SFPA’s heavy handed approach towards visiting fishing vessels an “embarrassment” to Killybegs
Swedish Authorities hand out correct minor administrative fine to Swedish vessel for what the SFPA tried to blow up into a ‘major incident’
The fishing industry in Killybegs, Co. Donegal, and other Irish ports, will more than likely suffer as a result of the SFPA’s (Sea Fisheries Protection ‘Authority’) over indulgence in fisheries inspections and controls which will discourage vessels coming from other countries to land fish to Irish processors and to avail of services of Irish ancillary service companies.
The latest in a series of undiplomatic incidents over the past two years involving the SFPA and visiting fishing vessels comes as a statement released today (Oct 25th) by the SFPA that they “note the decision of Swedish Authorities to impose a fine on a Swedish registered fishing vessel, Carmona GG-330, following an infringement detected by the SFPA at Killybegs in October 2022” (as reported The Fishing Daily 25/10/23).
In trying to blow up this case to make it sound like some kind of huge attempt of illegal fishing or mis-reporting of catches by the master of the Carmona GG-330, the SFPA state that the Swedish Authorities have, based on a case sent to them by the SFPA, fined the master of the vessel for under-recording Herring catches by 372.12%, in the operational logbook estimates, of outside the margin of tolerance, which was detected following a supervised weighing on landing at Killybegs in October 2022.
That’s the headline to the public from the SFPA - but now for the reality…
On arriving in Killybegs to land a large catch of mackerel to a local processing factory last October, the master of the vessel informed the SFPA that he estimated there was a minor herring by-catch of approximately 10 tonnes but that he could not give an exact figure - which later transpired to be 28 tonnes, but this amount made up just a fraction of the 600+ tonnes of mackerel being landed by the vessel.
And in making much of the fact that the Swedish Authorities have now fined the vessel for this incident, the SFPA has omitted to tell people that the level of that fine handed down in Sweden was just €170.00 - - in other words a minor administrative fine for a minor administrative miscalculation by the vessel master.
Yes the amount of bycatch may have exceeded the EU/CFP 10% tolerance margin but there also needs to be some common sense approach when taking into account the small percent of the total volume of the catch actually was and the fact that the master of the vessel openly stated at the outset that he was unsure of the definite amount of herring bycatch through the catch of mainly mackerel.
Contrast this with the vast amounts of blue whiting being caught by Norwegian vessels in Irish waters (164,000 tonnes last year and 224,000 tonnes this year) but which the SFPA / Irish Navy do not inspect for weights and species bycatch before these vessels return back to Norway to land their catches.
Also contrast this with the Dutch factory ships working off the west coast of Ireland for many years without any monitoring or inspection by these same Irish ‘authorities’.
In which case the turning of a blind eye to huge and obvious non monitoring of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of Irish fish from Irish waters by the SFPA makes all the more farcical the jackboot approach towards the Swedish vessel’s minor error.
No State control over the SFPA
Less than three weeks ago we heard Minister Charlie McConalogue on RTÉ News saying that the BIM announcement of a €50 million investment from BAR funds for the fish processing industry in Killybegs would, as well as increasing efficiency, “encourage vessels from other countries who might have landed elsewhere to now instead land in Killybegs”.
And, in his recent Budget speech McConalogue claimed that his aim was “to ensure that this industry not only survives, but is transformed to generate economic growth and sustain jobs”.
But neither the Minister, nor the Taoiseach it would seem, have any control over this anti industry body and given the unnecessary harassment by the SFPA in this case it’s clear that any Swedish vessel master will think twice about ever landing fish again in Killybegs and, with the much publicised controversy of the treatment of visiting blue whiting vessels last year, the damage to the Irish processing, and local ancillary service companies, local employment and the entire local economy is massive.
So once again we have the situation where the Minister is making all the right sound bites about economic growth and encouraging foreign vessels to come to Ireland but meanwhile the SFPA are working in a direct opposite strategy in their efforts to discourage such landings.
As a resident of Killybegs, and an active member of the Irish fishing industry, I am personally embarrassed with the situation regarding this Swedish vessel (which had been invited and encouraged by the Irish processing industry to bring its catch to Ireland) and of the international image that the SFPA continues to portray of Killybegs as a fishing community.