IFSA Chairman, Cormac Burke says that the future of Irish fishing industry depends on next generation of DAFM appointments
The Chairman of the Irish Fishing and Seafood Alliance has hit out at past misdeeds by senior Irish civil servants against their own industry when it came to fisheries management and believes the next generation of managers must not be anti-fishing industry.
In an article called “A decision that will sink or save the industry”, Cormac Burke says that:
“For the past two decades, at the various annual EU Council quota talks, Ireland’s negotiators viewed any quota reduction of 15% or less as a success while the representatives of other EU Member States considered any quota increase of less than 15% as a total failure – – it has been this mindset that has seen Ireland, despite holding the richest waters in Europe, become the poor relation of the EU fishing industry… “
In the next few months, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) will be replacing two long standing senior civil servants that many in the fishing industry regarded as ‘toxic’ to the sector, something that the IFSA Chair regards as critical. He says:
“Given the track record of those who are now being replaced after some 25 years at the helm, these new appointments are critical to the future survival of the Irish fishing industry – both nationally and within the EU framework.”
He goes on to criticise the lack of transparency and accountability created by the Heads of DAFM as being at “the core of the problem that has blighted every sector of the industry for years.”
“Many questions have remained unanswered as a legacy of the current regime such as the [civil servant denied] relationship between the DAFM and the SFPA; how much taxpayers’ money was wasted in taking anyone who tried to fight the system to court on trumped-up charges; and the coincidence that anyone who stood up to the DAFM suddenly found themselves being a ‘person of interest’ to the SFPA…
“How can it be that more than a dozen marine ministers have come and gone in the past 25 years – some of them good people with great intentions and yet they achieved nothing during their term?
“And the only constant throughout that time has been the marine senior civil servants who in fact held all the power – – so much so that they earned themselves the title from fishermen as the ‘Department Against the Marine’.”
The IFSA Chair tells us that history has proven this as truth and that under the “outgoing regime” Ireland has never made a gain in terms of increased quotas or better fishing opportunities that was gained outside increases in ICES catch limit recommendations.
“As I have mentioned in a previous article, in the past 25 years at the various annual EU Council quota talks Ireland’s DAFM negotiators viewed any quota reduction of 15% or less as a success while the representatives of other EU Member States considered any quota increase of less than 15% as a total failure – it has been this mindset that has seen Ireland, despite holding the richest waters in Europe, become the poor relation of the EU fishing industry,” notes Burke.
“Looking in terms of this industry being a commercial business, how can its ‘managers’ claim to have done their best when we have arrived at the point where the seafood catching, processing and retail industry is now at an all-time low with the pelagic, demersal and inshore sectors all on their knees with Ireland trying to survive on crumbs of quotas while the rest of the EU fleet enjoy a boom time in Irish waters?”
Burke also takes aim at the latest BIM Business of Seafood Report which he claims is “doubtlessly DAFM edited” to paint a pretty picture to Government and the general public of an Irish seafood sector showing growth,” rather than the harsh fact that it is on its knees due to both Ministerial and Department incompetence. Instead, the Business of Seafood report is made to look good by including “data of imported fish which is sold in Ireland.”
The IFSA Chair also makes the complaint that tradition and heritage is being destroyed by DAFM; He says:
“From administrators and many politicians dropping the term ‘fishing industry’ and using the sexier-sounding ‘seafood sector’, and replacing ‘fishermen’ with ‘fishers’, it’s clear that there is a move towards whitewashing this industry and its traditional way of life to something else – – something that will sound better in corporate reports but will paper over the cracks of an industry and a group of people who are being systematically eroded from Irish heritage – a group of people who are slowly going from catchers and processors of Irish-caught fish to a forgotten section of society who are being forced out of work and forced to look on while the fleets from every other EU nation successfully harvest the rich resources in Irish waters.”
Burke continues by asking the people who are to select the new Heads of DAFM to consider the failures of the past and to think of the future of the industry when appointing the new candidates. He believes that the ideal candidates need the “dedication and willpower” to work with the industry instead of against it as the future of thousands of people’s livelihoods will rely on the next appointments.