The outcome of a meeting between Minister Charlie McConalogue and fishing represenatives in Castletownbere has been described as positive
‘Positive’ was how Patrick Murphy, CEO of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation described the outcome of yesterday’s meeting with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, TD.
Despite a rare start to the day, the CEO of the IS&WFPO was satisfied that the Minister had left Castletownbere understanding the seriousness of the fishing community’s concerns and making a commitment to bring their requests to the EU table.
Earlier in the day, a press release from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine had announced a €13m contract from the completion of the new quay extension at Dinish Island in the harbour, but somewhere along the line somehow the Minister met fishing representatives before the meeting happened, and it came as a shock to Patrick Murphy.
“I was absolutely taken aback while I was driving down to my office yesterday to hear that I was after missing the meeting with our Minister. I did a double take,” explains Patrick.
“I contacted the radio station to see was that correct and they confirmed it and read it back to me, so I said, well we haven’t met him yet.”
Despite this start, when the meeting finally happened, he felt there was progress made at the meeting.
“It was a constructive meeting, I feel,” he told The Fishing Daily. “The minister listened, and he took notes on the points that we were raising with him, and we kept pointing out to the Minister is that we’re actually there to offer help and advice.
“We have to be concerned because it is our industry, and it is our livelihoods, but the Minister and the Government are the only people in the position to take our concerns and ideas to the EU.
“We’re not just there to show more and give out and say you’re not doing this and not doing that. We’re actually there to be constructive because that’s the way forward.”
“We just want our Minister on our Government to point out, that we’ve been crucified by the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
“The compensation that the EU is giving us is wee and good for the short term, but we need to put something in place that’s going to protect us in the long term. For us that’s looking at the common fisheries policy now that it is up for review.
“The Irish fishing industry is not looking to catch extra fish or to fish in other Member States waters. As I stated before, we just want to catch our fish in our waters. We are looking to get back fish we are entitled to under the UNICLOS law of 1995.
“So, we’re not asking to take fish from another country that they are catching. We’re looking for the fish that they’re not catching.”
Patrick’s fear is that unless something positive happens quickly, some in the Irish fishing industry will look to get out because at the moment, most fishermen only see a dismal end to the current situation.
This would mean some would opt for decommissioning, which he believes like everyone else, would signal the end of the Irish fishing industry.
“We need this uncaught fish in our own waters to be given to us to sustain our coastal communities and the fishing fleet that we have that’s been slashed and burned twice already. We don’t want to go through it for the third time, and we don’t want our fishing fleet to take that this.
“It’s so bleak and it’s so bad. I fear that it will turn into a ‘grab what you can now to get out, forget about yourself and your future jobs’ situation
“Some might start believing that if they don’t get out now then they’re going to lose what they have and they have nothing at the end.”
“Our organisation is completely and utterly against the annihilation. And I mean annihilation of the future of our coastal communities, because if we lose the ability to catch fish in our own waters, that will never be reinstated, we can never turn things around to the future.”
The fish is there to be caught, that much is obvious, but the common fisheries policy discriminates against the Irish fishing industry even though we hold the key fishing grounds, and on top of that, are the only remaining island Member State in the Atlantic.
If UNCLOS law was applied, Patrick believes there could be a €50m to €60m boost to the Irish fishing fleet.
Patrick says that this was laid out at yesterday’s meeting with the Minister as well as other “combined key reasons” that he can bring to his EU colleagues at the AGRIFISH Council.
“We want him to take what we gave him to Europe, and we want our Taoiseach to go with him because they are the only people who can bring this to the head of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.
“As a country that has stood by the European Union throughout the Brexit talks, its fishermen are only looking for €50 million worth of fish, which fades into comparison when it comes to the trillions of euros the EU Commission deals with in its annual budgets.”
On the visit itself Minister McConalogue said, “I was delighted to visit Union Hall and Castletownbere yesterday while on my National Dialogue Tour of Ireland.
“I had the opportunity to meet fishers, fisher representatives, fish producers and local businesses, and to have constructive discussions about the future of fishing in Ireland.
“While in Castletownbere I also signed the contract for substantial development works to the infrastructure in the area.”
by Oliver McBride