Minister McConalogue has been criticised by the Irish inshore sector over the outcome of the December AGRIFISH Council meeting
Minister and DAFM Officials told to “Inject Some Morality into the Equation”
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue has been criticised by the Irish inshore sector over comments he made regarding the outcome of the December AGRIFISH Council meeting in Brussels which ended on Tuesday morning, 12 December 2023.
Minister McConalogue stated that he welcomed the positive outcome for Irish fish quotas as he secured additional mackerel saying, “This permanent allocation of extra mackerel quota will be of real benefit to our fishers and our national fleet”, but the inshore sector has been left wondering how the extra mackerel quota will benefit them as they face a drastic loss in their pollack fishery amongst other cuts and increasing financial pressures.
Inshore fishermen have repeatedly told the Minister that their situation is dire, and recently the situation has spiralled out of control as shellfish boats in Donegal have no place to sell their brown crab. The Minister has also failed to deliver a fuel aid package at the height of an energy pricing crisis, which was much needed by the Irish fishing industry. While France and other EU Member States are still providing such packages, the Minister has set Irish fishing at an unnecessary disadvantage to their EU competitors, especially for inshore fishermen who use petrol engines.
One inshore fisherman in south Donegal described the situation to The Fishing Daily as “the worst I have seen in my fifty-years of fishing”, stating that he could see at least six boats being lost from the inshore fleet in his vicinity over the brown crab situation.
Despite the news of the spurdog being reopened in 2023 after an absence of 12 years, inshore fishermen have been unable to take advantage of the 1,874 tonnes allocated under ICES advice. This is because the maximum legal size that the fishing vessels are allowed to catch and retains are under the market requirements.
The closure of the North-West Herring under 20-metre fishery has hit Donegal fishermen west of Malin Head, and the Minister’s 2023 consultation of the fishery has been called flawed and narrow, with one fisherman describing the options given as the same as the 2012 regulations but with different wording.
It was only twelve-months ago that Minister McConalogue expressed his commitment to the inshore fishing sector at a meeting on 16 December 2022.
At that meeting, McConalogue had given a commitment to establish a Brown Crab Working Group, to review the North-West Herring Fishery and help develop sustainable markets for the spurdog fishery.
On 19 April this year, announcing a package of up to €3.5 million in supports, the Minister reaffirmed his commitment to the inshore sector saying:
“Our inshore fishers make a significant contribution to our coastal communities and blue economy, but have been significantly impacted by Brexit and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. While positive steps have been taken to support these fishers, the challenges in terms of operating costs and market access remain.”
Inshore fishermen believe that the Minister has failed to address their problems, and that support packages are difficult to access asking fishermen to complete training modules etc, in order to qualify for paltry sums of money.
In their statement regarding the December Fisheries Council, from NIFA/NIFO writes:
“With regard to the outcome of the recent December Council. It would have been difficult to envisage the dire situation facing inshore fishermen currently could worsen but it did so, culminating in the almost complete loss of yet another fishery so important to our economic viability, POLLACK.
*Area vi 13t down 26%* (BY CATCH ONLY)
*Area vii 56t down 87%*(BY CATCH ONLY)
Along with a decrease in other whitefish species the outcome will be of boats tied to piers long term.
Although an increase in the national mackerel quota will be welcomed by the fifty large vessels in the fleet the one thousand, five hundred inshore vessels gain absolutely nothing due to our unfair, discriminatory National policy under which no more than a paltry 400 tonnes is ever allocated to the numerically superior, family-owned inshore sector of the fleet.
Shellfish market prices have been on a fast-paced downward spiral for months resulting in the complete collapse of the brown crab market in Co. Donegal and elsewhere. The spurdog fishery is stagnant because of the maximum legal size being under market requirements.
All of this on the back of several years of hardship due to the COVID Pandemic, Brexit, Ukraine war and unprecedented rise in the cost of living has pushed the inshore sector to breaking point.
It is now time for the Minister and DAFM officials to Inject some Morality into the equation and provide us with Immediate Financial Aid and fairer access to National pelagic quotas before a way of life is lost to Rural Coastal Communities.”