In the FD Podcast 12 of the series, editor Oliver McBride, speaks to members of the inshore fishing community in Leenan, Co Donegal
Fishing is an important part of coastal Ireland and for the community at Leenan, Inishowen in Co Donegal, it is the same as everywhere else like it.
Here being a fisherman or being from a fishing community is an identity.
Over the years, small harbours like Leenan have seen a huge decline in their fortunes since the loss of the salmon driftnet fishing and, especially on the north coast, the loss of gillnetting and the spurdog fishery.
Bord Iascaigh Mhara and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine can talk about it in terms of how many millions it’s worth to the community.
The government talks about coastal Ireland and its tourism potential, and the potential jobs it can create. It talks about fish farming and the jobs it can create. But the jobs are already there in fishing. The potential has always been there in fishing.
The fish are there, it’s just the EU and the Government blocks access to them. I visited Leenan in Inishowen this week and spoke with members of the fishing community there. Leenan is proof that fishing can support a community.
Generations have fished from this small remote harbour and raised their families here.
The inshore boats at Leenan do not want a handout from the BAR fund.
They want more fish, they want to diversify to protect stocks endangered by predatory fish stocks, and they want to do it in their traditional way which is sustainable and environmentally friendly.
It’s what is called artisanal fishing and it’s what NGOs, environmentalist groups and the EU wants. But it needs to diversify its fishing in order that it doesn’t damage crab stocks, which they have become wholly reliant upon since the end of salmon drift netting.