EU Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginius Sinkevicius is coming to meet the Irish fishing industry in Killybegs

EU Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginius Sinkevicius is coming to meet the Irish fishing industry in Killybegs

It has been reported that EU Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginius Sinkevicius will be coming to visit Killybegs Harbour on Monday, 27 September. 

The Commissioner is currently on a tour visiting fishing ports in EU Member States as demanded by his position in the Commission. Last week the Commissioner visited fishing ports in Spain including Vigo in the Galicia region and Santa Pola in the Alicante region, where he met with fishing representatives from CEPESA and other fishing organisations.

During his visit to Vigo, the Commissioner also met with the new Executive Director of the European Fisheries Control Agency, Dr Susan Steele, who was at the time, the Chair of the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority when it provided the report to the Commissioner that led to the removal of the Control Plan from Irish fishing ports. 

During his visit to Killybegs, Commissioner Sinkevicius will meet two representatives from each of the Irish fish producers’ organisations, along with representatives from the inshore sector and the processing sector. 

One of those who will be attending the meeting will be Brendan Byrne, CEO of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association. 

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On the visit Brendan said, “I would expect that he will give a fair and in depth this hearing to the fishery groups in terms of the impact of the TCA and Brexit. How that has impacted the entire area fishing industry and I would sincerely hope that he’s coming to Ireland with the solution to the control plan being revoked, we’re still in a limbo situation where we’re still not allowed to way under derogation within their processing plants. We’re facing the autumn fishery and it’s going to cause mayhem. 

“It has been causing chaos for the shellfish and whitefish sectors since April when the decision was taken. So, he couldn’t be coming at a better time to deliver good news, I hope that that’s what his motivation is that he will listen to us certainly, and in addition to that that he has real and meaningful solutions to the unprecedented situation that we’re currently in.” 

The Irish fishing industry is indeed facing an unprecedented time and following Brexit, and the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), the Irish fishing fleet are being pushed out of business due to the lack of fishing quotas in their own waters and a one-sided European idea of burden sharing. 

The Irish fishing industry has taken the pain of our European neighbours’ burdens right from the start of the Common Fisheries Policy. Does Brendan think that will change under Sinkevicius stewardship of the Commission’s fisheries portfolio?

“We need a fair share of the fish that’s taken from our own waters, and that’s the basis of everything moving forward. 

“Will he listen to us? That remains to be seen. 

“Has he demonstrated anything favourable towards Ireland in his tenure so far? No! 

“At the end of the day he is the Commissioner that revoked the control plan throwing the entire fishing industry into chaos. 

“We can’t blame him solely for the TCA agreement. That was a political decision at a much higher level, but since the decision was taken on the 24th of December last year, this Commissioner has failed to act in terms of what real burden sharing is going to look like. What is the mechanics of how burden sharing is going to be implemented?

“And then the third thing, this is a significant factor too for the Northwest particularly. Norway and the Faroe Islands and Iceland were able to unilaterally increase their mackerel quotas, and that has gone uncontested and unchallenged by this Commissioner, and that is going to have massive impacts. 

“So, this is a commissioner that’s very much in the spotlight, and it’s a commissioner that has not shown as metal in terms of his understanding of the Irish fishing industry.  

“Monday will be a very interesting day in terms of the impacts of Brexit in terms of the removal of the Control Plan and how some of the coastal member states have been really able to yet act under their own jurisdiction unilaterally, without any impact or consequences for the rest of us.” 

Not alone will the damage of overfishing mackerel be felt on the fishing industry, there is also the long-term effects overfishing has on stocks. 

“And that is something that he is as Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries that he is the line responsible for,” says Brendan. “But there has been total inaction since the decision by those countries in May to proceed along the lines which they’ve done. Now they’ve caught their due quota to that amount that they set themselves, without any consideration for the other members of the coastal states. 

“So, this is in Commissioner has a lot to answer for during his tenure so far. He has had more impact on the Irish fishing industry than any other Commissioner in the last 20 years, and he needs to be made aware of that and he will be made aware of that by the different representatives of fishing bodies. 

“But there’s pointless being aware of something, unless he’s willing and able to do something about it. So, Monday’s meeting is going to be critically important for the Irish industry providing the Commissioner is in listening mode and is willing to act on what he hears.” 

By Oliver McBride 

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