The SFPA has responded to an article in yesterday’s Sunday Times. Photo: Oliver McBride

The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) has responded to EU concern about Ireland’s ability to inspect commercial fish catches during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Yesterday, The Sunday Times reported that acting Directorate-General, Bernhard Freiss had written to the Irish Government with concerns about the SFPA’s ability to carry out their inspection duties as prescribed by the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) during the present crisis.

It was claimed in the article that “Inspectors with the State’s Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) in some fishery harbours had already stopped undertaking physical checks of landings after the Health Service Executive (HSE) Covid-19 guidelines were introduced last month.”

In reponse to The Fishing Daily’s questions today, the SFPA have replied that even though the COVID-19 is an unprecedented situation the Authority is “extremely confident that we have stepped up to the mark in inspection numbers.”

The statement from the Authority says: 

“The COVID -19 pandemic is an unprecedented situation.  The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA)  recognises the challenges that are presented by COVID -19 and has introduced measures to ensure that activities related to the Common Fisheries Policy and the production and placing on the market of safe seafood and continuation of our role in trade is maintained while at the same time offering protection to our inspectors. The  SFPA is continuing to maintain its sea-fisheries and seafood safety regulatory services, with some modifications to ensure the health and safety of its staff and industry colleagues, in line with Government guidelines and HSE advice. 

“The fishing industry is facing a number of significant challenges at present arising from the COVID-19 outbreak and the enormous hurdles it is presenting. During this time of crisis it is important that we work together to protect consumer health as well as Ireland’s reputation for quality seafood, ensuring that only safe, sustainable seafood is placed on the market in accordance with legislation. Furthermore, the SFPA are extremely confident that we have stepped up to the mark in inspection numbers. The SFPA has procured PPE to allay fears regarding boardings and put in place a protocol on boardings.

“While our Port Offices are closed  to the public for the present, the SFPA  remains open for business and Sea-Fisheries Protection Officers can be reached  on their mobile phones and email. The SFPA can be reached at its usual main landline numbers or by email at sfpa_info@sfpa.ie. Dr Steele also urged anyone who suspected illegal fishing or activity that could compromise food safety to contact the regulator directly or by calling the SFPA confidential telephone line at 1890 76 76 76.”

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