SFPA statement on RUTH blue whiting incident in Killybegs disputed by wintess Photo: Alan Hennigan
A statement from the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority about the incident which led to a Danish pelagic trawler leaving Killybegs with its catch, has been disputed by a witness.
The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) has claimed in a statement that they are not at fault for an incident at Killybegs Harbour on Thursday 31 March 2022, which forced away a Danish trawler carrying 1,270 tonnes of blue whiting for two local fish processors.
The 89-metre RUTH had come to Killybegs to supply the processing plants with blue whiting for human consumption but an alteration on the pier over how the catch would be weighed ended with the vessel turning around and heading back out to sea to fill the vessel and head back to Denmark where the catch will be processed as fish meal.
Not alone was it devastating for the fish processors who have had to close their plants and lay off workers, but they also fear that it has damaged the reputation of Killybegs, which could drive-off Danish and Norwegian boats they rely on due to the small quota Irish boats are forced to operate under.
The SFPA have denied wrongdoing saying they were operating under the regulations of the current interim control plan.
The chain of events on Thursday last, as laid out in the SFPA statement, has been disputed by a source who has told The Fishing Daily that claims by the SFPA inspectors spoke to the Master of the Vessel who objected to the weighing is a misstatement.
They said, “The SFPA never entered the boat. They never spoke to the skipper. They just spoke to the processor, and the agent. They never talked to the master of the boat. They never boarded the boat, and their statement is factually incorrect.”
On the issue of an industry owned water separator, they said, “In Killybegs there is no such thing as an industry owned water separator device. That is not an option.”
Regarding the weighing of the fish, they said that the failure of the SFPA to comply with the High Court order from June 2021is a Contempt of Court, but nothing has been done about it.
“There was a High Court action that the industry won and that recognises the weighing machine on the pier. That is the approved system, but they are refusing to recognise it.”
Asked if the fish processor or the fishing vessel was given a ‘Notice to Weigh’ by the Authority prior to the inspection the source said, “No we were not given any notice. They just landed prior to us discharging. They came and said that the landing was going to be monitored. We asked them could they provide the chilled water that was required to conduct the inspection and they said ‘No’.
“We said that that there was no other way around this if there wasn’t chilled water provided other than drying out the fish and going over to the weigh bridge on the pier. Then that would have made the blue whiting unusable for human consumption.
“We asked them if the vessel was free to leave? They said they could do whatever they wanted but it couldn’t land in Killybegs unless they carried out the inspection.”
The SFPA officers spoke to the processor and the agent, but at that time, the source says the skipper of the master of the vessel was unaware of what was happening until he was told by the agent what was occurring.
The inspectors was then told by the processor that id the catch could not be weighed correctly to preserve the quality for human consumption, the vessel had no other choice but to set sail and sell its fish in another country.
“The catch would have fed at least a thousand and more people in Africa. Now it will be reduced to salmon feed to feed a handful of wealthy people that doesn’t really need it to be honest,” says our source.
by Oliver McBride