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Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue claimed a “productive” dialogue after meeting with representatives of the fishing industry to discuss a number of important issues facing the seafood sector today, Thursday 7 July.

“The meeting gave me the opportunity to engage directly with industry representatives and to hear first-hand their concerns and priorities,” the minister said. “This meeting was very productive with representatives from the offshore and inshore fleets, aquaculture and the processing industry attending.

“These are very challenging times for the Irish fishing industry and it is vital that we work together to achieve our shared goal of a sustainable and profitable industry.”

Topics discussed included the operation of schemes recommended by the Seafood Sector Taskforce, the impacts of the fuel crisis, that state of play of the coastal states negotiations on a new sharing arrangement for mackerel and the ongoing discussions between the EU and UK on measures to protect cod and whiting in the Celtic Sea.

The minister thanked the attendees for their input and said that he looked forward to continuing to work closely with the sector on these issues in the coming months.

“I recognise that the seafood sector is facing particular challenges both arising from the impacts of the EU/UK Brexit agreement and the Ukraine war resulting in very high fuel prices,” he said.

“I am pushing forward with the implementation of a range of schemes to address the financial impacts under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve fund involving support of up to €143 million and anticipate receiving State Aid approval for a further number of significant schemes that will support the industry.”

The minister added: “There are important discussions ongoing at EU level on a range of issues that impact directly on the sector involving mackerel sharing negotiations involving the EU, UK, Norway, the Faroe Islands and Iceland that will have longer term impacts. I want to work closely with the sector so that the EU and Ireland secure a fair and proportionate share of this important stock.

“There are also EU/UK discussions ongoing on additional measures to better protect cod in the Celtic sea and also support the whiting stock that is in decline. We need an ambitious approach that helps rebuild these stocks without undue impact on our whitefish fishing fleet which are heavily dependant on the Celtic Sea fisheries.”

Today’s meeting was attended by representatives from the Irish South & East Fish Producers Organisation, Irish Fish Producers Organisation, Irish South & West Fish Producers Organisation, Killybegs Fisherman’s Organisation, Irish Islands Marine Resources Organisation, Co-operatives, Irish Fish Processors & Exporters Association, IFA Aquaculture and National Inshore Fisheries Forum.

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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 Afloat.ie, the scheme is an extension of the 2021 Tie-up Scheme, with some modifications, and aims to help mitigate the impacts of quota cuts for 2022 arising from the Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

The scheme delivers on a recommendation of the Report of the Seafood Task Force – ‘Navigating Change’ (October 2021) and is proposed for funding under the EU Brexit Adjustment Reserve.

In light of the quota cuts taking effect in 2022, Minister McConalogue modified the scheme so that vessel owners can, if they wish, choose to tie-up for up to two calendar months — thereby freeing up additional quota for those vessels continuing to fish, supporting viability in the wider fleet.

However, vessels choosing to tie up for two months must maintain a two-month gap between tie-up months, for example June and September or July and October

Payment rates will be the same as the 2021 scheme. Vessel owners participating in the 2022 scheme will again be required to distribute one third of that payment to crew.

As previously reported, the minister made a formal request to the European Commission to amend the approval of the scheme to encompass November so as to provide for an additional August/November tie-up option.

An official response was received today with no objections to the scheme as amended, on the grounds that it is compatible with the internal market pursuant to Article 107(3)(c) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

“I am pleased to have secured this extension of the time frame allowable for the 2022 Brexit Voluntary Tie-up Scheme,” Minister McConalogue said. “The third option of an August/November tie-up is key to the industry’s ability to manage and maintain the supply of fish to all its customers throughout the six month period of the tie-up scheme.

“This extension has been sought by industry and I welcome their responsiveness to learnings from the experiences of the 2021 scheme.”

The scheme will be administered by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) and further details will be published by BIM shortly.

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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 all fisheries stakeholders for their ongoing contribution to delivering on the CFP’s core ambition of sustainable fisheries management.

“I noted that considerable progress has been made over the recent years in setting sustainable quotas for our important fisheries,” he said.

“I supported the commitment to delivering quotas for 2023 that build on the progress we have made. I emphasised in particular the importance of the EU addressing effectively the current unsustainable behaviour of Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands setting unilateral unsustainable quotas for mackerel and blue whiting.”

The minister raised again the disproportionate impacts of the EU/UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement on Ireland’s quotas.

“I made clear at Council that we need a full CFP review that takes stock of the disproportionate impacts imposed on the Irish fishing industry by Brexit and the outcome of the EU-UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA).

“If we are to continue to build on our hard-won progress, we must acknowledge and take stock of the many ways that our fisheries landscape has been totally transformed by Brexit and the TCA. This will allow us to find solutions in a spirit of solidarity within the Union to adapt and once again thrive in, our totally new post Brexit environment.”

The minister concluded by saying: “I have assured Commissioner Sinkevicius that I will continue to work closely and constructively with him and with fellow Member States on these challenges to build a sustainable future for our fishing industry.”

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Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue today (Wednesday 11 May) announced a 2022 Brexit Voluntary Temporary Fishing Vessel Tie-Up Scheme for the polyvalent and beam-trawl fleets.

The scheme is an extension of the 2021 Tie-Up Scheme, with some modifications, and aims to help mitigate the impacts of quota cuts for 2022 arising from the Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

“The object of the scheme is to enable a reduction in quota uptake so as to improve quota availability for the fleet overall throughout the remainder of the year,” Minister McConalogue said.

“The €24 million scheme I am announcing today delivers on a key recommendation of the Report of the Seafood Task Force – Navigating Change (October 2021). In light of the quota cuts taking effect in 2022 I have modified the scheme so that vessel owners can, if they wish, choose to tie-up for up to two calendar months.

“This enhanced tie up opportunity will free up additional quota for those vessels continuing to fish, supporting viability in the wider fleet.”

Payment rates will be the same as the 2021 scheme. Vessel owners participating in the 2022 scheme will again be required to distribute one third of that payment to crew.

In order to maintain the supply of fish to processors and fishmongers, vessels choosing to tie-up for two months must maintain a two-month gap between tie-up months, for example June and September or July and October.

The scheme will initially be expected to operate over the period June to October, but the minister will be asking the European Commission to amend the approval of the scheme to encompass November so as to provide for an additional August/November tie up option.

The scheme will be administered by Bord Iascaigh Mhara and further details will be available from BIM at bim.ie/fisheries/funding/

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Marine Minister Michael Creed has announced that the implementation of the Pilot Quota Balancing Policy for Demersal (Whitefish) Stocks will be delayed until Monday 1 June.

The Pilot Quota Balancing Policy for Demersal (Whitefish) Stocks (with technical amendment of August 2019) was due to be implemented from 1 January, with quota balancing statements to issue to licence holders by the end of April.

But the minister said he acknowledges the current economic climate has had a significant impact on the seafood industry and has been particularly challenging for vessels in the whitefish fleet — fishing for hake, haddock, monkfish and whiting.

“This delay will allow our whitefish fleet extra time to become familiar with the quota balancing process and to adapt in these unprecedented times,” he said on Friday (24 April).

Quota balancing means that where a vessel lands more than its allocated catch limit for a stock during a fishery management period, a deduction will be made from a future catch limit for that vessel.

It is understood that quota balancing statements for demersal (whitefish) stocks for the calendar months of January 2020 to May 2020 will be issued to licence holders for information purposes only.

Minister Creed has recently come under fire for his reluctance to avail of EU finding to ease the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Ireland’s fishing sector.

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Marine Minister Michael Creed last week welcomed agreement reached between the European Union, Norway, the Faroe Islands and Iceland regarding the blue whiting fishery for 2020.

“This agreement provides welcome stability in this important fishery for Irish fishermen,” he said in London last Friday (25 October).

“There will be a small increase compared to 2019 with a quota of approximately 38,500 tonnes in 2020 for Ireland.”

The total allowable catch of 1,161,616 tonnes agreed between the parties is fully in line with the scientific advice provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES).

Minister Creed added: “In these uncertain times, stability for our fisheries sector is always welcome.

“The agreement reached following the negotiations this week, in which Ireland was an active participant, will provide a quota worth approximately €11.5 million for our fishermen next year.

“This follows the international negotiations two weeks ago which agreed to a 41% increase in the mackerel quotas for 2020 in line with the scientific advice, giving Ireland a mackerel quota of over 78,000 tonnes worth over €80m directly to our catching sector for 2020.”

The minster also acknowledged the assistance provided on the Irish delegation by the Marine Institute and fishing sector representatives.

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Speaking at the Agrifish Council in Luxembourg yesterday (Monday 14 October), Marine Minister Michael Creed welcomed the solidarity shown by EU member states and institutions regarding Brexit.

Highlighting the need for a swift response to help fishermen and farmers in the event of a hard Brexit, Minister Creed said: “I call on the Commission to be ready to deploy an exceptional aid regulation immediately in the event of a hard Brexit.”

During the Agrifish Council, which continues today (Tuesday 15 October), Minister Creed had constructive discussions with Commissioners Phil Hogan and Karmenu Vella regarding support measures in the event of a hard Brexit and the protection of Irish farming and fishery interests in EU trade negotiations.

With regard to fisheries, Minister Creed took the opportunity to discuss with fellow fisheries ministers the ongoing Brexit preparatory work by the eight EU member states most likely to be impacted.

Minister Creed said: “There has been a significant amount of preparatory work done at official and industry level across the member states and in co-operation with the Commission for all scenarios. The unity of purpose from our EU partners on fisheries, like all other issues, has been heartening.”

Separately, Ireland is also raising at this council the recent decision by Iceland and others to increase their unilateral quotas for mackerel, which threatens the long-term sustainability of Ireland’s single most important fishery.

The minister said: “The recent unilateral actions by Iceland, and later Russia and Greenland, are extremely regrettable and I will continue to work closely with the Commission on possible measures that can be taken in this regard.”

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#Fishing - The European Union, Norway and the Faroe Islands have agreed to a 20% reduction in mackerel quotas in the North East Atlantic for 2019.

The news for Ireland’s single most valuable fishery was the outcome of international fisheries negotiations which concluded in Bergen, Norway yesterday (Thursday 29 November).

Marine Minister Michael Creed — who described the negotiations, which also took place in Clonakilty earlier this month, as “challenging” — added: “The reductions reflect the available scientific advice that the abundance of this stock has declined. This level of reduction is seen by all parties as essential to ensure that the stock is fished sustainably.”

The minister also confirmed that agreement was reached on a two-year extension of the sharing arrangement between the three main parties. “This provides a welcome degree of stability for this hugely important fishery. Irish fishermen will now have a quota worth over €55m directly to our catching sector for 2019,” he said.

“While the quota for Ireland is less than that of recent years, those quotas were unusually high by historical standards. The quota of 55,000 tonnes achieved today is in line with our historical average quota.

“We must continue to be cautious with this crucially important stock. As always, industry representatives, in particular Sean O’Donoghue of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, were extremely helpful to the Irish negotiating team.”

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Marine Minister Michael Creed welcomed today’s (Wednesday 7 November) resumption on Wednesday of important international negotiations on 2019 mackerel quotas for the stock in the North East Atlantic.

The negotiations, involving 11 EU and non-EU countries, are being hosted on behalf of the EU by the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine in the National Seafood Centre in Clonakilty, Co Cork and follow on from an initial round of negotiations in London in October.

“Mackerel is our single most important fishery economically and the negotiations this year are especially challenging given that the new scientific advice is for a reduction in quotas of 61%,” Minister Creed said.

“There are concerns from the scientific community about the quality of that advice but we need to take full account of all of the available information, the sustainability of the stock and the socio-economic importance of the mackerel fishery to peripheral coastal communities.

“These negotiations will be very difficult. The proposed 61% cut in the mackerel quota for 2019 would be very significant for our fishing industry along the western seaboard, particularly in Donegal, Galway, Kerry and Cork.

“Ireland is committed to the long-term sustainability of this stock and has worked hard to date to get a more graduated response to the scientific advice, taking account of the fact that this will be subject to a full review and quality assurance early in early 2019.”

Delegations from Ireland, the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Greenland and the Faeroe Islands will try and reach an agreement on the total allowable catch (TAC) for mackerel for 2019.

Up to 50 international delegates are expected in West Cork for the three-day negotiations. Officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, supported by scientists from the Marine Institute, will represent Ireland at these negotiations.

Minister Creed added: “I am pleased that Ireland, on behalf of the EU, is hosting this second round of Mackerel negotiations in the National Seafood Centre in Clonakilty. The fact that these negotiations are being facilitated by my department in Ireland underlines the economic importance of this stock to the Irish fishing industry.

“Mackerel is the single most valuable stock for the Irish fleet, and indeed the EU as a whole, and it is very much in our interests that we secure agreement at international level on management arrangements and catch levels for this stock.”

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#Fishing - Marine Minister Michael Creed held a key bilateral meetings on the margins of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Luxembourg this week with his Danish and Spanish counterparts to discuss Brexit and fisheries priorities.

Minister Creed met the Danish minister for fisheries Eva Kjer Hansen on Brexit, with both ministers agreeing to continue to work together over the upcoming critical period to deliver on the EU guidelines for a future relationship in respect of fisheries.

Minister Creed also held a bilateral with the Spanish Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Luis Planas Puchades to discuss development of CAP strategic plans, as well as key concerns with regard to Brexit.

“I welcome the understanding that both Ministers demonstrated in our discussions today with regard to Brexit and its impact on both the Irish agri-food and fisheries sectors,” said Minister Creed yesterday (Monday 15 October).

“There is a strong appreciation of the Irish concerns in the context of Brexit negotiations and I very much welcome the ongoing support provided by my Danish and Spanish colleagues in this regard.”

Ministers Creed and Planas also reviewed challenging issues facing both member states in advance of the full introduction of the discards ban on 1 January next and setting quotas at the December fisheries council that supports the practical delivery of this new policy.

Minister Creed addressed the setting of the mackerel total allowable catch (TAC) and quotas for 2019 in a situation where the scientific advice advocates a 61% cut from 2018.

Minister Creed said: “We need to take full account of the concerns from the scientists themselves about this year’s advice and take account of the socio-economic importance of the mackerel fishery when deciding on a TAC for 2019.

“We must work closely at an EU level with Norway and the Faroe Islands, our partners in the management agreement, to reach a balanced outcome that avoids undue inter-annual fluctuation in the management of the stock.”

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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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