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A Government-authorized attack on the Irish fishing industry


SFPA and 25 armed Garda raid offices of the largest fishing company in the southeast “without any obvious justification”


“This is blatant harassment and victimisation,” company director tells IFSA.


Cormac Burke, IFSA


The owners of the biggest fleet of whitefish vessels in the country, O’Flaherty Brothers of Kilmore Quay, were last night (July 3rd) subjected to an organised ‘swoop’ on their offices at the Saltees Fish Company as four officers from the Sea Fisheries Protection ‘Authority’ (SFPA) were accompanied by no fewer than seven squad cars and 25 Garda, many of them armed.


Following a search of the premises, where nothing illegal was found, the raiding team proceeded to remove many of the company’s computers, including their central server which would hold all of the company’s fleet landings, sales notes and other confidential information regarding staff details, payroll etc.


Speaking exclusively with the IFSA, director and Fleet Manager of the company’s 19 whitefish vessels, Seamus O’Flaherty, said that they are being singled out for this high level of harassment and he is confident that the firm have “nothing to hide”.


Under Ireland’s current quotas the local Kilmore Quay vessels each have a monthlyallowance of 30 tonnes of megrim and 12 tonnes of monkfish - - but only an allowance of 100 kilos of Black (Dover) Sole for the same period.


Given that the sole are present on the exact same fishing grounds as the megrim and monkfish then it is obviously difficult for the fleet (most of which are beam trawlers) to be selective and avoid catching sole once a quota limit is reached.


Under the EU’s Discard Ban policy, the over-quota sole are permitted to be landed and sold by the company but that the amount of excess is deducted from that vessel’s sole quota for the following month - - but this creates an impossible ‘choke’ situation as a vessel that now has zero sole quota for the coming month cannot go to sea to get his allowance of megrim and monk as he knows he can’t avoid catching sole, isn’t allowed dump them under EU law, and if brought ashore then faces SFPA charges.


“Our vessels are being asked to comply with a rule that is unjust and discriminatory to Irish fishermen,” Mr O’Flaherty said.


“It is impossible to catch our megrim and monkfish quota whilst being told we must limit our catches of sole to 100 kilos.


“Belgian boats, working on the exact same fishing grounds, are catching between three and seven tonnes of sole PER WEEK and then land into unassigned fishery ports such as Cork City where they NEVER receive any level of detailed SFPA inspection,” he said, adding that Belgium is allowed to catch 80% of the overall EU sole quota off the Irish south coast while Ireland, working the same waters, is allocated a paltry 4%.


“Our Marine Minister and our Government agreed to this quota share-out and are now harassing Irish fishermen who find it impossible to comply with this rule.”



Another SFPA attack on Ireland’s fishing industry


This is not the first instance of friction between the O’Flahertys and the SFPA and Seamus O’Flaherty says that clearly there have been orders issued to attack the company due to their repeatedly highlighting the issue of Belgian beamers being allowed land between three and seven tonnes of sole per trip, landing into unregistered Irish ports and being subject to little or no SFPA monitoring whilst landing.


“This is an assault on our company, indeed it’s an attack on the entire fishing fleet of the southeast.


“If we were a Belgian company with a fleet of Belgian boats working on the exact same fishing grounds then the SFPA would have no problems with us,” Mr O’Flaherty said.


“Our Minister and this Government continue to cave into EU pressure and are giving away increasing amounts of Irish fish in Irish waters to outsiders and then, when any Irish fisherman or company raises the issue of the injustice of it all then they are subjected to harassment and bullying as we are being (once again),” he added.


“There is a political strategy at play here - - this ‘raid’ on our company had to have been authorised by some Minister, and some judge had to sign off on it, and the Garda had to authorise the huge cost of sending their armed force to participate - - our Government and their fishing industry jackboot soldiers of the SFPA are clearly taking their instruction from foreign fishing powers and from the wealthy investors behind offshore wind companies.


“Their mandate is clear - - ‘shut down the Irish fishing industry’! he concluded.


Comment

In 2004, the SFPA, along with a major Garda force and members of the Fraud Bureau, simultaneously carried out heavy-handed raids on the fishing industry in Killybegs and at the homes of certain fishing vessel owners in Co. Galway and, aside from one minor technical infringement in a fish factory, not one single shred of evidence of wrongdoing or illegal activity was found but to this day the SFPA have never released a statement to acknowledge that their allegations were incorrect.


But that didn’t stop the SFPA from issuing several newspaper statements in the months that followed to say that they “expected prosecutions to follow the raids” …. And yet these same media outlets declined to follow up on the story to show the innocence of the industry when no charges were ever brought.


Actions such as dragging pelagic skippers to court on trumped up charges (next Monday) and now the raid on a large Irish fishing company are very much ‘par for the course’ for the SFPA when they come under any type of public exposure (as in last Sunday’s newspaper article) and they immediately launch a sensational attack on the fishing industry to try to justify their jobs to the public.


An Irish Government review and reformation of this anti industry quango is long overdue…






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