NIFA highlighted the plight of the inshore sector at a session of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Food, and the Marine
In a recent session with the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Food, and the Marine on 24 January last, Mr. Michael Desmond, representing the National Inshore Fishermen’s Association (NIFA), along with Mr. John Menarry and Mr. Eamon Dixon, shed light on the challenges faced by Ireland’s inshore fishing sector.
The discussion touched upon various factors contributing to the sector’s unprecedented financial hardship and the urgent need for support.
Desmond emphasised the significance of the inshore sector, constituting approximately 95% of the Irish fishing fleet. These vessels, all under 18 meters in length, play a crucial role in coastal communities, providing over 50% of employment in Ireland’s seafood industry. However, unforeseen events, including the COVID pandemic, Brexit, and the war in Ukraine, have severely impacted families involved in inshore fishing.
The collapse of shellfish markets, particularly brown crab and shrimp, compounded the sector’s woes. The sustainable pollack fishery, seen as a potential alternative, became a by-catch-only species after an EU Council meeting in December. Desmond highlighted the historical decisions that led to the inshore sector’s over-reliance on shellfish due to restrictions on other species.
The inshore sector had hoped for relief through the Irish Inshore Fishery Sector strategy launched in 2019, envisioning a prosperous and sustainable future. However, Desmond expressed disappointment, stating, “Bord Iascaigh Mhara, BIM, was tasked by the Department with implementing the inshore strategy, but we have heard nothing since.”
Desmond criticised the allocation of funds under the Brexit blue economy scheme, where grants for tourism projects seemed to overshadow the needs of the inshore fishing sector. He highlighted the disproportionate division of pelagic fishing quotas, with only a small percentage allocated to the inshore sector for mackerel and herring.
The European coastal states Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) came under scrutiny, with Article 17 not implemented by the Irish government. Desmond stressed the need for transparent and objective criteria in quota allocation, considering social, environmental, and economic factors.
The discussion also touched on challenges posed by offshore renewable energy (ORE) developments and the designation of marine protected areas (MPAs), affecting inshore fishing grounds. Desmond urged the Minister for the Environment, Climate, and Communications to fight for an Irish quota for bluefin tuna, a valuable species currently exploited by vessels from the southern hemisphere.
Desmond concluded by highlighting imminent threats, including a potential bottom trawling ban and the decarbonisation of the fishing fleet. He called for urgent financial subsidies to sustain the inshore sector and its primary food producers through these challenging times.
The National Inshore Fishermen’s Association expressed gratitude to the committee for providing an opportunity to articulate the pressing concerns facing the inshore fishing sector in Ireland.