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An Open Letter to the Minister

Your industry needs you Minister McConalogue!

Dear Minister,

As the Irish fishing industry begins to crumble under the burden of crippling fuel costs it has become clear that your actions, or rather your lack of action, is contributing greatly to the decimation of all sectors of the fleet and of the rural coastal communities that rely on them.

Despite attempting to give your parliamentary colleagues (and the general public) the impression that all is well and is ‘under control’ with your marine brief, the reality is that, through a term of office rife with poor decisions and voluntarily completely ceding control to your Dept. Marine officials, you are presiding over the ruination and eventual termination of an industry that has played a critical role in the economies and traditions of Irish coastal regions for many generations.

At a recent meeting with fishing industry representatives (of which you again excluded the IFSA but that’s okay as people by now understand your reluctance to try to keep quiet the fishing organisation with the highest number of supporters in the country as you don’t want their voice heard), you informed the meeting that you had no intention of aiding fishermen with any sort of fuel assistance because other nations are not doing so and therefore this is “a level playing field”.

Well here’s your level playing field….

Three similar sized demersal fishing trawlers all on a trip working in Irish waters – one Irish, one Spanish and one French – again, to emphasise, all fishing in IRISH waters.

Under current diesel prices, it cost each of the vessels approximately €40,000 to fill up before going to sea and, given an average to good trip, the gross revenue from fish sales would be in the region of €72,000.

Therefore, with zero fuel subsidy, the Irish skipper’s ‘net’ revenue is approximately €32,000 from which he must then deduct costs of food, insurance, and new or upgraded trawl gear before dividing up the remainder amongst himself and his crew as salary for the trip which could be anything from 8 to 15 days long.

With the same gross revenue, but also with a 20% fuel subsidy (that the Irish minister claims doesn’t exit), the Spanish vessel has a net revenue of €40,000 and the French vessel, with a 35% fuel subsidy (again that the Irish minister claims doesn’t exit) enjoys a net revenue of €48,000 – some €16,000 more than his Irish counterpart, fishing in Irish waters.

But now, to rub salt into the Irish skipper/owner’s wounds, French and Spanish vessel are also able to spend a portion of their trip to nip on to the Porcupine Bank and pick up ten tonnes of prawns with a conservative price return of €150,000 and meanwhile the Irish vessels are not permitted to go to the Porcupine Bank for reasons of stock conservation and yet must watch French, Spanish and even non-EU English vessels all fish away on this same stock IN IRISH WATERS…

And, just to twist the knife, the lorries that come to Ireland to collect the fish caught in Irish waters by French and Spanish vessels are also considered by their governments as being part of the fishing industry and therefore their transport costs are eligible for the same fuel subsidy that their fishing vessel are.

A “level playing field” Minister? Why would you even think that Ireland’s fishermen will accept this situation?

One cannot help but go along with the general opinion in the industry that this “to hell with them” attitude is little to do with funds or budgets and more to do with leaving fishermen to drown in their own unsupported unworkable ventures and that they will eventually have no other option other than to run for the fleet decommissioning scheme as soon as it becomes available.

It seems clear that the strategy is to make lemmings out of fishermen and hope that they themselves will jump off the cliff before they have to be pushed off.

This outrageous mishandling of the catching sector cannot and will not be allowed to continue and the people of this industry urge you Minister to take what time you have left in office to come out in genuine support of this industry – not what you have thus far classed as ‘support’ in forming task force groups and think tanks – real financial support in the form of something that will physically give people a few euros back so that they might at least try to survive the current crisis.

The management of our fishing industry is once again making all Irish people the laughing stock of Europe and making many of our fishing communities ashamed to be part of what looks like it will be the last generation of fishing families.


Cormac Burke,

Chairman, Irish Fishing & Seafood Alliance (IFSA)

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