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Heads you lose, tails you lose

Cormac Burke, Chairman IFSA

As reported in The Fishing Daily 17th November (see below), the Sea Fisheries Protection ’Authority’ last week denied a suggestion by the IFPO that there was no provision for ‘independent oversight’ when it comes to non EU vessels facing the same “stringent control and conservation regime as the Irish fleet”.

The IFPO’s comment came following a question put to Minister Charlie McConalogue by Sinn Féin’s Padraig MacLochlainn but as usual, and courtesy of the ridiculous and laughable Irish political setup and the status awarded to the SFPA by Government, the Minister for fisheries says he has no power or jurisdiction over the SFPA or fisheries controls… always a convenient cop-out for Charlie and a situation that makes one wonder if your fisheries minister is completely ineffective and has no control over the most important issues in the fishing industry then what’s the point in having a minister at all.

The heavy-handed approach by the SFPA towards the Irish fishing fleet and processing sector has been evident for many years and continually makes a farce of the EU Commission’s claims that we all live in a world of a ‘level playing field’ - - not just in terms of the share out of quotas and the diminishing opportunities for Irish fishing vessels in Irish waters but in that clearly other EU and non EU nations do not face the same level of regulation and penalties as Ireland does from its own control ‘authority’.

But, for me, the real issue here jumps out with one of the comments from the SFPA’s Senior Executive Manager who said that failure on the part of Ireland’s monitoring authority to adequately fulfil their mandate can result in infringement proceedings and potential financial penalties against the State….

So let’s get this straight - - the SFPA can introduce any number of ‘Ireland only’ regulations it wishes and force them upon the Irish fishing industry and impose levels of restrictive operations on Ireland that is ten times the level of those in other EU and non EU nations, but then, if they chose to not apply standard rules to other EU and non EU vessels in Irish waters, then the Irish State (and therefore the Irish fishing industry) will face EU infringement proceedings and financial penalties.

This translates to a mindset of “we’re going to keep kicking the Irish fishing industry and when we don’t give other nations the same treatment, then the penalty for this failure will fall on the Irish fishing industry”.

Therefore the question arises here as to at what point does the SFPA come under Irish State or EU Commission scrutiny? 

When will the failings of this body, already highlighted in three Government and one EU report, be formally and officially investigated?

And how can it be that if the fishing monitoring body are proven guilty of not meeting or fulfilling their mandate then it is not they but the Irish fishing industry, with the best compliance record in the EU, that must face the punishment?

We have already seen this case with the now infamous EU audit report (that many of us in the industry got to see the final draft of but not the finished article) in which the EU generally condemned the SFPA  as being “inefficient” and “incompetent” - - - but the SFPA, with the help of the old regime in the DAFM, managed to get this report buried and never officially published and, in response to industry demands to see the report, the SFPA and DAFM tried to give the impression that the report contained instances of many Irish fishing industry infringements, but strangely enough none of which to this day have ever arisen.

So basically, when the SFPA are ‘doing their job’ then Irish fishermen are going to suffer, and when they don’t do their job with vessels from other nations then Irish fishermen are going to suffer.

The time is long overdue when the SFPA are held accountable for their policies, strategies and actions and it is also time that a Government investigation is held to discuss revoking the apparent ‘untouchable’ status of this out of control body that continues to consider itself an ‘authority’.


The Fishing Daily, November 17th

SFPA Subject to Significant Independent Oversight States Authority Member

The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) has disputed a claim from the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO) who had said there was “no provision independent oversight” of the Authority.

The IFPO had made the comment on LinkedIn in relation to a question from Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson on Fisheries and the Marine, Deputy Padraig Mac Lochlainn TD, who had asked Minister for the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, if he would work to ensure that third country (non-EU) fishing vessels would “face the same stringent control and conservation regime as the Irish fleet”.

In his reply, Minister McConalogue stated that when it came to all operational issues concerning fisheries control, as a matter of law, he was “expressly precluded from getting involved in operational matter.”

This SFPA contacted The Fishing Daily to reject the IFPO’s claim that there was no independent oversight, Senior Executive Manager of SFPA Jonathan Hoare stated: 

“As a Public Body the SFPA is subject to significant independent oversight. As the competent Authority responsible for the enforcement of Sea-Fisheries and Seafood safety law in Ireland the SFPA is subject to European Commission audit in how it oversees the implementation of EU Regulation. Failure to adequately fulfil this mandate can result in infringement proceedings and potential financial penalties against the State.  Both DG Mare and DG Santé conduct audits of SFPA control measures on a regular basis. 

“The Act which established the SFPA grants the Houses of the Oireachtas and specifically the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Agriculture Food and Marine oversight of the SFPA.  Section 49 of the Act provides for an Independent Complaints Office which is established and functioning. The SFPA comes under the auspices of the office of the Ombudsman and the Comptroller and Auditor General. 

“As a Public Body the SFPA is obliged to comply with the FOI Act, the Code of Practice for State Bodies and a significant body of statutory compliance measures. A fully independent Audit & Risk Committee is also in place.”

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