SFPA invites fishing industry representatives to an online meeting to discuss the crisis over weighing-on-landings in Killybegs
The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority has invited fishing representatives to an online meeting today at 2.00pm to discuss the crisis over weighing-on-landings in Killybegs.
It is believed that the meeting has been limited by the SFPA to three of the fishing associations based in the town of Killybegs even though one other association not invited has members that land pelagic catches into the port.
There has been no agenda set for the meeting but it is believed that the basis for the meeting is over the weighing-on-landing of blue whiting for human consumption which kicked-off on Thursday 31 March, when SFPA inspectors told the Danish vessel RUTH, that it was going to be monitored on landing.
The fish processor and agent present were told that the catch would have to be dried for weighing. This meant removing vital cold water from the fish which would damage the integrity and quality of the blue whiting, rendering it useless for processing for human consumption and instead would see it only used for fish meal.
Upon being told that this would happen, the skipper of the RUTH informed the agent that they were not prepared to let this happen, cast-off the ropes from the harbour and left with 1,270 tonnes onboard.
This incident happened again with two Irish vessels who catches ended up also going for fish meal. This was met with heavy criticism as the blue whiting that had been lost was due to be processed for human consumption as it is a valuable cheap food source for millions of people in western Africa. Currently there is a shortage of such nutritious food products such as fish being delivered to these countries due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
On Tuesday April 05, the Ingrid Majala, a 62-metre Norwegian trawler carrying 950 tonnes of blue whiting left the harbour in Killybegs after being told that it’s landing was to be monitored in the same way. The vessel travelled nearly 19 hours to the Port of Derry at Lishally, Co Derry to unload, with the fish being unloaded under EU regulation but without the hassle from the SFPA. The fish was transported with great expense back to Killybegs where it was processed.
On Saturday 09 April, the Ingrid Majala once again turned away from Killybegs and travelled to Derry Port to unload.
A meeting in the town of Killybegs, which was attended by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, fishing industry representatives, local businesses representatives and locals heard the impact the actions of the SFPA were having, not alone in the town of Killybegs, but on southwest Donegal as a whole.
Questions were raised to the Minister as to why the SFPA were taking such actions and attendees heard how four or five other foreign vessels abandoned landing blue whiting into Killybegs after the incidents with the RUTH and Ingrid Majala.
On Sunday morning, Cork-based fishing vessel Seaspray was told that its catch of 265 tonnes had to be dried for weighing. This catch was also due to be processed for human consumption but had to be sent for fishmeal.
The SFPA has said in statements that they are only carrying out their duties as laid out in the regulations of the interim Control Plan, which is in place due to the previous control plan being removed after an administrative inquiry by the EU Commission.
They defended the monitorings by saying, “In total there are in the region of 20,000 landings of fish in Ireland per annum of which an estimated 600 are bulk landings of Pelagic* fish. Under the terms of the interim Fisheries Control Plan** as approved by the European Commission, only 5% of bulk landings of Pelagic fish – an estimated 30 landings annually – are subject to a full inspection which includes supervising the weighing before transport of the catch.
“The other 95% of bulk landings of Pelagic fish – an estimated 570 landings annually – can avail of the exemption of weighing of fishery products after transport in Ireland secured under the interim Fisheries Control Plan. Several bulk pelagic vessels which docked in Killybegs harbour over the past week availed of this exemption.”
Irish fishing representatives are seeking a long-term solution to the Control Plan, with a new plan submitted to the EU Commission on 16 March 2022.