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It’s so quiet…

After an eventful couple of weeks when the industry was making some genuine progress in getting stuck into some real issues of concern, in particular the SFPA and the truth behind the EU Commission’s 2018 Audit Report, it seems that silence has descended once again.

Needless to say, the Minister has been left with egg on his face following the farcical ‘virtual town hall’ meetings and his fudging of the many serious questions that were put to him which, far from his effort to look in control of the situation, instead brought the worrying reality to everyone just how badly this industry is being managed by those in supposed ‘authority’.

However, while all seems to have gone quiet for now, it appears that things are taking place behind closed doors which I for one would like to see far more transparency on. Such subdiffusion only adds to the frustrations of a beleaguered industry who are screaming for support and leadership.

In an agriculture sector committee online Zoom meeting earlier this week between Minister McConalogue and some 42 Fianna Fail constituency representatives in Connaught and Ulster, when asked about fisheries the Minister replied that he was in ‘active engagement’ with ONE of the fishing industry organisations.

Unofficially, the IFSA is led to believe that a ‘deal’ is under discussion and is mainly in relation to the post-BREXIT ‘burden sharing’ issue of quotas in Ireland but that the SFPA weighing at point of landing issue is not on the table.

These matters are not mutually exclusive. The SFPA issue relates to the immediate survival of our industry and burden sharing relates to the long-term survival of our industry. Therefore, both must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

To be clear, IFSA welcomes any suggestion that positive actions might be imminent - however the clandestine nature of how this is being approached leads me to wonder if those actions will be purposeful or meaningful?

But for me this raises two questions:

1. If this or any other ‘deal’ is under discussion, if the Minister thinks that throwing the industry back a few tonnes of fish is going to decrease the pressure that the IFSA is putting on the SFPA or the Dept Marine, then he is badly mistaken.

There are very compelling arguments for a burden sharing arrangement that will lead to a very significant improvement in the access Irish fishermen will have to fishing quotas in our own waters.

Therefore, the Minister should not be afraid to demand this very significant adjustment as it is the very least that our industry expects of our Government.

2. Secondly, with the Minister and his Dept of Marine officials opening talks with one individual organisation, one can’t help but feel that we’re back to the old ‘divide and conquer’ regime as NO SINGLE organisation in this country has the mandate or the authority to speak on behalf of this nation’s overall fishing industry – particularly when that organisation has not even sought consultation with its own members never mind the rest of the industry.

And so, without pre-empting the outcome of any ongoing talks, I believe that this ‘deal’ raises serious concerns and will fall short of our reasonable expectations unless the deal is to the benefit of ALL sectors in the inshore, demersal and pelagic fisheries, which I seriously doubt it will be.

If, for example, the Minister brokers a deal with one organisation and for one sector of the industry then this is bound to lead to unrest and a feeling of neglect for other sectors – as I say, the old ‘divide and conquer’ strategy.


Another strange occurrence is the fact that at a private meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee meeting last Monday, one T.D. Committee Member issued a statement that that Minister had declared that “it appears that the SFPA has mislead the Joint Committee” in regards to the weighing debacle.

This is news of huge proportions as it confirms that the SFPA are not the ‘competent authority’ as declared by Government – and confirms what the industry, three independent Government reports and one EU report has already said in that the systems employed by this body are ‘not fit for purpose’.

And yet, other than Independent TD Michael Collins’ social media statement on the Minister’s declaration, there hasn’t been a single word from anyone.

No press statements, nothing in the media and worse still, nothing from the industry….

Shouldn’t everyone be all over this news and asking the Minister, and Government, will they now at last look to disbanding this incompetent body and reforming it with, at the very least, the setting up an independent board to include fishing industry representation, to which the new monitoring & control body would be accountable to?

And yet, silence…

Cork Harbour ‘show and tell’

Next Wednesday (May 26th) will see a fleet of Co. Cork vessels arrive in Cork Harbour in a bid to show the general public the fishing vessels and try to bring some reality to the public who are normally fed only by anti-industry propaganda newspapers.

Not everyone in the industry agrees with the staging of this event as some feel that if there is to be any type of show of strength then it should take the form of a full-scale national fleet co-ordinated protest with the full backing of all industry representative organisations.

I do agree with this sentiment and I can see that an eventual national protest on a large scale will probably be needed at some point to achieve anything of a genuine nature if this Government doesn’t start taking the industry’s concerns more seriously, but while the Cork event may be taking a more gentle approach, I think those making the effort to bring their boats should be supported and that it certainly doesn’t hurt to try to educate the public and God knows, this industry can do with as much public sympathy as it can get.

Our industry is becoming a metaphor for rural communities throughout this country who feel disenfranchised from the decision makers in Leinster House.

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