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Contradiction in Minister’s response to IFSA

Following several questions that the Irish Fishing & Seafood Alliance (IFSA) has put to Minister Charlie McConalogue over past months, a response to at least one query (regarding the SFPA) finally came, via the Minister’s private secretary, last Friday (May 21st).

However, it would appear that amidst all of the prepared statements that the Minister must juggle in recent times, he has now taken to using out-of-date information that everyone knows is incorrect and that he himself has previously acknowledged to the Oireachtas Joint Committee:

Dear Mr. Burke,

I refer to your recent correspondence to Charlie McConalogue TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in relation to the revocation of the fisheries control plan.

As you are aware, Ireland has been notified of a Commission Implementing Decision revoking the approval of the Irish control plan submitted for the weighing of fishery products.

The European Commission has deemed that Ireland’s obligations arising from Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009 were not being met by the Irish control plan as the risk of non-compliance with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy could not be minimised.

The monitoring and control of fishing vessels within Ireland’s Exclusive Fisheries Zone are matters for the Irish control authorities. Under the Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act, 2006, all operational issues of this nature are exclusively for the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) and the Naval Service. The Minister is expressly precluded from getting involved in operational matters such as this.

Accordingly, it is for the SFPA to set out new procedures in relation to this changed position. The Minister understands that the Authority has already written to the industry to make them aware of the situation.

Bearing in mind that this statement -- “Ireland has been notified of a Commission Implementing Decision revoking the approval of the Irish control plan submitted for the weighing of fishery products” -- came from the Minister on Friday 21st May and refers to the outcome of the EU 2018 Audit Report in which the EU clearly stated that the SFPA was not fit for purpose and which that body attempted to turn the focus off their own incompetence and on to fishermen, Mr McConalogue seems to have forgotten that he himself admitted to a private meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee that “it appears that the SFPA has misled this Committee” with regards to the EU Audit report and the weighing debacle, four days earlier ON MONDAY 17th MAY (as reported on social media by Committee Member Michael Collins Ind. TD.)

So, while the fishing industry continues to live in frustration that nothing of any substance is happening to bring any crumb of justice to this crisis, the Minister is trying to feed responses to industry questions that HE KNOWS are incorrect.

Or perhaps it is a case of sending different responses to different people? After all he is the student of those masters of ‘divide & conquer’ at the Department of Marine.

And, speaking of the SFPA and the Minister, it is widely noticed in industry circles that the Minister has often openly praised the work of this body, until an awkward question is raised about them and then he shoots out a “The Minister is expressly precluded from getting involved in operational matters such as this”.

But this supposed ‘distance’ between the SFPA and Dept of Marine continues to be called into question as, basically, no one believes that the Marine Department are not involved, to a large extent, in the management and operations of the SFPA.

Despite claiming to be a totally autonomous body, it is interesting to see on the SFPA’s own website that they list as ‘important strategic partners’ the Department of Marine:

“The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM) is an important SFPA stakeholder, responsible for policy formulation, corporate governance oversight, and resource allocation. In addition, many DAFF divisions are engaged in implementation of regulations involving a direct interface with SFPA, eg quota and fishing effort management, food safety, food imports including illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.”

Clearly no relationship between your Department and the SFPA then Minister?

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