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EU must be joking!

Irish fishing industry expected to pay for SFPA monitoring & inspections

Not content with years of wasting Irish taxpayers’ money taking fishermen to court on trumped-up charges which are then dismissed by a judge, the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) now intend to make fishermen pay a fee for this so-called ‘protection’ of the industry.

Under the ‘EU Food Official Control Regulation (OCR) Fee Collection SFP Consultative Committee February 19th 2021 (Legislative Basis REGULATION (EU) 2017/625 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL 15th March 2017) this regulation has been in effect since December 2019 but a consultative period had to be undertaken before it could now be applied.

In its statement the EU Commission says that: “For the purposes of this Regulation, ‘official controls’ means activities performed by the competent authorities, or by the delegated bodies or the natural persons to which certain official control tasks have been delegated in accordance with this Regulation, in order to verify: (a) compliance by the operators with this Regulation and with the rules referred to in Article 1(2).

This Regulation shall apply to the official controls performed for the verification of compliance with the rules, whether established at Union level or by the Member States, to apply Union legislation, in the areas of food and food safety, integrity and wholesomeness at any stage of production, processing and distribution of food, including rules aimed at ensuring fair practices in trade and protecting consumer interests and information, and the manufacture and use of materials and articles intended to come into contact with food.”

And under the chapter ‘Collection Methodologies’ it prescribes set rates for “fee collection based on the official controls carried out on volumes of fish placed on the market and aquaculture products at 1 EUR/tonne for the first 50 tonnes in the month; 0.5 EUR/tonne thereafter.”

“Aside from anything else, I think one certain word in the very first line of this EC regulation should bar the SFPA from attempting to enforce this fee and that is the Commission’s qualifying statement that the fees are to be paid by the fishing vessels for “activities performed by the competent authorities”, which the SFPA are clearly not,” said IFSA Chairman Cormac Burke.

And, with word on rumour mill that SFPA officers are also not happy that many of the vessel cases that they bring to court are being (correctly) thrown out, this is clearly a frustrated organisation attempting to justify its existence through bullying and coercion instead of going about its duties as control officials do in all other EU member states.

Paying the penalty

Is it not enough that the Irish fleet continue to be punished under a totally unfair penalty points system without now being told they have to pay for the pleasure?

It’s like having to throw some shillings to your executioner just before he lops your head off…

To be clear on the entire penalty point system, Irish fishermen absolutely accept that there needs to be a monitoring and control system but refuse to agree to an ‘Ireland only’ system in which the SFPA are allowed be ‘judge & jury’.

The EU (and the Irish general public) are only told that a penalty point system is a Europe-wide requirement (much as driving penalty points are) but what the Irish public are not told is that the SFPA’s ‘version’ of a penalty point system for the fishing industry differs from all other EU member states in that (a) if a fishing vessel challenges the points awarded against him and wins his case in court, then the SFPA apply the points to his licence anyway (surely in breach of the Irish and European constitution?), and (b) if a penalty points are given to a particular vessel, if that vessel is later sold then the points are a legacy that go with the vessel i.e. would you buy a car that had inherited 10 penalty points for speeding?

During the final days in the 2018 Government Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher described this version of penalty points to be ‘totally unfair on our fishing communities’ and said: “it is quite incredible that Taoiseach Michael Martin has signed into law the very same instrument, with the exact same wording, that he previously vehemently voted against when sitting in Opposition”.

Meanwhile Sinn Fein spokesman on fisheries Padraig MacLochlainn said that the signing into law of the penalty points by Mr Martin was “deeply disturbing” given the controversial history behind these enforcement measures.

For Irish fishermen under the current SFPA regime this is yet one more case of “the beatings will continue until morale improves…” and fishermen have already reached breaking point with constant and often unnecessary attacks from a dysfunctional organisation who know that the day the in-depth investigation into their operations that the industry has demanded for so long, is coming closer and closer.

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