How the other half live
As ever it seems to have been, Ireland’s fishing industry remains in a perpetual state of depression, uncertainty and confusion.
The inshore sector has always been neglected by our governments and authorities and there always seems to be a lack of political will to try to help develop and increase any fishing opportunities for this fleet which makes up the backbone of the Irish industry.
And management of inland fisheries is in disarray with Eamon Ryan finally dissolving the IFI board this week following a history of catastrophes and a litany of controversial events.
Meanwhile the long-suffering demersal fleet, not only working on a pittance of a quota since Ireland’s lack of genuine representation during the ill-fated BREXIT negotiations, are now facing a decommissioning scheme which, rather that being any sort of compensation for voluntarily leaving the industry, has been designed in such a fashion that it is more like a punishment and will leave many with little or no reward after years of dedicated service to this industry.
The Seafood Task Force saw objections by some industry representatives made regarding a decommissioning scheme and yet when the final transcripts and summary report of the outcome of the Task Force talks were published, any such objection was omitted for the Minister’s version.
This sector has also never seen a single cent in actual compensation for lost quotas and rising fuel costs while other EU Member States have actively been operating such schemes.
And then there’s the pelagic sector - - the smallest sector in vessel numbers but the most important in terms of catching value and seasonal processing employment in coastal regions — a sector in an ever-spiralling decrease in mackerel quota and a sector which needed robust defending in recent times as Norway attempted to bully the EU Commission to permit them access to catch vast amounts of blue whiting in Irish waters while Ireland were to remain on its small quota.
If there has been one tiny shaft of light in this depressing time it has been that Ireland, through the work of the various POs and MEPs such as Colm Markey, have worked together to convince the EU Commission of Ireland’s right to defend its fish in its own waters and, given a successful blocking of an effort to steamroll over these rights, this small victory may be the start of something more positive in that the Irish fishing industry will no longer be seen as pushovers by the EU and by other Member and non-Member States next time it comes to pelagic or demersal quotas.
There’s been no mention of the 53 million euros that this sector has lost since BREXIT and no mention of the financial compensation as a result of ‘burden sharing’ that was promised - a scheme which has already seen the Danish pelagic fleet given monies in lieu of quotas lost.
Topping all this off the Irish fishing industry has to fight against a rising scale of wind farm development often which entails little or no genuine dialogue with the fishing industry or results in any form of benefit or compensation to fishermen.
Amidst all of this depression and confusion one would be entitled to ask where is our Minister for ‘Fishers’ Charlie McConalogue?
Recently described in Dáil Éireann by Ind TD Michael Collins (whilst discussing a failed agricultural Bill) as “a minister and a department that has lost all credibility and has lost the confidence of the people”, Charlie McConalogue deemed Round 5 of the EU / Norway / Ireland blue whiting talks in Brussels (which transpired to be the final and most crucial of these negotiations) not worthy of his presence but don’t worry folks as he will now happily pack his bags for a jaunt to New Zealand next month where he will attend St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
Perhaps the Fishers Minister would better serve the industry by staying at home and writing some answers to ongoing questions such as:
(I) why he is overseeing investment in the expansion of Irish fishery harbours whilst at the same time overseeing a decommissioning scheme and reduction of the size of the fleet?
(II) who exactly are such structural improvements to quaysides intended to benefit if the Irish fleet is being decreased in numbers?
(III) can we see accountability with regards the funding of such projects i.e. that this money is not being taken out of the EU BAR fund that was intended as compensation for Irish fishermen and that it is coming out of the national structural fund as it should be?
(IV) and finally when will the minister actually be his own man, make his mark on this industry for the right reasons for a change, and start working with & for the benefit of this industry and not just spend his term in office speaking from the prepared scripts from his DAFM officials?