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Commercial Fishing News from Ireland
The report 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
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…
AQUAMIS screenshot
Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue today (Tuesday 28 June) announced the launch of Phase 1 of the new state-of-the-art Aquaculture Information Management System (AQUAMIS). The online viewer was developed as part of Phase 1 of this project, which will develop an…
File image of Simon Coveney
Planned French military exercises near Irish waters have been halted, the Foreign Affairs Minister has confirmed. But as TheJournal.ie reports, Simon Coveney stopped short of declaring the drills cancelled outright or merely postponed, telling the Dáil today (Thursday 23 June)…
Fishing trawler in Irish waters
Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue has today (Tuesday 21 June) announced an extension of the 2022 Brexit Voluntary Temporary Fishing Vessel Tie-up Scheme for the polyvalent and beam trawl fleets to include the month of November 2022. As previously reported on…
Mussels and other bivalve molluscs the subject of public health warning for Castlemaine, Co Kerry
The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) has issued a warning to the public not to gather shellfish for personal consumption in the Castlemaine harbour area of Co Kerry, due to the presence of two marine toxin groups. The toxin groups, Paralytic…
The Irish Government has issued a notice warning that a French ‘missile/rocket firing exercise’ will take place in Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone to the southwest of the country from June 21 - 27
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…
A chart from the marine notice indicates the area in which the naval exercise will take place
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…
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission
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…
Minister McConalogue unveils state-of-the-art fishing vessel navigation simulator at Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) training college in Greencastle
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…
Fishing trawlers in West Cork
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…
Howth Harbour in North Co Dublin, with the East Pier on the right
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is inviting suitably qualified contractors to submit a tender package to re-construct a boat shed destroyed by storm action in 2018 at Howth Fishery Harbour Centre. This tender also includes roof repairs…
Cork County Council has engaged a contractor for the removal of the wreck of the fishing trawler, MV Sceptre, at Union Hall, West Cork and work has commenced. The wreck will be removed by barge for transport to an overseas…
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue
At the EU Fisheries Council in Luxembourg today, Monday 13 June, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue outlined Ireland’s priorities during discussions on preparation for negotiations on setting quotas for 2023. The minister praised the efforts of…
IFPO chief executive Aodh O'Donnell
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…
Dursey Clipper is a seine boat, sixty to seventy years old, which had lain unused for about eleven years on nearby Dursey Island
“There was a lot of work, hull planking, fitting the stem post, caulking, filling, fairing, sanding, priming and painting. We lost over two years on the project due to Covid and this old girl was in a worse condition than…
Pictured at the launch of the Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) Clean Oceans Initiative Fishing Gear Retirement Scheme to coincide with World Oceans Day on 8 June are: BIM Chairman Aidan Cotter, fisher David Kirwan, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D. and BIM CEO Jim O’Toole
A “Clean Oceans” fishing gear retirement scheme has been announced by Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue to mark World Oceans Day. The project, which is aimed at collecting old and damaged fishing gear, is to take place this autumn and…

Irish Fishing industry 

The Irish Commercial Fishing Industry employs around 11,000 people in fishing, processing and ancillary services such as sales and marketing. The industry is worth about €1.22 billion annually to the Irish economy. Irish fisheries products are exported all over the world as far as Africa, Japan and China.

FAQs

Over 16,000 people are employed directly or indirectly around the coast, working on over 2,000 registered fishing vessels, in over 160 seafood processing businesses and in 278 aquaculture production units, according to the State's sea fisheries development body Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

All activities that are concerned with growing, catching, processing or transporting fish are part of the commercial fishing industry, the development of which is overseen by BIM. Recreational fishing, as in angling at sea or inland, is the responsibility of Inland Fisheries Ireland.

The Irish fishing industry is valued at 1.22 billion euro in gross domestic product (GDP), according to 2019 figures issued by BIM. Only 179 of Ireland's 2,000 vessels are over 18 metres in length. Where does Irish commercially caught fish come from? Irish fish and shellfish is caught or cultivated within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but Irish fishing grounds are part of the common EU "blue" pond. Commercial fishing is regulated under the terms of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983 and with ten-yearly reviews.

The total value of seafood landed into Irish ports was 424 million euro in 2019, according to BIM. High value landings identified in 2019 were haddock, hake, monkfish and megrim. Irish vessels also land into foreign ports, while non-Irish vessels land into Irish ports, principally Castletownbere, Co Cork, and Killybegs, Co Donegal.

There are a number of different methods for catching fish, with technological advances meaning skippers have detailed real time information at their disposal. Fisheries are classified as inshore, midwater, pelagic or deep water. Inshore targets species close to shore and in depths of up to 200 metres, and may include trawling and gillnetting and long-lining. Trawling is regarded as "active", while "passive" or less environmentally harmful fishing methods include use of gill nets, long lines, traps and pots. Pelagic fisheries focus on species which swim close to the surface and up to depths of 200 metres, including migratory mackerel, and tuna, and methods for catching include pair trawling, purse seining, trolling and longlining. Midwater fisheries target species at depths of around 200 metres, using trawling, longlining and jigging. Deepwater fisheries mainly use trawling for species which are found at depths of over 600 metres.

There are several segments for different catching methods in the registered Irish fleet – the largest segment being polyvalent or multi-purpose vessels using several types of gear which may be active and passive. The polyvalent segment ranges from small inshore vessels engaged in netting and potting to medium and larger vessels targeting whitefish, pelagic (herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting) species and bivalve molluscs. The refrigerated seawater (RSW) pelagic segment is engaged mainly in fishing for herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting only. The beam trawling segment focuses on flatfish such as sole and plaice. The aquaculture segment is exclusively for managing, developing and servicing fish farming areas and can collect spat from wild mussel stocks.

The top 20 species landed by value in 2019 were mackerel (78 million euro); Dublin Bay prawn (59 million euro); horse mackerel (17 million euro); monkfish (17 million euro); brown crab (16 million euro); hake (11 million euro); blue whiting (10 million euro); megrim (10 million euro); haddock (9 million euro); tuna (7 million euro); scallop (6 million euro); whelk (5 million euro); whiting (4 million euro); sprat (3 million euro); herring (3 million euro); lobster (2 million euro); turbot (2 million euro); cod (2 million euro); boarfish (2 million euro).

Ireland has approximately 220 million acres of marine territory, rich in marine biodiversity. A marine biodiversity scheme under Ireland's operational programme, which is co-funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and the Government, aims to reduce the impact of fisheries and aquaculture on the marine environment, including avoidance and reduction of unwanted catch.

EU fisheries ministers hold an annual pre-Christmas council in Brussels to decide on total allowable catches and quotas for the following year. This is based on advice from scientific bodies such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. In Ireland's case, the State's Marine Institute publishes an annual "stock book" which provides the most up to date stock status and scientific advice on over 60 fish stocks exploited by the Irish fleet. Total allowable catches are supplemented by various technical measures to control effort, such as the size of net mesh for various species.

The west Cork harbour of Castletownbere is Ireland's biggest whitefish port. Killybegs, Co Donegal is the most important port for pelagic (herring, mackerel, blue whiting) landings. Fish are also landed into Dingle, Co Kerry, Rossaveal, Co Galway, Howth, Co Dublin and Dunmore East, Co Waterford, Union Hall, Co Cork, Greencastle, Co Donegal, and Clogherhead, Co Louth. The busiest Northern Irish ports are Portavogie, Ardglass and Kilkeel, Co Down.

Yes, EU quotas are allocated to other fleets within the Irish EEZ, and Ireland has long been a transhipment point for fish caught by the Spanish whitefish fleet in particular. Dingle, Co Kerry has seen an increase in foreign landings, as has Castletownbere. The west Cork port recorded foreign landings of 36 million euro or 48 per cent in 2019, and has long been nicknamed the "peseta" port, due to the presence of Spanish-owned transhipment plant, Eiranova, on Dinish island.

Most fish and shellfish caught or cultivated in Irish waters is for the export market, and this was hit hard from the early stages of this year's Covid-19 pandemic. The EU, Asia and Britain are the main export markets, while the middle Eastern market is also developing and the African market has seen a fall in value and volume, according to figures for 2019 issued by BIM.

Fish was once a penitential food, eaten for religious reasons every Friday. BIM has worked hard over several decades to develop its appeal. Ireland is not like Spain – our land is too good to transform us into a nation of fish eaters, but the obvious health benefits are seeing a growth in demand. Seafood retail sales rose by one per cent in 2019 to 300 million euro. Salmon and cod remain the most popular species, while BIM reports an increase in sales of haddock, trout and the pangasius or freshwater catfish which is cultivated primarily in Vietnam and Cambodia and imported by supermarkets here.

The EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983, pooled marine resources – with Ireland having some of the richest grounds and one of the largest sea areas at the time, but only receiving four per cent of allocated catch by a quota system. A system known as the "Hague Preferences" did recognise the need to safeguard the particular needs of regions where local populations are especially dependent on fisheries and related activities. The State's Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, based in Clonakilty, Co Cork, works with the Naval Service on administering the EU CFP. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine and Department of Transport regulate licensing and training requirements, while the Marine Survey Office is responsible for the implementation of all national and international legislation in relation to safety of shipping and the prevention of pollution.

Yes, a range of certificates of competency are required for skippers and crew. Training is the remit of BIM, which runs two national fisheries colleges at Greencastle, Co Donegal and Castletownbere, Co Cork. There have been calls for the colleges to be incorporated into the third-level structure of education, with qualifications recognised as such.

Safety is always an issue, in spite of technological improvements, as fishing is a hazardous occupation and climate change is having its impact on the severity of storms at sea. Fishing skippers and crews are required to hold a number of certificates of competency, including safety and navigation, and wearing of personal flotation devices is a legal requirement. Accidents come under the remit of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, and the Health and Safety Authority. The MCIB does not find fault or blame, but will make recommendations to the Minister for Transport to avoid a recurrence of incidents.

Fish are part of a marine ecosystem and an integral part of the marine food web. Changing climate is having a negative impact on the health of the oceans, and there have been more frequent reports of warmer water species being caught further and further north in Irish waters.

Brexit, Covid 19, EU policies and safety – Britain is a key market for Irish seafood, and 38 per cent of the Irish catch is taken from the waters around its coast. Ireland's top two species – mackerel and prawns - are 60 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, dependent on British waters. Also, there are serious fears within the Irish industry about the impact of EU vessels, should they be expelled from British waters, opting to focus even more efforts on Ireland's rich marine resource. Covid-19 has forced closure of international seafood markets, with high value fish sold to restaurants taking a large hit. A temporary tie-up support scheme for whitefish vessels introduced for the summer of 2020 was condemned by industry organisations as "designed to fail".

Sources: Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Marine Institute, Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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