The fish weighing debacle is adversely effecting South West Donegal economy as no resolution is in sight, writes IFPEA, CEO Brendan Byrne
Fish weighing debacle adversely effecting South West Donegal economy as no resolution is in sight, writes IFPEA, CEO Brendan Byrne
239 households directly affected, with up to 300 workers impacted and 1773 workdays lost for seasonal workers.
In a survey of its members and the wider communities supported by the fish processing sector, the IFPEA has established that over the past number of weeks, the economy of South West Donegal has taken a massive hit due to the changes in weighing procedures adopted overnight by the SFPA on the 6th/ 7th March last.
We have found that 239 households are directly affected by the turning away of vessels from Killybegs, that is impacting up to 300 seasonal workers directly with to date 1,773 working days lost by them collectively. This is a devastating blow to seasonal workers, who have witnessed their duration of work already eroded due to Brexit/TCA cuts in our fish quota.
If Killybegs cannot function in line with all other EU Fishery Harbours or ports, then by being placed at a complete competitive disadvantage due to unfair interpretation of EU rules and regulations by a combination of the Department of Marine and the SFPA, then this will definitely lead to job losses and further devastating impacts for the wider community. We have already witnessed signs of advantage being given to other ports with vessels destined for Killybegs rediverting to other ports due to unfair and disproportionate interpretation of EU rules, or in some cases rules that simply do not exist.
When the wider community context is factored in, it is even more stark; using the data that every fish producing / processing job supports 2.4 jobs in the service sector then, this will have devastating effects on our wider communities and in every sector from net makers, electronics, marine service for vessels and engineering right down to the local shops and restaurants – no one will escape the impact of this.
The IFPEA have been contacted by dozens over the past weeks. One particular case, a family that are depending on these blue whiting landings and the additional few weeks work, in order to earn enough to pay for the 300 litre fill of home heating oil, the daughters last instalment of the bus ticket now overdue, as well as the other household bills left unpaid to date – this is the human side of the story that is lost in this madness that we have witnessed over the past weeks. That family we have highlighted and outlined, did not earn that money because there was no fish to process. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case – this is
rural Ireland in April of 2022 but it is not understood by those that have the power to do something about it.
Families are struggling and inflation is hurting everyone at present but particularly those on low incomes or working seasonally, the Irish fish industry does not request any special exemptions or unique treatment, nor do we request any new rules or regulations to be drawn up.
What we campaign for is the rules which are in place under the Common Fisheries Policy and the control of fisheries regulations are applied equally and fairly in all Member States without fear or favour. But that is not the case when it comes to Ireland, the rules being imposed on the landing of fish into Ireland are not in any other EU State. Irish pelagic fish processors have by far the most vigorous monitoring control at present – on average 9 to 10 CCTV cameras recording the weighing of bulk pelagic landing of fish into our factories, these recording are available for play back for 31 days – not one single other EU Coastal state has this level of control or monitoring at present. Where are the EU principles of equality – when with all of these controls more is added, even though no other member state is asked to step up to our standards?
We as a sector have absolutely no issue with the 5% or 7.5 % monitoring of landings as set out by the regulations , that percentage can be increased if they wish but we do have serious issues with is when an interpretation of these regulations leads to the loss of quality of landings and fish catches and gives our competitors a clear advantage over us by these regulations restricting our ability to function as fish processors, especially when it comes to the landing of fish pre transport, while the other member states are not subjected to any similar regulation.
The SFPA and the Department of the Marine are placing all fish processors and producers in the pelagic sector at a complete competitive disadvantage by their actions and that is against the principles of fair competition as upheld by the EU.
Source: Press Release