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Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has now received the interim report of the Seafood Sector Task Force. The Minister set up the Seafood Sector Task Force to examine the implications for the Irish Fishing industry and coastal communities particularly dependent upon it arising from the Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement, agreed between the European Union and the UK.

The Task Force, Chaired by Aiden Cotter, was charged with recommending initiatives that could be taken to provide supports for development and restructuring, so as to ensure a profitable and sustainable fishing fleet and to identify opportunities for jobs and economic activity in coastal communities dependent on fishing.

The Minister requested that an interim report to focus on arrangements for a temporary voluntary fleet cessation scheme to counter the impact of the reduction in quotas would be provided, followed later by the full report of the Seafood Sector Task Force. The Task Force was also asked to review the options and recommend actions that may be pursued that would assist in reducing the burden on Ireland from the transfers of fishing quota shares to the UK.

Marine Minister Charlie McConalogueMarine Minister Charlie McConalogue

The Interim Task Force Report, supported by all Members of the Taskforce, addressed the issue of burden-sharing between Member States and recommends a range of initiatives to address the quota reductions in Trade and Co-operation Agreement. The Taskforce recommended a series of actions targeted at pelagic quotas and actions targeted at demersal quotas. The Interim Report indicates that the recommended actions, after further consideration by the Task Force, will be set down in detail in the main Report. The Interim Taskforce Report also recommends that a voluntary temporary cessation scheme of one months duration be offered, to approximately 220 whitefish vessels impacted by the quota reductions, in the period from September to December.

The Minister said “I wish to thank the members of the Seafood Sector Task Force for their constructive engagement under the guidance of the steering group (Aidan Cotter, Margaret Daly and Micheál O’Cinneide) to draft this interim report, which I requested would focus the issue of burden-sharing and on arrangements for a temporary voluntary fleet cessation scheme to counter the impact of the reduction in fishing quotas under the Brexit Trade and Co-operation Agreement. I am delighted to have now received that interim report.”

The Seafood Sector Task will continue its work with a view to producing a final report for submission to the Minister. The terms of reference ask the Task Force to outline the arrangements for a voluntary decommissioning scheme or other initiatives to address the implications of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement and outline other developmental strategies to strengthen and enhance coastal communities especially dependent on the seafood industry. The Task Force will also review the options and recommend actions that may be pursued which would assist in reducing the burden on Ireland from the transfers of fishing quota shares to the UK.

The Minister went on to say “I have asked the Task Force to consider how all available funding streams could be used to address, to the extent possible, initiatives to mitigate the impact of quotas transferred to the UK under the Trade and Co-operation Agreement. While the Brexit Adjustment Reserve and the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund will be very important elements in the implementation of the recommendations of the Task Force, they should not be considered the only sources of funding and, in the first instance, it is a matter for the Task Force to consider appropriate funding sources for recommendations they may make.”

The Seafood Sector Task Force is continuing its work and has, to date, met on seven occasions and received a total of 57 submissions from its members and through the public consultation process.

The establishment of the Seafood Sector Taskforce is an Action in the Department’s Action Plan 2021 under the Strategic Goal to ‘Deliver a sustainable, competitive and innovative seafood sector, driven by a skilled workforce, delivering value added products in line with consumer demand’.

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“There is a better way” than the present approach taken by government to the fishing industry, according to the Chairperson of Comhdháil Oileán na hEireann, the Islands’ Federation.

“This is a matter of huge importance regarding island community livelihoods and sustainability not to mention heritage and traditions,” wrote Chairperson Aisling Moran in an open letter on behalf of the offshore island communities to Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

They have asked him to “intervene personally in the difficult situation facing the fishing industry.”

“We implore you to act to prevent the loss of hundreds of jobs, a way of life and a key element to coastal communities, Irish heritage and tradition. Island communities are intimately acquainted with the consequences of changes to fishing rights and regulations inflicted through the years. Islanders are by nature people of the sea. To sacrifice their ability to make a living though life-learned skills they are passionate about is beyond unreasonable. This continued decimation of the Irish fleet has been magnified with the onset of Brexit and the Irish fishing industry is fighting for its life.

“As Taoiseach we consider it appropriate for you to personally intervene in this serious situation. We ask all involved with the control and regulation of the fishing industry to have a hard look at the consequences of their actions against a proud and respected Irish livelihood.

“There is a better way.”

The Federation represents 16 offshore island communities. It was set up in 1984 to draw attention to “the difficulties facing islanders” in socio-economic development, problems which they felt were not being addressed at regional or national level

“We don’t know if he read our letter, but his Department sent a reply that it had been forwarded to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine,” the Comhdháil told Afloat.

Charlie McConalogue is Minister at that Department, but the islanders had already sent a copy of the letter to him.

Published in Island News
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Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D today paid tribute to the men and women working in Ireland’s seafood sector for their continued efforts to reduce Ireland’s marine waste as part of the Clean Oceans Initiative.

To date, the collaborative efforts of the sector have resulted in more than 600 tonnes of mainly plastic waste being collected at sea and during shore and pier clean-ups.

The Clean Oceans Initiative is being led by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, and supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

Speaking at the pier in Greencastle, Co Donegal, Minister McConalogue commended Irish fishing, aquaculture and coastal communities for their achievements in helping to reduce what he described as “the plastic pollution pervading the marine environment.”

The Minister also highlighted the collective and ongoing work of the sector to better manage gear to prevent it from entering oceans in the first place and their efforts to remove waste from the Marine environment.

He stated, “The Irish seafood sector are a leading example of what can be achieved through collaboration. This collective approach is the key ingredient needed to tackle the plastic pollution pervading the marine environment. I am ever- impressed by the level of ingenuity being taken by the sector and this new focus to address the problem of marine waste is helping to protect Ireland’s marine environment for future generations.”

The Clean Oceans Initiative is being led by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency, and supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

Jim O’Toole, CEO BIM spoke of the learnings being gained from the sector’s involvement in the pilot project to better understand the benefits of a circular economy and said, “BIM is proud to support the work of Ireland’s fishers, aquaculture producers and other members of the seafood sector in their continued Clean Oceans Initiative activities. The sector has assumed a leadership role in the protection of the marine environment through marine litter retrieval. BIM will continue to work with industry to ensure they are prepared for new waste management requirements under impending EU legislation.”

Published in Marine Wildlife

Britain and the EU have reached agreement “in principle” on joint management of fisheries for this year, after over five months of negotiations.

The agreement was finalised in a phone call on Wednesday afternoon, June 2nd, between the EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, and Britain’s Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice, the commission says.

“Today's agreement closes the first-ever annual consultations on fishing opportunities between the EU and the UK under the terms of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA),” the commission said last night.

“The successful conclusion of the negotiations, which started in January, creates a strong basis for continued EU-UK cooperation in the area of fisheries,” it said.

Britain’s Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George EusticeBritain’s Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice

The agreement establishes the total allowable catches (TAC) for 75 shared fish stocks for 2021, as well as for some deep-sea stocks for 2021 and 2022, it said.

“It also provides clarity on access limits for non-quota species. The signing of the agreement, expected in the coming days, will also enable both parties to engage in quota exchanges,” the commission said.

Commissioner Sinkevičius said the agreement “provides predictability and continuity for our fleets with definitive TACs for the remainder of the year”.

“This is good for fishermen and women, our coastal communities and our ports, as well as for the sustainable use of our marine resources. This also proves that two partners on both sides of the Channel can find agreements and move forward if they work together,” he said.

The EU said the agreement is “based on the best available scientific advice on the state of fish stocks, as provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea”.

“It takes into account important sustainability and management principles, such as maximum sustainable yield and the precautionary approach, which are central to both the EU's Common Fisheries Policy and to the fisheries provisions of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement,” it said.

It said it would “shortly propose to the EU Council to incorporate the agreement into EU legislation”.

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After carrying out a high level of data and positional data analysis, the Naval Service has detained the Spanish fishing trawler involved in an incident with a Castletownbere trawler in Bantry Bay last Friday.

As Afloat reported earlier, the LÉ Roisin detained the Punta Candierira approximately 95 Nautical Miles South of Mizen Head for alleged breaches of fishing regulations and is escorting it to Cobh.

The Spanish-registered vessel was at the centre of an incident within the Irish 12-mile limit in Bantry Bay on Friday morning when the Castletownbere trawler, Lours de Mer, alleged that it attempted to ram the Irish vessel to force it away from fishing grounds.

The Irish South and West Fish Producers' Organisation described the incident as "dangerous intimidation" and called for the Spanish boat to be arrested.

Castletownbere Skipper Kieran Sheehan said that the Spanish Skipper was "aggressive" and was "doing circles around us."

The Castletownbere trawler claimed that the Spanish gill-netter vessel was long-line fishing inside the 12-mile limit and cut its gear to get outside the 12-mile limit before the Navy got to the scene.

The Naval Service said it conducted a search of the area but did not find any fishing gear.

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority said the Spanish vessel was "operating" within the Irish 12-mile limit.

Spanish vessels do not have rights to fish there.

The Naval Service said that they "had to contact a high level of data and positional data analysis" in the case which resulted in the detention.

This is the fifth vessel detained by the Naval Service in 2021.

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Researchers at the Marine Institute are calling on fishers from around the country to participate in a new project aimed at reducing unwanted catches across harvesting practices, in an ecological, economic, and socially sustainable way.

The project, IFISH, will use a behavioural approach involving near real time on-line mapping of unwanted catches in order to simultaneously help fishers adhere to EU quotas and promote sustainability of fish stocks. Effectively the system aims to help fishers reduce the amount of catch they don't want, avoiding discards. The project is funded by a Science Foundation Ireland SIRG grant.

According to Dr. Julia Calderwood, Principle Investigator on the project, over the past few decades fishers and the wider public began to realise that discarding of fish was a significant issue throughout fisheries worldwide.

“Discarding is the throwing back of dead or damaged fish into the sea, which can undermine sustainability,” she says. “That's why legislation was introduced by the EU meaning the discarding of many fish species is no longer allowed.”

Dr. Calderwood explains that quotas are set on how much fishers can land each year. This is rolled out initially at an EU level and is thereafter divided out between the member states to manage their own stocks accordingly. In that way the species populations should be capable of replacing themselves.

Methods to control stocks

In order to adhere to quotas, fishers adopt an array of solutions that help increase selectivity in a fishery. Technical measures include using more selective nets such as those with larger mesh sizes or escape panels so that unwanted catch aren’t retained in them. However, marine researchers around the world are now considering ideas at a more sophisticated level of planning. For example, scientists at the Marine Institute have previously worked on a project to develop probability maps to help understand where and when the species subject to quotas were most likely to be caught.

“The maps didn't reveal anything truly surprising,” says Calderwood. “Fishers told us that they were generally useful as a reference tool, and broadly agreed with their own knowledge. But they were limited because they were based on catch information collected over broad areas, and over broad timeframes or seasons.”

“So, the fishers said it might be something that they would check in on every now and then, but the maps weren’t going to be used every day, because they weren’t giving them the up-to-date information on where the fish are right now.”

The IFISH system

Dr. Calderwood and her team then decided to try something more innovative. The idea is to create a mobile phone app using a near real-time mapping system to provide advice to fishers about where they might avoid fishing to not catch unwanted species or sizes of fish, helping them to stay within their quotas and improve their catch efficiency so they are still making a viable living.

“That's the IFISH project,” she says. “The idea is for skippers to provide live information on unwanted catches they encounter using our app. So, for example, they could log in and very simply and easily click on the map to indicate that, say, right here, right now, we're catching lots of something that we don't want, like undersize fish or species which aren’t marketable.”

“The app would then create an alert that would be shared among vessels who are signed up to use the app together, helping them to avoid areas with this unwanted catch. It's a win-win situation for everyone, but we need fishers to help us by signing up to help develop and test the app.”

The project aims to have an app in use during 2022 but is currently designing what is needed for this app alongside industry so that the final product best addresses their needs. The project is currently asking fishers to sign up and join in the design process. Further information and contact details can be found at www.i-fish.org

This focus on research is presented as part of the Marine Institute’s four-week Oceans of Learning campaign, which will enable everyone to engage with our ocean from anywhere. Oceans of Learning includes a new podcast series, videos and short films, news and online resources all about our ocean. There’s something for everyone and the Oceans of Learning series will explore all aspects of our marine resource - from our rich marine biodiversity, to our changing ocean climate, and our oceans future.

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The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) says that a Spanish-registered fishing vessel was "operating within the waters of Bantry Bay and therefore within Ireland's 12-nautical mile limit" during what Irish fishermen in the South West claim was an attempted ramming incident.

The incident was filmed by the crew of the Irish trawler.

The Irish skipper can be heard on VHF radio telling the Spanish boat to 'stay away from us.'

The CEO of the Irish South and West Fish Producers, Patrick Murphy, called SFPA Chair Susan Steele and asked for immediate action.

Fishermen also called for the Navy to protect Irish fishing boats.

The CEO of the Irish South and West Fish Producers, Patrick MurphyThe CEO of the Irish South and West Fish Producers, Patrick Murphy

"The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority are aware of a situation that arose when a Spanish registered vessel was encountered by an Irish-registered vessel operating within the waters of Bantry Bay and therefore within the IRL 12-nautical mile limit. The situation continues to be closely monitored by the National Fisheries Monitoring Centre at the Naval Base, Haulbowline," the SFPA said in a statement.

The incident happened on Friday morning, two days after fishermen staged a demonstration in Cork protesting at the dominant quotas held by non-Irish EU vessels in Irish waters.

"This was an attempt to force Irish boats off our own fishing grounds. It is intimidation. Our authorities must take action against this vessel acting extremely dangerously at sea and endangering life," the Chief Executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers' Organisation, Patrick Murphy, said. "It is appalling. This was a threat to life at sea, so action must be taken against the vessel which tried to do the ramming. The Spanish boat should be arrested and stopped from fishing in Irish waters."

Published in Fishing

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue T.D., said that Norway unilaterally announced this morning that it would give itself a 55% increase in its share of the Mackerel Stock in 2021. In tonnage terms, this means an increase from 191,843 tonnes to 298,299 tonnes – an increase of 106,456 tonnes for 2021. The Norwegian decision seeks to increase its share of the Mackerel Stock from 22.5% to 35%.

Mackerel has been managed under a UN Coastal States Agreement that involved the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands for the period 2014 to 2020. Iceland had refused to participate in the management agreement and the three parties set aside a share of the stock for it. In 2021, after Brexit and the UK departure from the EU, the new parties involved have not been able to put a new Coastal States Agreement on Mackerel in place.

Minister McConalogue said, “This declaration by Norway to hugely increase its fishery for mackerel is a direct threat to the sustainability of the mackerel fishery and the future of the Irish pelagic fishing industry. There is no justification for this unilateral, opportunistic and unsustainable move. This is all the more disappointing because it undermines the critically important arrangements for joint management of mackerel by the Coastal States under the UN structure. As the scientific advice sets the sustainable level of fishing each year on mackerel, an increase by Norway means either the stock is overfished or other parties must take a smaller share. Neither option is acceptable.”

The mackerel stock is a widely distributed, migratory fish that inhabits much of the north-eastern Atlantic shelf ranging from south of Ireland and the Bay of Biscay to north of Norway. It is fast swimming forming dense shoals when migrating from its spawning grounds to the south and west of Ireland and migrate to northern waters to feedThe mackerel stock is a widely distributed, migratory fish that inhabits much of the north-eastern Atlantic shelf ranging from south of Ireland and the Bay of Biscay to north of Norway. It is fast swimming forming dense shoals when migrating from its spawning grounds to the south and west of Ireland and migrate to northern waters to feed

Under the EU /UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement, there was a 26% reduction in our mackerel quota within the EU by 2026, with 60% of this reduction applied in 2021. Mackerel remains Irelands most important fishery with a quota for 2021 of 60,849 tonnes valued at approximately €80m and it underpins the important Irish pelagic fish processing industry in the North West. Ireland is the largest Mackerel quota holder in the EU.

Minister Mc McConalogue made clear that; “I am calling on EU Commissioner Sinkevičius to reject completely this unilateral action by Norway to claim a much higher share of the mackerel stock. I am writing to him immediately to ask him to respond without delay to this provocative and irresponsible action. I will ask him to outline what actions the European Commission will take to protect the important EU mackerel fleets and mackerel processing industry. It is vital that the EU Commissioner takes urgent steps to counteract this irresponsible action by Norway. Norway must understand that responsible partners do not get rewarded for such unacceptable action.”

Minister Mc McConalogue added, “Our mackerel fishermen have already taken unacceptable cuts to their share of the mackerel stock under the EU/UK TCA. I am working with them to pursue all avenues to deliver a more equitable burden sharing within the EU. I am very concerned that this action by Norway will add further uncertainty to the mackerel industry already trying to adjust to reduce quotas after Brexit.”

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A flotilla of 73 Irish fishing vessels participated in a mass demonstration yesterday which may be the first in a series of protests, according to industry leaders.

The “Show and Tell” event organised by the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) delivered a letter to the constituency office of Taoiseach Micheal Martin in Cork, seeking direct talks with him.

Vessels from Clogherhead, Co Louth right round to Rossaveal, Co Galway, and including all southern ports, participated – leaving berths up to 24 hours beforehand in some cases to make it to Cork harbour.

“This is the first stage in a campaign, where we want to show the Irish people what is actually happening to our industry,” IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy said.

80 per cent of the beamer fleet from south coast Irish ports also took part, Murphy noted.

80 per cent of the beamer fleet from south coast Irish ports took part in the Cork Harbour campaign Photo: Bob Bateman80 per cent of the beamer fleet from south coast Irish ports took part in the Cork Harbour campaign Photo: Bob Bateman

The loss of 15 per cent overall of Irish fish quota in the Brexit deal and the reintroduction of an administrative penalty points system were key issues that the event aimed to highlight.

The protest also aimed to emphasise the impact of the recent withdrawal of the EU control plan - which means all fish catches have to be weighed on piers.

The Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association has called on Irish Marine minister Charlie McConalogue to demand evidence from the EU for what it has described as a “blunt, crude” decision by the EU Commission.

“What makes this unbearable is that all this is happening during a global pandemic, where the Irish fishing fleet was designated an essential service for the continuity of food supply,” Murphy said.

The fleet assembled at Roche’s Point off Cork harbour early on Wednesday and steamed up to Cork Port.

“Fishing crews, mechanics, engineers, oil companies, net manufacturers, shops, supermarkets all supported us –it was a real community event,” Murphy said.

Murphy paid tribute to the Garda, Naval Service and Port of Cork for accommodating the peaceful protest, and to members of the public for supporting it.

“Fishermen are putting themselves before the public, to show them the boats they have, the huge investment, creating jobs, the families with long traditions who face being forced out of fishing,” he said.

“Many businesses throughout the country, through no fault of their own, will not survive the current climate financially,” the IS&WFPO has warned.

“ The countless job losses, financial worries these people have of maintaining mortgage payments and putting food on their tables is unimaginable,” it says.

A photo gallery of the trawler protest at Roches Point is here

Published in Fishing
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Fishing vessels are steaming up the river Lee to Cork city this morning in protest over serious issues affecting the Irish industry.

A beautiful morning in Cork Harbour has allowed the fleet to assemble at Roches Point in perfectly flat sea conditions.

See photo gallery below

The “Show and Tell” campaign, spearheaded by the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO), aims to deliver a letter to Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s constituency office in Turner’s Cross, Cork.

The IS&WFPO says it has the co-operation with the Port of Cork Company and the Garda for the event and is inviting the public to “come and view these vessels, meet the men and women who work these vessels, hear their stories and talk with our representatives”.

The protest fleet assembled off Roches Point, Cork Harbour at 7 am on Wednesday, and a public address will be held at Horgan’s Quay, Cork at 12 noon, before the walk to Turner’s Cross.

 
Published in Cork Harbour
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