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Fishing and seafood organisations say they are “shocked and disappointed” at the Minister for Marine’s failure to address the fuel crisis facing the sector.

A joint statement from eight representative organisations calls on the Government and marine minister, Charlie McConalogue, to set up a national scheme and draw down existing EU funds to cover extra fuel costs.

The statement follows a lengthy meeting with Mr McConalogue earlier this week, which the minister had described as “productive”.

However, the eight organisations have warned that the survival of the entire seafood sector is at stake and that he must “act now”.

On July 6th, the same day as the meeting with Mr McConalogue, the European Parliament had voted to allocate unused funds in the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) to tackle the fuel crisis.

“Some member states have had a quick and effective response, leading to a reduction of fuel prices for fishing vessels,” the joint statement by the organisations says.

“ Others such as Ireland, have refused to compensate their fishermen - a response which has sparked port blockades in, for example, the Netherlands,” the statement says.

‘’There is no excuse for the minister to delay in immediately setting up a national scheme to cover the additional costs, particularly fuel -the EU funding is there,” the statement continues.

“Failure to act is a major threat to the survival of the fishing/seafood sector, which is worth € 1.26 billion to the Irish economy. It’s also a blow for the coastal communities which depend on our sector for their survival,” it says.

“We are disappointed that the Minister did not announce a scheme at our meeting last night. However, we do expect he will act, having reflected on the magnitude of the crisis very clearly articulated by us at the meeting.”

The joint statement was issued on behalf of the delegation which met the minister. 

They include the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO), Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (IS&WFPO), the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA), the Irish Farmers’ Association aquaculture (IFA Aquaculture), the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO), the Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation (IIMRO), the Irish South and East Fish Producers Organisation (IS&EFPO) and Ireland’s seven Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs).

Published in Fishing

Eight Irish fishing industry groups have warned that traditional fish and chips “may not be on Irish restaurant summer menus” due to Government inaction on high energy prices.

“Rising fuel prices are crippling the Irish seafood sector, including fishermen, aquaculture producers and fish processors,” Aodh O Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO), has warned.

He says the crisis is “a threat to food security”.

Aodh O Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers OrganisationAodh O Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation

The seafood sector says it is calling on the Government to “act now to claim available EU funds to compensate the seafood sector and get the situation under control”.

Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogueMinister for Marine Charlie McConalogue

A joint statement issued in advance of a meeting with Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue this week has been issued by the eight groups.

They include the IFPO the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (IS&WFPO) the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA), the Irish Farmers’ Association aquaculture division, the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO), the Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation (IIMRO), the Irish South and East Fish Producers Organisation (IS&EFPO) and Ireland’s seven Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs).

"The crisis is a threat to food security"

IFPEA chief executive Brendan Byrne says the European Commission adopted a ‘Temporary Crisis Framework’ for the seafood sector on March 23rd.

“This was to enable member states to use the flexibility of State aid rules to compensate for high energy prices,” Byrne says.

“In addition to this, just two days later, the commission activated a crisis mechanism to grant financial compensation for lost income and additional costs, because of seafood market disruption. It was activated under the umbrella of the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) ”he says.

The EMFAF crisis mechanism is a temporary measure and applies retrospectively as of 24th February 2022 and will be in place until the end of 2022.

Enda Conneely of the IIMROEnda Conneely of the IIMRO

Enda Conneely of the IIMRO says the Irish government has “abjectly failed to act, despite jobs already being in jeopardy”.

Marine biologist, Dr Kevin Flannery, of the Fisheries Local Action Groups, says the seafood sector has a crucial role in the Irish economy.

Marine biologist, Dr Kevin FlanneryMarine biologist, Dr Kevin Flannery

“The Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) Business of Seafood report for 2021 clearly shows the vital importance of the seafood industry to the economy of our fishing communities sustaining over 16,000 jobs. These jobs are mainly located in peripheral areas. So, any job losses will hit hardest at the heart of our coastal and maritime communities,” Dr Flannery says.

John Lynch of the IS&EFPO also says that “the Irish government is failing to activate the funding made available by the EU for the seafood industry.

“Meanwhile French, Spanish and many of our fellow EU compatriots who fish our seas are receiving targeted benefits to aid their seafood sectors and enabling them to continue operations,” Lynch says.

“We need to prevent a wipeout of the seafood industry which threatens our ability to make a significant contribution to EU food security. In order to do this, we must be on a level playing field with our EU counterparts.”

Norah Parke, on behalf of KFO, says her organisation supports the Irish fishing industry’s stance.“

“We appeal for immediate action by the government before many vessel owners, processors and suppliers reach a point of no return. This is due to the unsustainable spiral of costs facing the fishing industry and further supply chain. It is incomprehensible that there is a solution available which is not being used,” she says.

Patrick Murphy of the IS&WFPOPatrick Murphy of the IS&WFPO

Patrick Murphy of the IS&WFPO says “we have a united Irish seafood industry of fishing, fish processing, and aquaculture sectors. Together we demand that the Irish government act now”.

“The Minister for the Marine must at least activate the provision granted by the EU Commission to release essential funds immediately,” Murphy says.

Published in Fishing

A new report for two British fishing industry organisations says that over a third of English and Welsh fishing waters and more than half of Scottish waters could be inaccessible to trawling by 2050 due to plans for offshore energy and expansion of marine protected areas.

The report for the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) and National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) published today (30 June) examines three future scenarios to demonstrate the scale of displacement the fishing fleet may face.

The report, entitled “Spatial Squeeze in Fisheries”, was produced by independent consultancy ABPmer.

It is said to be the first such study to quantify the cumulative impact on commercial fishing of “hugely increased competition for space” in the marine environment.

It says in the “worst case scenario”, where fishing is banned in designated highly protected marine areas (HPMAs) and offshore renewable energy expands to meet central and devolved government net zero targets, approximately half (49%) of British fishing waters (357,000km2) could be lost.

Broken down, Scotland could lose 56% of its fishing waters (260,000 km2) and England and Wales losing 36% of theirs (83,000 km2 and 11,100km2 respectively), the study says.

“Even if the worst-case assumptions are not realised, an area of 277,000km2 (38% of British waters) are likely to be lost by then, threatening the very existence of British fishing businesses and causing severe harm to coastal communities,”the report says.

“The pace and scale of change is evident. Trawling is currently excluded from around a third of Scottish waters. Looking back to 2000, trawling was restricted in less than 1% of Scottish and English waters,”the two organisations state.

“In all the future scenarios examined in the report, Scotland is projected to lose far more of its waters for trawling when compared to the rest of Britain – almost double that of England in one of the 2050 scenarios,”they state.

Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and Barrie Deas,chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, said that “the outlook ahead is truly frightening”.

“The report shows that expansion of both offshore renewable energy generation and marine conservation are being prioritised above fishing, despite fishing’s value in producing low carbon, healthy and sustainable food, contributing to our food security and supporting thousands of jobs in our coastal communities,”they said.

“The industry’s voice and interests are being downplayed by government when it comes to overall strategy for marine planning, and in relation to individual planning decisions. No one disputes the need for renewables to help in the battle against climate change, however the scale of development proposed offshore risks putting an already climate-smart industry to the sword,” they said.

“It is deeply unjust that fishing businesses and fishing communities are being denied an equal say when we are the sector likely to feel the most significant impact,” they said.

“We need a proper seat at the table and for consultation to be meaningful, not just lip-service,” they added.

The report indicates that it is not too late for action to minimise the impact on fishing considerably through much better planning and design and the implementation of mitigation measures.

“Both the British and Scottish governments need to recognise the importance of sustainable fisheries for both food production and livelihoods, and more effectively integrate our industry into the marine spatial planning and decision-making systems. The benefits of climate-smart energy should not be at the expense of climate-smart food,” Ms Macdonald and Mr Deas said.

“Fishing industry representatives need to be given a stronger and more effective voice in the planning process, at both strategic plan and project level, to ensure that the potential impact on the fleet of proposed developments and conservation zones are adequately expressed and considered so that impacts can be avoided or minimised. There must be real, meaningful consultation, not just lip service,” they emphasised.

The ABPmer report focuses on demersal trawling, with further work required on pelagic trawling and shellfish fishing, they note. However, they say the study is “an important starting point to underline just how serious the spatial squeeze will be for Britain’s fishing fleet”.

Published in Fishing

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said his department is in “ongoing contact with the French authorities” regarding a military exercise planned for this week.

However, Mr Coveney described the area affected as “off the French coast”.

He said the full extent of the area that may be potentially affected includes a “small piece of the southern extremity of Ireland’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), approximately 200km southwest of Ireland’s territorial waters”.

Notification of live-fire exercises by the French military off the southwest coast has been criticised by the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) which says it may stage a peaceful protest.

The Fair Seas group of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) has also expressed concern, stating the exercises are due to take place in a “critically important area” for marine biodiversity.

A marine notice issued by the Department of Transport says it has been advised by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) of a missile/rocket firing exercise by the French military in part of the Irish EEZ “to the south-west of Ireland”.

The department notice says the exercise is scheduled to take place from June 21st to 24th and June 27th from 0200 hours to 1600 hours daily.

Mr Coveney said, “the IAA was informed of the exercises via standard procedures and the Department of Transport has issued a marine notice to this effect”.

“As a close EU partner, the Department of Foreign Affairs will, as normal, maintain contact with the French authorities throughout the period of the military exercise,” his statement said.

Fair Seas said it was urging Government ministers to “have this military exercise relocated outside of Irish EEZ, away from the exceptionally important area for marine wildlife off Ireland’s southwest coast”.

“Critically, the Irish Government must also take urgent steps to protect its marine environment by designating and effectively managing a network of marine protected areas in Ireland’s inshore and offshore waters,” it said.

Fair Seas said the location identified by the French is the Whittard Canyon region, one of 16 areas of interest that the umbrella group identified for MPAs in Irish waters.

“The area is home to whales, dolphins, endangered seabirds, an important fish nursery and sensitive cold-water coral reefs,” it said in a statement.

“This canyon system is one of the largest submarine canyons along the Celtic Margin and is home to cold-water coral reefs. Across the border, the UK has designated ‘The Canyons’ Marine Conservation Zone, which is likely to support a variety of cetacean (whale and dolphin) species,” it said.

“The shelf sediments included in this area of interest are part of a large blue whiting nursery ground,” it said.

This area “has been covered extensively in recent years by the independent scientific surveys on board the RV Celtic Explorer and as part of the ObSERVE aerial surveys,” it said.

“Important at-risk species are frequently present here such as the red-listed kittiwake and puffin,” it said.

As Afloat reported earlier, IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy said that “we know the impact of military sonar and live missile launches have the potential to severely disrupt the annual migratory path of fish and dramatically interrupt the breeding season of mackerel and other migratory fish species”.

“The albacore tuna fishery is opening for Irish vessels on June 23rd in the waters of our Continental Shelf which could potentially be disrupted by these live fire exercises, whilst also we believe this will cause untold damage to marine wildlife like whales and dolphins that are greatly affected by underwater noise,” he said.

He said he had instructions from his members to “implement a plan to highlight these dangerous exercises and consider any course of action that may disrupt these French military exercises”.

Published in Fishing

Plans for live-fire exercises by the French military off the southwest coast have been criticised by the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation which says it may stage a peaceful protest.

A marine notice issued by the Department of Transport says it has been advised by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) of a missile/rocket firing exercise by the French military in part of the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) “to the south-west of Ireland”.

The department notice says the exercise is scheduled to take place from June 21st to 24th and June 27th from 0200 hours to 1600 hours daily.

It says the exercise “may be postponed, taking place at the same time on another date within the period June 27th to July 7th, excluding weekends”.

Co-ordinates for the area concerned have been issued as part of the marine notice.

IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick MurphyIS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy

“Given the nature of the planned exercises, vessels and crew are advised of safety risks in the operational area,” the notice says.

IS&WFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy said that “we know the impact of military sonar and live missile launches have the potential to severely disrupt the annual migratory path of fish and dramatically interrupt the breeding season of mackerel and other migratory fish species”.

“The albacore tuna fishery is opening for Irish vessels on June 23rd in the waters of our Continental Shelf which could potentially be disrupted by these live-fire exercises, whilst also we believe this will cause untold damage to marine wildlife like whales and dolphins that are greatly affected by underwater noise,” he said.

He said he had instructions from his members to “implement a plan to highlight these dangerous exercises and consider any course of action that may disrupt these French military exercises”.

“It is our understanding that live-fire exercises cannot take place if our vessels are engaged in fishing in the area, so we are discussing a plan with our vessel-owners and skippers aimed at once again carrying out a peaceful protest in our traditional fishing areas near the proposed area of the military exercise,” Murphy said in a statement.

“We understand that an aircraft exclusion zone has been announced for the area, but we are dismayed at the lack of comment from our Government, bar the marine notice once again advising us to be cognisant of a marine law that should protect us rather than put us in harm’s way,” he said.

“It would be infinitely preferable if these naval exercises were stopped as a sign we in Europe are peaceful, and not looking to escalate the current tensions,” he said.

“At the very least, they should be relocated further south to waters, well outside of EEZ, beyond our 200-mile limit and away from the men and women who sail their boats in our fishing grounds,” he said.

“The consequence of naval exercises throughout the world’s oceans and seas have been well studied and documented, and their effect on whales and dolphins shows increased strandings and mortalities for weeks and months after the event,” he said.

“As stated previously. we are calling for a moratorium of ten years be introduced to stem these unnecessary military exercises, not just for any individual country but for all states that transit our waters,” Murphy said.

Last January, the IS&WFPO led a campaign against Russian military drills planned for 240 km off the Cork coast, inside the Irish EEZ.

Following a meeting between two fishing industry organisations and Russian ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov, an assurance was given to Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney that the controversial naval drills would take place outside the Irish EEZ.

Published in Fishing

The European Commission has been urged to follow the example of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in taking steps to protect EU waters from industrial fishing.

The call has been made by Paris-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) Bloom, following a multilateral agreement by the WTO late last week on financial support granted to the fishing sector.

After over 20 years of negotiations, the WTO agreed early on June 17th, 2022 to address three issues: illegal fishing, overexploited fish stocks and transparency.

The agreement includes prohibiting subsidies to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing; and giving a two-year exemption to the least developed countries to implement this measure in their exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

A prohibition on subsidies to fisheries targeting overexploited fish stocks was also agreed. This came with “a caveat”, according to Bloom, as it notes that a State “may grant or maintain subsidies if such subsidies or other measures are implemented to rebuild the stock to a biologically sustainable level”.

BLOOM warns that this exemption may “open a chasm of complicity between industrial fishing lobbies and States to implement soft measures in order to maintain public subsidies”.

“It also opens endless scientific conversations about what one considers a “biologically sustainable level”. The same two-year deadline is given to the least developed countries to implement this article,”it says.

The new WTO agreement also creates an international standard of transparency by making it mandatory for States to notify subsidies granted to their fleets and fishing operators.

This measure is “a major step forward,” according to BLOOM.

“As the WTO has the power to impose sanctions, these transparency requirements should completely change the situation, and put an end to the opacity that surrounds financial flows between the fishing industry and States,”it says..

The agreement also creates a "Committee on Fisheries Subsidies" which shall meet "not less than twice a year", and shall review the information submitted by States "not less than every two years".

“The financial information provisions of the WTO deal are particularly dear to BLOOM, which knows that transparency and access to data are the cornerstone of any real progress towards social equity and marine conservation,” the NGO says.

Bloom says the deal is “imperfect”, as “fundamental measures to improve the state of ocean biodiversity, marine habitats and artisanal fisheries were removed from the negotiating text”.

“Subsidies that encourage fishing capacity that leads to overexploitation of fish stocks have not been prohibited,” it notes.

“Thus, all public aid covering capital costs (construction, modernisation, replacement of engines etc.) and variable costs (primarily fuel subsidies) have not been prohibited,” it says.

“Harmful subsidies that encourage overcapacity represent the vast majority of the aid granted worldwide (>18 billion),” Bloom says in a statement.

“ These are the subsidies that directly lead to the overexploitation and destruction of the ocean. Historically, they are the subsidy categories that the industrial lobbies and therefore the States defend most ardently, despite their precise scientific knowledge of the perverse mechanisms induced by such financial arrangements,” it says.

“The consequences of the Russian aggression in Ukraine on diesel prices have not created a context that facilitates this aspect of the negotiations. Nor are included the unethical subsidies provided to fleets to access waters of foreign countries, often developing States, in the form of fishing access agreements,” it notes.

“This will be the major issues awaiting the negotiators in the coming months,”it says, noting that the participating countries are “committed to continuing their efforts and discussions”.

“There is even talk of quickly convening a new ministerial conference (the date of March 2023 is circulating) to maintain the momentum and finally stop funding the destruction of the common good, the climate, biodiversity, small-scale fisheries and food security,”it says.

Bloom notes that an ocean action plan for Europe due to come out last March is still “nowhere to be seen”.

The NGO says it is calling on European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen to “protect our future and citizens before industrial lobbies”.

It calls on the Commission president to “release an ambitious ocean action plan with a target to protect 30% of EU waters from any industrial activities”.

Bloom says this is in accordance with International Union for Conservation of Nature criteria for Marine Protected Areas, before the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon starting on 27 June 2022”.

Published in Fishing

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D. visited BIM’s National Fisheries College in Greencastle today, to officially launch new high-tech simulator suites that will enable skipper students to pilot and berth a vessel and navigate it through adverse weather conditions.

The simulator and radio suites - recently installed both at the college in Donegal and its sister college in Castletownbere - are designed to imitate real-life navigational conditions for helm, ship control training and practice, and for vessel routine and distress alert training.

Gale force winds, rain, waves and even snow conditions simulated

The equipment is currently in use by a cohort of students whom the Minister met and will enable Ireland’s next fishing skippers to hone the skills needed to safely practice vessel navigations, in a series of compromising conditions including major storms. The state-of-the art suites now in place at both colleges, represents a government investment of €465,000.

Minister McConalogue said he was greatly impressed with how closely the simulators were able to replicate the real-life conditions that can be faced at sea: “Every time our fishers set to sea, they potentially face adverse conditions, which they must be prepared for to ensure the safe return of all those on board. It was with this in mind that I approved this additional investment in the new simulator in the BIM Training College. With this new facility and training, we are ensuring that our students have access to the highest standards for skippering fishing vessels. The BIM colleges here at Greencastle, and in Castletownbere, are vital cogs in the seafood and wider marine sector.”

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) chief executive Jim O’Toole said, “This investment is very welcome and upgrading our equipment to world class standards, allows BIM to provide training to new entrants and those already in the sector to the highest level. This will also enable us to develop future navigation simulation courses as legislation progresses.”

Sea Survival Training Unit

This funding is part of a wider capital programme that involves overall €1.7 million investment in the Greencastle Training College, recently approved by Minister Mc Conalogue including a 12-metre sea survival training pool at Greencastle. The project, when delivered, will create a cost-effective Maritime Centre of Excellence that provides a modern sea survival training unit for students and instructors, on-site in the National Fisheries College, Greencastle, supporting a safe and professional sea fishing industry.

The new facility will significantly complement the extensive training infrastructure already in place in the Donegal college including a fire-fighting unit, a fully integrated fishing vessel simulator, vessel dry land trawler deck, engine room, workshop and seven classrooms.

New legislative changes mean that fishermen in vessels under 15 metres are now required to undertake this safety training at a minimum every five years, and this is now being implemented.

BIM offer these training courses through its colleges and coastal training units.

Published in Fishing
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Irish fishing industry leaders have warned that the costs of marine diesel are so high they are challenging the resilience of the Irish fishing fleet. CEOs of the main Irish industry organisations say fishing operations are being made uneconomical and have expressed concern about the effects on food supplies.

Aodh O’Donnell, Chief Executive of the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation, and Sean O’Donoghue, CEO of Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation, say that the cost of diesel has risen so far above the economic level of operating fishing boats that urgent action by the Irish Government is needed to ensure the continuance of enough seafood supplies.

Aodh O’Donnell, Chief Executive of the Irish Fish Producers’ OrganisationAodh O’Donnell, Chief Executive of the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation

The European Union has told Member States that they can take supportive action under emergency measures to support fishing vessel fuel costs from the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 until the end of the year.

Sean O’Donoghue, CEO of Killybegs Fishermen's OrganisationSean O’Donoghue, CEO of Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation

While other nations have acted, the Irish government hasn’t so far given specific support to fishing.

More on the Podcast here

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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Irish fishing industry organisations have united in a call for an “urgent review” of the implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy.

The organisations are also calling for a fairer share to rights to fish in the Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

This follows a series of meetings recently in Brussels, organised and hosted by Sinn Féin MEP Chris McManus.

The Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO), the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation and the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association were represented in Brussels, along with the Irish Fishing and Seafood Alliance, Foyle Fishermen’s Co-op and Galway & Aran Fishermen’s Co-op.

“Other nations catch about €250m worth of fish a year in our waters - almost twice as much as the Irish fleet catches,” IFPO chief executive Aodh O’Donnell said in a statement.

Quotas allocated by the EU to the Irish fishing fleet amount to “a paltry 18% of the volume of fish in our 200-mile Zone every year”, O’Donnell said.

“Other nations take the balance of the fish, but bizarrely some EU states are unable to catch their annual quota allocations in this EU zone,” he said.

“So, we are calling on the EU to – at the very least – enable reallocation of annual ‘uncaught’ quotas in Ireland’s EEZ to Irish vessels to give us a more equitable share,” O’Donnell explained.

Meetings were held with the European Parliament fisheries committee (Pech), and the Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG Mare).

Mr O’Donnell says the Irish delegation outlined ways of allocating the uncaught quotas of other EU states - for species such as langoustines and monkfish - to Ireland.

“We support calls for a sensible mechanism for an equitable redistribution of all the annual uncaught EU fish quota in EU waters. We acknowledge that any such redistribution would take account of the quota rights of each of these member states,” he said

“At present, non-EU fishing vessels can fish large volumes of pelagic fish on Ireland’s west coast, based on annual access agreements negotiated to benefit other EU states,” he said.

“ At the same time, the Irish fleet finds itself tied up at port, hindered from catching these same fish by low quotas. This needs to be addressed in a meaningful way so that our share of the important catch is more equitable,” he said.

The delegation also told EU officials and MEPs that the quotas transferred to Britain under the Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) were inequitable.

“In particular, Irish fishing vessels were excluded from traditional fishing grounds in the waters around Rockall. So, we made the case that quotas needed to be adjusted to rebalance long-term losses and to restore access to these areas,” O’Donnell said.

He says fishing organisations are united in a call for an urgent review of how the CFP is implemented.

“In particular, we want changes in how the annual quota of fish is allocated to the Irish fishing fleet and to rebalance the significant Brexit losses. We also believe allocations should be based on having greater rights to fish in our own [coastal] zones,” O’Donnell said.

“This would be more democratic, and reduce the carbon footprint of EU fishing vessels, as they would travel shorter distances. It would also strengthen the economic and social linkage between those catching the fish and their coastal communities,” he said.

Ireland has no quota for Atlantic bluefin tuna, which is in “abundance” during the season off the Irish coast, O’Donnell said.

He said it could be worth €150 million annually in revenues to the Irish fishing and tourism sectors.

Large Japanese vessels are currently travelling halfway around the world to harvest these “highly valued” fisheries, and allocation to Ireland could also reduce the carbon footprint for this sector, he noted.

He said European Commission officials “took note of the submissions and undertook to have an additional follow-up meeting in Ireland”.

Published in Fishing

A very rare cold-water loving Leopard fish has been caught off Rockall by a Donegal fishing vessel.

The Leopard fish, also known as a spotted Wolffish (Anarhichas minor), swims in deep water across parts of the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic between northern Russia, Scandinavia and Nova Scotia, Canada.

The 5.9-kilo specimen was landed in Greencastle by the Donegal fishing vessel MV Foyle Warrior.

Galway fish merchant Stefan Griesbach contacted rare fish expert Declan Quigley after he spotted it in the box of fish from Greencastle, and knew it was significant.

The Leopard fish has been declared a threatened species in Canada, but does not have international protection status.

It is generally found much farther north, and in deep cold water, Quigley has said.

From his knowledge, there are only two records this far south, both off Scotland.

The two previous records are from the North Sea, Quigley said – off Aberdeen in October 1892, and off St Abbs Head, Berwickshire in June 1993, which seems to be the most southern record in Europe.

He said the fish may be this far south due to melting glaciers, or may be adapting to warmer sea temperatures.

He said he came across one report based on human observation during a scuba-diving event in June 2016 off Tory Island, Co Donegal, but said it was an unconfirmed identification.

The Leopard fish feeds off crustaceans and molluscs, primarily, while it will also eat smaller fish, seaweed and tube worms.

The fish is slow-growing, maturing at around seven years of age and can live up to 21 years.

"They are nice fish to eat - I often had them for dinner during my frequent trips to Norway about 20 years ago,” Quigley said.

“ I also remember noting that the chairs in the Norwegian Embassy in Dublin were upholstered with Anarhichas minor skin!," he said.

Griesbach displayed the fish on his Gannet Fishmongers stand in the Galway market on Saturday.

He plans to freeze it for taxidermy, and to donate it to the Natural History Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

“I might have got 30 euro for this fish which would have made no sense, and this is a much better idea,” Griesbach said.

“Maybe the museum will have a little plaque with my name for my grandkids to see....”

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Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) - FAQS

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are geographically defined maritime areas where human activities are managed to protect important natural or cultural resources. In addition to conserving marine species and habitats, MPAs can support maritime economic activity and reduce the effects of climate change and ocean acidification.

MPAs can be found across a range of marine habitats, from the open ocean to coastal areas, intertidal zones, bays and estuaries. Marine protected areas are defined areas where human activities are managed to protect important natural or cultural resources.

The world's first MPA is said to have been the Fort Jefferson National Monument in Florida, North America, which covered 18,850 hectares of sea and 35 hectares of coastal land. This location was designated in 1935, but the main drive for MPAs came much later. The current global movement can be traced to the first World Congress on National Parks in 1962, and initiation in 1976 of a process to deliver exclusive rights to sovereign states over waters up to 200 nautical miles out then began to provide new focus

The Rio ‘Earth Summit’ on climate change in 1992 saw a global MPA area target of 10% by the 2010 deadline. When this was not met, an “Aichi target 11” was set requiring 10% coverage by 2020. There has been repeated efforts since then to tighten up MPA requirements.

Marae Moana is a multiple-use marine protected area created on July 13th 2017 by the government of the Cook islands in the south Pacific, north- east of New Zealand. The area extends across over 1.9 million square kilometres. However, In September 2019, Jacqueline Evans, a prominent marine biologist and Goldman environmental award winner who was openly critical of the government's plans for seabed mining, was replaced as director of the park by the Cook Islands prime minister’s office. The move attracted local media criticism, as Evans was responsible for developing the Marae Moana policy and the Marae Moana Act, She had worked on raising funding for the park, expanding policy and regulations and developing a plan that designates permitted areas for industrial activities.

Criteria for identifying and selecting MPAs depends on the overall objective or direction of the programme identified by the coastal state. For example, if the objective is to safeguard ecological habitats, the criteria will emphasise habitat diversity and the unique nature of the particular area.

Permanence of MPAs can vary internationally. Some are established under legislative action or under a different regulatory mechanism to exist permanently into the future. Others are intended to last only a few months or years.

Yes, Ireland has MPA cover in about 2.13 per cent of our waters. Although much of Ireland’s marine environment is regarded as in “generally good condition”, according to an expert group report for Government published in January 2021, it says that biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation are of “wide concern due to increasing pressures such as overexploitation, habitat loss, pollution, and climate change”.

The Government has set a target of 30 per cent MPA coverage by 2030, and moves are already being made in that direction. However, environmentalists are dubious, pointing out that a previous target of ten per cent by 2020 was not met.

Conservation and sustainable management of the marine environment has been mandated by a number of international agreements and legal obligations, as an expert group report to government has pointed out. There are specific requirements for area-based protection in the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), the OSPAR Convention, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

Yes, the Marine Strategy Framework directive (2008/56/EC) required member states to put measures in place to achieve or maintain good environmental status in their waters by 2020. Under the directive a coherent and representative network of MPAs had to be created by 2016.

Ireland was about halfway up the EU table in designating protected areas under existing habitats and bird directives in a comparison published by the European Commission in 2009. However, the Fair Seas campaign, an environmental coalition formed in 2022, points out that Ireland is “lagging behind “ even our closest neighbours, such as Scotland which has 37 per cent. The Fair Seas campaign wants at least 10 per cent of Irish waters to be designated as “fully protected” by 2025, and “at least” 30 per cent by 2030.

Nearly a quarter of Britain’s territorial waters are covered by MPAs, set up to protect vital ecosystems and species. However, a conservation NGO, Oceana, said that analysis of fishing vessel tracking data published in The Guardian in October 2020 found that more than 97% of British MPAs created to safeguard ocean habitats, are being dredged and bottom trawled. 

There’s the rub. Currently, there is no definition of an MPA in Irish law, and environment protections under the Wildlife Acts only apply to the foreshore.

Current protection in marine areas beyond 12 nautical miles is limited to measures taken under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives or the OSPAR Convention. This means that habitats and species that are not listed in the EU Directives, but which may be locally, nationally or internationally important, cannot currently be afforded the necessary protection

Yes. In late March 2022, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said that the Government had begun developing “stand-alone legislation” to enable identification, designation and management of MPAs to meet Ireland’s national and international commitments.

Yes. Environmental groups are not happy, as they have pointed out that legislation on marine planning took precedence over legislation on MPAs, due to the push to develop offshore renewable energy.

No, but some activities may be banned or restricted. Extraction is the main activity affected as in oil and gas activities; mining; dumping; and bottom trawling

The Government’s expert group report noted that MPA designations are likely to have the greatest influence on the “capture fisheries, marine tourism and aquaculture sectors”. It said research suggests that the net impacts on fisheries could ultimately be either positive or negative and will depend on the type of fishery involved and a wide array of other factors.

The same report noted that marine tourism and recreation sector can substantially benefit from MPA designation. However, it said that the “magnitude of the benefits” will depend to a large extent on the location of the MPA sites within the network and the management measures put in place.

© Afloat 2022

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