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Commercial Fishing News from Ireland
The 23-metre Govenek of Ladram
A British-registered gillnetter which featured on a Channel 4 television series on fishing has been detained by the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) off the Irish coast. The 23 metre Govenek of Ladram, which played a starring role in the series,…
Staff with the State’s Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) have served notice of a 24-hour work stoppage this week with further strike action to follow. Barring last minute efforts to resolve issues, the move is expected to cause disruption in…
Helvick Head RNLI launch on their first shout of 2022
Helvick Head RNLI of County Waterford came to the aid of two fishermen yesterday (Wednesday 12 January) after their 29ft fishing boat broke down at Ballyvoyle. On what was described as a sunny and calm day on the water, the…
All-hands-on-deck-at-SNG
A BIM scientist has welcomed two recent reports in the scientific journal Nature recording how fisheries management and marine conservation have helped to reduce overfishing. A recent Nature paper entitled “Rebuilding marine life” says that “substantial recovery of the abundance,…
Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue
Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue today announced a support scheme for the inshore fisheries sector to assist inshore fishers in adjusting to the impacts of Brexit on their businesses. The Brexit Inshore Fisheries Business Model Adjustment Scheme delivers on…
Killybegs Bulk Handling is specifically targeted at supporting the import and storage of wind turbines for onshore sites
While Killybegs harbour is synonymous with the fisheries sector a new video released by Ronan Renewables shows just how the County Donegal port is increasingly catering to the renewable energy sector. While home to a large portion of the Irish fishing fleet…
File image of sprat at a market in Odessa, Ukraine
2020 was a record year for sprat landings — but this has come at the expense of many other marine wildlife species who depend on the small fish as a food source. Noteworthy’s investigation of the issue shows that in…
The pair trawler FV Aztec sank 500m south of Duncannon Fort in Co Wexford
A fishing vessel which sank off the Wexford coast last January should have issued a “Pan Pan” alert, a report by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) has noted. Four crew on board the FV Aztec were transferred successfully to…
Paschal Hayes has been appointed as Executive Chair of Sea Fisheries Protection Authority
Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue has announced the appointment of Paschal Hayes as executive chair and member of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA). The appointment follows the recent Public Appointments Service (PAS) open recruitment process, the minister said.…
An EU Interim Fisheries Control Plan covers the spring pelagic fishery season
The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) says that a control plan for Irish fisheries management has been approved by the European Commission for the first four months of next year. In a statement issued today, the SFPA said the plan has…
Shared stocks in 2022 - the agreement covers all Irish whitefish stocks including Haddock, Cod, Whiting, Monkfish, Prawns, Sole and Plaice and other stocks including Horse Mackerel and Herring.
The Minister for the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D., today welcomed the agreement between the EU and the UK on Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for shared stocks in 2022. This agreement covers all our whitefish stocks including Haddock, Cod, Whiting, Monkfish,…
Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) is expected to question a license application by the world’s largest farmed salmon producer for a fish farm in Ballinakill Bay off Cleggan in Connemara. As The Sunday Independent reports today, Mowi Ireland plans to open…
File image of fishing boats in Howth Harbour, Co Dublin
The number of registered sea-fishing boats in the Irish fleet was only slightly reduced in 2020 as the industry was hit by COVID-related restrictions both here and abroad. According to the Licensing Authority for Sea-fishing Boats’ Annual Report for 2020,…
Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue - negotiations with the UK have proved to be very difficult
Post Brexit negotiations between the EU and UK on fishing quotas for shared fish stocks, which commenced in early November were still deadlocked ahead of the EU Council of Fisheries Ministers that commenced on Sunday and finished early this morning.…
French fishing vessels arrive into the Port of Galway
The RNLI Aran lifeboat and Port of Galway came to the aid of a French fishing vessel yesterday which lost its anchor during Storm Barra. The 28-metre Ferreira Martinez was one of three French vessels sheltering from the storm in…
File image of a shellfish sample
Two shellfish projects will benefit among the awards made under the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s 2021 call for research proposals. Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue and Minster of State Martin Heydon jointly announced the awards today (Monday 6…

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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