IS&WFPO Chief calls for Marine Institute to carry out a comprehensive audit and evaluation of the effect of the displacement on Irish waters

IS&WFPO Chief calls for Marine Institute to carry out a comprehensive audit and evaluation of the effect of the displacement on Irish waters

CEO of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation, Patrick Murphy has called on Minister Charlie McConalogue to sanction a survey by the Marine Institute amid increasing the fishing pressure on Irish waters.

Speaking at last night’s Virtual Town Hall held by the Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Mr Murphy once again called on the Department to examine closely the impacts of increasing fishing pressure on Irish waters post Brexit as the EU seeks to compensate coastal Member States for the loss of quota in UK waters.

Mr Murphy is concerned that the EU is forcing more fishing vessels from Member States fleets into Irish waters which could cause long term damage to the highly sensitive area around the Irish coast that this responsible for the continued healthy reproduction of fish such as mackerel and blue waiting as well as other stocks which migrate to the west coast of Ireland for spawning purposes.

The IS&WFPO chief said, that if the UK was entitled to their allocation under UNICLOS regulations, then the Irish should be treated equally.

In his address he also expressed concerns about the maximum compensation that the government can give fishermen under EU rules saying that it is limited and is not good enough to compensate the fishing industry for the loss of fishing quota from UK waters.

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Directing his question to the minister, the head of the IS&WFPO said:

“I have to thank you (Minister McConalogue) for coming for giving us this opportunity, but there are some inaccuracies in what’s been said here tonight, and the first inaccuracy is yes, Minister one-third of our fishing was being done in the UK waters, but that doesn’t mean to say that we couldn’t do some of that fish in the vast majority of it in Irish waters. Yes, the quality of the fish wouldn’t have been as good as in the UK waters, but it wouldn’t mean cessation. So, the trade-off we’ve seen no hasn’t been as good as we were hoping for. We still as, has been pointed out, see a lot of displacement into our waters from other vessels coming in here.

“The question that I had sent in was very simple. So, following the TCA agreement, do you feel it’s fair our country should carry the greatest burden? And if you agree it’s not fair, will you direct the Marine Institute to carry out a comprehensive audit and evaluation of the effect of the displacement that is happening by EU and British vessels into Irish waters on our fragile spawning and breeding stocks all around the coast?

“That is really important Minister because this is down to ‘access’.

“And that is how do UK had leverage over Europe to demand the share increased at the head and to come back to what I’m speaking about, as you quite rightly pointed out, the UK had a massive share of their own fish inside their own waters, up to 50%. They weren’t satisfied with that. They asked for more fish in the European Union, the only justification they could have for this was to say under UNICLOS laws, the fish are in your waters tour entitled to a greater share of them. Otherwise, we couldn’t have found an agreement. But there is no difference in Irish waters; we are where the fish are, we don’t fish in in many of the European waters, we stay at home.

“The only other place that we go into is the United Kingdoms or down to the Bay of Biscay for some (albacore) tuna, or maybe up to Norway for some mackerel or into the English waters. So, to say that we would have been at the total disadvantage, it’s not quite correct Minister and as bad as it was, it couldn’t be much worse for us because it’s like this, Minister we have, and nobody can argue at this point.

“Ireland to starved of quota. We do not have enough fish, and we’ve seen successive decommissioning schemes in our country that has wiped out fishing industries across some of our ports and small harbours around the country. And unfortunately, and I must commend Christopher Sullivan and yourself for setting up the Taskforce. It was a small, shining light into a very bleak future that we had, and on that note, I hope Billy Kelleher is still there, Billy, you did ask what we can do, and as you know Minister, we have a massive problem here.

“We have got a massive amount of money, €1.2 billion out of the five billion of the BAR fund, but it is absolutely useless to us Minister, if the state aid rules apply. As you know, the most we can give out to fishing boats in compensation under the State Aid rules is €30,000 over three years. That’s €10,000 year.

“That is absolutely useless to us. And you do know that this is not new.

“We asked for change in regulations in Europe when we got hit with COVID and they did allow us to set aside the State Aid rules and I’m imploring yourself and Billy Kelleher to make inroads into that now because the criteria that we need for the Tie-up Scheme, we won’t be any good to us if we run out of time during the year because there won’t be any month to tie-up boats.

“It’s really important that we get working on this straight away and I know that you haven’t had anything final from the Taskforce, but I think that this opportunity I have to bring it forward.”

by Oliver McBride

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