Industry slams SFPA operational ‘fees’
IFPEA and IFSA issue joint statement on the announcement that the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) will, from October 1st, impose a landing fee of one euro per tonne for the first 50 tonnes and fifty cents for each tonne thereafter.
In a letter of intent sent out to the industry today (August 5th) the SFPA state that they will “be charging fees in respect of food safety official controls carried out at approved establishments and approved vessels, as required by the Official Controls Regulation (EU) 2017/625 which came into force on 1/1/2019. This EU regulation introduced a suite of charges for food safety official controls at approved establishment and vessels. Article 20 of SI No 22 of 2020 gives legal effect to this Regulation”.
The letter goes on to say that “all approved establishments and vessels are required to complete and submit to the SFPA for the purpose of issuing invoices and a template of the self-declaration form, all approved establishments and vessels are required to complete and submit to the SFPA for the purpose of charging fees. The self declaration form must be submitted the SFPA within a week of quarter end. The SFPA will issue the invoice for fees to the operator by the end of the same month.
Chairman of the Irish Fishing and Seafood Alliance (IFSA), Cormac Burke, says that the imposition of these new fees would be laughable if the situation wasn’t so serious.
“Here we have an organisation that has been officially declared as incompetent in three separate Irish Government reports as well as an independent EU report - an organisation that receives in excess of 25 million euros of Irish taxpayers’ ‘operational’ money every year and now they intend to charge fishermen and processors for the pleasure of the SFPA’s infamous mismanagement and harassment of this industry,” he said.
“It’s also no secret that this organisation has, and continues to have, internal problems - all of which have given the SFPA the tag of ‘dysfunctional’ for so many years,” Cormac said, adding that while such a fee may sound minor, it in fact mounts up to annually 200 euros for inshore vessels, 500 euros for demersal vessels and, for the pelagic processing facilities, a possible 27,000 euros per year for EACH factory.
“With the SFPA presumably financially comfortable with the millions of euros of State aid it receives, one can only believe that this is not a money-making exercise by the SFPA but is solely intended as yet another form of burden on an already under-pressure industry.
“I can’t help feeling that Ireland’s fishing industry - from the inshore men all the way to the large pelagic processors - are being pushed just to see when will the breaking point come. Well this might just be the straw the breaks the camel’s back as it is an unfair penalty that will effect ALL fishing vessels and fish factories!” Cormac concluded.
CEO of the Irish Fish Processors & Exporters’ Association (IFPEA), Brendan Byrne, says that he will be seeking clarification on these intended imposition of fees by the SFPA.
“We are shocked at the casual approach adopted by the SFPA in imposing these fees on the fishing industry.
“We as a representative body will be requiring a discussion on this matter before any fees are to be levied on the sector and we feel that the Minister and Government needs to commit to a real and meaningful reform of the SFPA, as opposed to the current farce of reforming a dysfunctional organisation from the inside or from within their existing structures,” he said.
“Successive reports have found and concluded the SFPA to be ‘not fit for purpose’, to be lacking in management and internal organisational ability – in fact not one single report or study has found them to be fit for purpose. I refer directly to the Wolf Report in 2011, Moran study and the PWC report in 2020 – all providing shocking assessments of the SFPA.
“In light of these circumstances how could the fishing sector be expected to pay thousands of euros to such an organisation?” Brendan said, adding that the IFPEA and the IFSA will be requesting the Minister to reform the 2006 Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act, in order to provide proper oversight of the SFPA.
“We will be further requesting that the SFPA implement an agreed protocols of engagement with the fishing industry – they are currently working on such a document for the past SEVEN years but yet it remains unfinished.
“The SFPA requires an immediate independent board to oversee the daily functioning and nothing less than that will be accepted.
“There is no circumstances whereby the industry can agree to payments to an organisation which at present is struggling to be managed internally or function within the role expected of them effectively – meantime the Government stands idly by with out taking any action.
“Todays circulation only adds to the farcical nature in which fisheries and marine are operating at present – its beyond a joke to be honest,” Mr Byrne concluded.