea available for development. “But a land grab of traditional productive fishing grounds is not acceptable. The Minister and Wind Farm industry need to take account of the rights of our fishers, who are often the last to be consulted.”

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Fishing crew from non- European Economic Area (EEA) states will be eligible for a new employment permit system, the Government has said.

The new permit system, equivalent to a “Stamp 4” immigration permission with its wider entitlements, will replace the current Atypical working scheme for migrant fishing crew which has been widely criticised.

The new system is a key recommendation of a review group’s report, published on October 11th by the Government.

A cross-departmental group of senior officials in relevant departments and agencies will be established to oversee implementation of the transition from the current to the new scheme.

It will be co-chaired by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, with an “expected overall time frame” of 12 months for implementing the report’s recommendations.

The report and its recommendations were jointly welcomed by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment Damien English, and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue.

The Atypical Working Scheme (AWS) for non-EEA crew in the Irish fishing fleet was established in 2015 as a cross-departmental response to address claims of exploitation and trafficking of undocumented non-EEA workers on certain categories of vessels in the Irish fishing fleet, the Government said in a statement.

Currently, non-EEA fishers can apply through the Department of Justice for permission under the Atypical Working Scheme to work on a specific Irish vessel for a period of up to 12 months.

However, they are not eligible for an employment permit issued by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

The sector will be required to submit a comprehensive business case to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to support their inclusion in the Employment Permits System, and a “process of engagement has already begun in this regard”, the Government has said.

A study by Maynooth University said that the Atypical Working Scheme permission - under which the worker is contracted to an individual employer- and the necessity to renew this permission each year can be used by employers as a “means to threaten and exploit workers”.

Over two-thirds of those interviewed for the Maynooth University study – which was funded by the International Transport Federation (ITF) - said they would work between 15 and 20 hours a day, and pay was usually below the minimum wage.

“The publication of this report and its recommendations is the first step in putting non-EEA seafishers on a similar path to other non-EEA nationals employed in the State in terms of entitlements and protections,”Ms McEntee said.

"Non-EEA fishers and their employers will now be entitled to apply for an employment permit through the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment,” she said.

"These recommendations will also benefit seafishers’ employers, by streamlining the permission process and making it easier to recruit non-EEA seafishers,” she said.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue said he had asked his department to examine the review group’s report and “to work closely with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment with a view to ensuring the full implementation of the recommendations”.

“I have also tasked an Bord Iascaigh Mhara with providing the fishing sector with any practical assistance necessary to support of the sector’s access to the employment permit scheme," he said.

Minister of State Damien English said the report’s recommendations “will go a long way to addressing the concerns raised by stakeholders in the sector”.

“Of course, the Employment Permits system works very differently from the Atypical Working Scheme so it is proper that there will be a phased implementation in order to identify and address any challenges which arise and deal with these in the most effective way possible,” Mr English said.

Published in Fishing

Bord Iascaigh Mhara has confirmed the serious economic situation for the Irish fishing industry. In its annual report, the State fisheries board says there will be a decrease in landings, revenue and profitability.

It says, "In the long-term, decommissioning will help bring fleet capacity back in balance with available quotas and improve the profitability for vessels remaining in the Irish fleet.”

This, however, is disputed by the fishing industry representative organisations, which contradicts the BIM conclusion. They say that hundreds of jobs will be lost, damaging the industry, making it unattractive to new entrants and ultimately creating serious economic and social problems in the country’s coastal communities.

Acknowledging the problems for the fishing fleet due to fuel prices, where the Marine Minister has refused requests for a subsidy, which would be similar to other EU countries, BIM says: “Based on feedback from industry, the impact of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine on inflation and rising fuel costs was the main driving force influencing the economic performance of the Irish fleet in 2022. In 2020, average fuel costs per litre were €0.42 whereas average fuels costs per litre in mid-2022 stood at €0.90, representing a 114% increase in cost and the current reported costs of €1.20 per litre represents a 18% increase since 2020.”

An illustration from the 2022 BIM Annual Fisheries Report 2022An illustration from the 2022 BIM Annual Fisheries Report 2022

The report, for 2021, says that the data indicates an increase in landings by weight from 2020 (+6%) and a decrease in value of landings (-7.5%) due to decreasing fish prices and changes in quota allocation. Gross profit for 2021 is projected to decrease significantly (-58%) to €27.6 million combined with a decreasing net profit (-75%) to €8.1 million.

“In terms of the outlook for economic performance for 2021-2022, preliminary data point to a decrease in revenue and profitability for the Irish fleet. It also records less time spent at sea by the country’s fishing boats: “The Irish fishing fleet spent 77,460 days at sea, of which 84% were fishing days representing a decrease of 16% and 17% respectively from 2019.

“For 2021, the data indicates an increase in landings by weight from 2020 (+6%) and a decrease in value of landings (-7.5%) due to decreasing fish prices and changes in quota allocation. Gross profit for 2021 is projected to decrease significantly (-58%) to €27.6 million combined with a decreasing net profit (-75%) to €8.1 million.

“Profitability of the Irish fleet has increased since 2019, however, it says. Revenue increased by 2%, amounting to €312 million; gross value added (GVA) €161 million (+6%), gross profit €65 million (+24%) and net profit decreased to €32 million (-20%) due in part to Covid-19. The fleet landed over 218,600 tonnes valued at €312 million, an increase of 5% from 2019 in live weight and an increase of 2% in landed value (€306.5 million). In 2021, the fleet landed 233,000 tonnes, an increase of 7% from 2020.

Overall, the cost structure of the fleet has remained stable with a slight increase in all costs except non-variable costs (e.g., insurance, loan interest). Operating costs totalled €255 million, a slight increase of 1% from 2019 with energy costs increased by approximately 10%. When capital costs are included, the total cost of operating the national fleet rose by 4% since 2019 to €278.5 million.

Direct employment generated by the sector was estimated at 2,928 jobs corresponding to 2,684 full-time equivalents (FTEs).

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