The SFPA makes a joke of the EU’s claim of ‘a level playing field’ says Irish Fishing and Seafood Alliance (IFSA) Chairman, Cormac Burke

The SFPA makes a joke of the EU’s claim of ‘a level playing field’ says Irish Fishing and Seafood Alliance (IFSA) Chairman, Cormac Burke

Ireland’s fisheries inspection system makes a joke of the EU’s claim of ‘a level playing field’ says the head of the Irish Fishing and Seafood Alliance, Cormac Burke.

The statement from the Chairman of the IFSA comes after a Belgian-registered beam trawler was spotted yesterday landing in Cork without any monitoring from the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA). Under an agreement between the EU and the Irish Government, vessels whose catches are destined for Belgium are exempt from inspections by Irish fishery control authorities.

This exemption is constantly abused by EU members states fishing in Irish waters and landing in Irish national ports. The SFPA has been accused to turning a blind-eye to these landings and instead have been coming down hard of Irish fishing vessels. In April 2021, the EU Commission revoked the Irish control plan for Irish vessels landing fish, based on data supplied to them from the SFPA. The control plan allowed for the weighing of fish landings in processing facilities rather than pierside. Since that time Irish fishing vessels have faced hardships with no permanent control plan in place, whereas EU-registered vessels can land without any monitoring.

Once more, the complicated system of vessel-ownership in the EU allows major corporations to set up subsidiary companies across Member States to buy up vessel tonnage in that country. In this way for example, Dutch companies can buy up fishing rights in France, Belgium and Spain.

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The IFSA Chairman writes:

“Photographed (above) is a Belgian beamer landing in Cork yesterday with, as seems to always be the case with non-Irish vessels operating in Irish waters and landing into Irish ports, zero fisheries monitoring or landing inspection by Ireland’s Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), and meanwhile it is strongly believed that the same SFPA are planning on increasing their level of attention on particular Irish fishing vessels and companies.

“What is interesting about this particular vessel is that it is owned by a Spanish solicitor, works under a Belgian flag, and is crewed by Dutch fishermen.

“Further to this, it is widely reported that Spain are at present busy buying up Belgian and French vessels with licenses to fish in Irish waters – and also worth noting that the first trip for a brand new Dutch vessel will be to fish in Irish waters.

“On top of this, Belgian beamers made an uninspected and unmonitored landing, which included monkfish, into Dun Laoghaire last week — while for Irish fishermen this port is not an approved landing port for monk.

“The owners of other EU nations’ fishing companies are to be admired for their shrewdness and business acumen in knowing all the legal loopholes but surely at some point the Irish Government, the Minister for Marine and his civil servants must be called upon to explain why they are willingly allowing everyone, except Irish fishermen, to reap the benefits of the rich resource that lies within Irish waters.

“It is shameful that not only is the Irish fishing industry being screwed from the outside with foreign fleets knowing how to ‘work the system’ but are at the same time being equally screwed by Irish authorities with no strategy other than tie-up schemes, fleet reduction plans and those that remain will be facing an even tougher and unfair inspection regime from the SFPA.

“The Irish fishing industry has reached breaking point and something has to give in the very near future.”

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SFPA makes EU’s claim of a level-playing field a joke claims IFSA Chairman

by editor time to read: 7 min