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Apathy - the sound of silence

Has anyone noticed that, in the past month, the normal barrage of fishing industry press releases, DAFM notices, SFPA news of recent actions etc. seems to have dwindled to a bare trickle?

Also stopped are the regular, and often timely, ‘leaked reports’ to the media of supposed abusing of regulations by fishermen – and, by the way, does anyone actually believe such ‘leaks’ are accidental? When was the last time we saw a ‘leaked report’ on internal goings-on inside the SFPA or DAFM? Strange then that all such information ‘leaks’ are always anti-industry news items …

One would like to think that this silence has coincided with the 20 articles from the IFSA that began on February 10th which have certainly raised national awareness of the continuing mistreatment of Ireland’s fishing industry and that the louder the IFSA has spoken on behalf of fishermen then the quieter the authorities seem to be.

But before we all clap each other on the backs, the real reason for the lack of news out of Dublin is more likely to be apathy and the simple fact that no one in authority actually cares how much the people in the coastal regions’ fishing and seafood industries are going to suffer in the coming months and years.

For decades all Irish vessel size sectors and seafood processors have been living at the crossroads – never knowing what would be the next species to have its quota cut, what new EU regulation would exclude them from a certain fishery or area, or what new poorly thought-out landing rule would be introduced next…

But, at this moment in time, these industries are living on the edge of a precipice – a crisis of the magnitude never experienced before, with the final BREXIT ratification and the loss of huge amounts of Irish quota in Irish waters only weeks away; an EU BREXIT compensation package for Ireland that France wants 20% of; a fisheries minister who seems to think that Irish fishermen should just ‘accept their lot’ and take a decommissioning package to reduce the size of the fleet; and a dysfunctional SFPA agency who continue to preach their mantra (at all levels) that all fishermen are crooks in a “guilty until proved innocent” regime.

Basically, while the wheels are coming off Ireland’s fishing industry, there seems to be no support whatsoever from those who are supposed to be managing and defending this industry.

I’m hesitant to point out that if this was happening to France or Spain then the tyre fires, port blockades and marching on government buildings would have been in full swing since last February.

And, whilst not recommending such militant actions at this time, the general mood amongst a very angry fishing industry is “what exactly will it take before someone will listen to us”?

The distinct feeling of ‘radio silence’ coming from Dublin throughout all of this crisis is further evident within Ireland’s media and newspaper circles when recently, RTE’s Nationwide programme was advised by one individual in the seafood industry to speak to the IFSA to get a factual state-of-affairs report on the real situation of this industry, he replied “we’re not speaking to any fishermen until they stop overfishing and breaking the law…” – a sad indictment of the ignorance of our media leaders who would prefer to give the public the same diet of biased anti-industry propaganda that they themselves would rather believe than hear the real facts.

A new low

Saddest of all the areas of apathy is that of our own fisheries minister who hasn’t said anything of any real substance since the turn of the year -

* a man who has told this industry, an industry that he is supposed to be representing and defending, that the outcome of BREXIT is just a blow that we’ll all have to take;

* a man who, by his own admission, held his last meeting with the EU Commission to talk about BREXIT on November 27th while Michelle Barnier was looking after the interests of French fishermen right up until the last minute of the deal on Christmas eve;

* a man who, despite being emailed 20 times by the IFSA (each time an article was published) has yet to publicly acknowledge this organisation – an organisation that has had widespread recent coverage in all of the fishing industry newspapers and social media - an organisation with a growing petition (nearing 4,000 signatures at this time) and one with over almost 60 vessels and 40 fishing industry companies from every port in the country signed up to it – and, by seemingly being unaware of the IFSA, he is actually confirming to the public that he is out of touch with what’s going on in the industry, or worse still, he IS aware of the organisation but refuses to acknowledge the voices of Ireland’s coastal communities;

* a man who now thinks that the best way forward is to set up a task force which, as is widely predicted, will pay lip service to the industry by holding a few meetings over the coming months and lo & behold come up with the proposal for a fleet decommissioning scheme to reduce the size of our fleet due to Ireland no longer having enough quota in our own waters because our government has given it all away to the fleets of European nations, whilst he will probably also throw a few euros at the marine tourism sector to make it look like ‘investing in the marine’;

* a man who has the time (this week) to make a public statement on the DAFM website to congratulate all the Irish connections for doing so well at the Cheltenham horse racing festival -- while the fishing industry which he is supposed to be in charge of is facing ruination whilst under his care.

It’s a tragic thing to say but, based on the performance of previous Irish fisheries ministers over the years, the bar wasn’t set very high for Charlie McConalogue to begin with but he has somehow managed to underachieve even that poor standard and will be surely remembered as the most ineffective and disloyal marine minister that this country has ever seen.

One can only presume that he, like many others in government, know that the writing is on the wall for the next general election and that his days as a minister are numbered and therefore why care?

However, just because Ireland’s fishing industry national administrative bodies seem to think that if they keep quiet long enough that all of the injustices of the present situation will ‘go away’ if the industry itself begins to absorb the same level of apathy, I do not believe it should be so.

If our ‘managers’ will not manage the industry to the benefit of those in it then we as Irish citizens must demand better protection for our national marine resources and better defence of the fish quotas that belong to the people of Ireland and not to the ‘Department Against the Marine’ (as they have become known).

This is NOT a time for us to be shrugging our shoulders and accepting yet another EU defeat for Ireland at the hands of a useless and largely uncaring marine department.

So, no matter what part of the country you live in, everyone must phone, email and generally harass their local politician, newspaper and radio station to demand at least some accountability for what is going on at the moment and to openly state that the people of Ireland refuse to accept the present strategy that our fishing and seafood industries are not just being neglected but are being systematically dismantled by the present government.

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