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Leading Irish marine expert endorses IFSA

One of Ireland’s most respected fishing industry experts, Galway-based Dr Peter Tyndall, has this week offered his public support of the Irish Fishing & Seafood Alliance (IFSA).

Formerly a top fishing & gear technologist with BIM, Dr Tyndall currently heads up the National Fishermen’s Development Group and, in an open letter to IFSA, Dr Tyndall has welcomed the establishment of the organisation and of its choice of Chairman.

“The need for an independent strong voice for our industry is critical at this juncture and, as you will see later on in this letter, the word ‘crisis’ doesn’t come close to describing the current state of Ireland’s fishing industry and there is a real danger of the economic collapse of our rural coastal communities,” Dr Tyndall said.

“And I’m well aware that IFSA Chairman Cormac Burke is not one to seek praise for the contribution he has made in this industry over the years, but here we have a man who spent 16 years at sea, recovered from a major injury to go on to become editor of the Irish Skipper where he was reputed for his constant defence of the industry, before going on to London to become editor-in-chief of the weekly Fishing News and the monthly Fishing News International where he was equally popular with UK fishermen for his support of the industry there.

“As far as I’m concerned, the IFSA is exactly what the industry needs right now and the right man is at the wheel to help gather support and promote the unified voice that we so badly need,” he said.

Dr Tyndall has shared with IFSA his clear summary of the state of Ireland’s fishing industry and defines that there ARE solutions - firstly in that our Government must immediately start to recognize that this country’s coastal communities are a vital part of Irish culture and safeguarding their existence must be a priority:

The fishing Industry and coastal communities needs your support.

The Problem

Uniquely among our European members, Ireland’s fishing industry and coastal communities have been utterly failed by our political leaders and our senior civil servants.

There is a litany of failures and missed opportunities going back over many years and we are not going to rehash all these failures here. Even those with no knowledge of the marine sector are well aware that one of our greatest national resources have been gifted to other member states and third countries.

The Brexit fiasco is only the latest, albeit an extremely serious one, in this stream of failures. The astonishing point is that, despite all the successive failures, the government make no admission that they have failed and continue to fail the country. This must change.

What is required now is your help in bringing about a new mindset so that we can begin to correct this shameful attitude.

Unlike so many entities in the State, the fishing industry does not seek financial support from Government—it simply requests that politicians and senior civil servants do the work for which they are very well paid, by Irish tax payers, not by Europe. They are not agents of Europe.

Norwegian, Danish, Dutch, Belgian, German, Lithuanian, French, Spanish and British vessels all fish in Irish waters and remove billions of euros worth of fish.

Spanish and French vessels land huge volumes of fish on a daily basis in Killybegs, Dingle and Castletownbere. If a single Irish vessel landed in a month what any one of them land in a week it would be arrested and the skipper would receive a criminal record. The Japanese bring their fleets of Bluefin tuna vessels from the far side of the world to fish just outside our limits and would love to get closer to our coast.

How much bluefin, a rapidly increasing species, are we allowed land? Zero! That’s correct, not a single fish. It is not that we don’t have opportunities as a country to access more fish–our situation is a reflection of inept government and continuous failings.

The Brexit deal means that Ireland faces overall cuts of 15%, with our most lucrative fishery, mackerel, being cut by 26%. When this translates into job losses we could see around 2,500 jobs lost in our most peripheral regions.

Unbelievably, the British still retain their full quota in Irish waters and the EU have agreed that they will re-examine the situation in five years and again in 10 years. Given our government’s performance to date I dread to think what our situation will be like in 10 years time. This is why the industry and the coastal communities, who really have no alternative employment, need you to help make our case and fight to right these wrongs.

Our government frequently use the excuse that the EU won’t allow this or that. On this occasion we had the power of veto and cannot use that well-worn excuse. If we had the interests of our national asset at heart we would have made it clear, like the French did not hesitate to do, that we were fully prepared to use this veto then this was an opportunity to reclaim British quota in our waters and improve our situation, not significantly damage it further.

The Solution

Of course there are possible answers to this self-inflicted damage but they require committed politicians and civil servants. There are three areas where we can make a case immediately and one argument where a case needs to be pushed by you at every opportunity, starting now, so that we receive a better outcome when the CFP is reviewed in 2023.

The founding Treaties of the EU guarantee income and sustainable employment. This Brexit agreement results in considerable loss of income to many fishermen and will result in unemployment. At the same time as destroying a section of the Irish industry they are allowing Britain, now a third country, to fish away in our waters.

This Brexit deal is in clear violation of the Maastricht treaty.

The Hague Preference is meant to act as a safeguard for Ireland when access to stocks falls below an agreed limit. We are now the only state in the EU where the entire state is coastal and we must employ the Hague Preference to balance this deal.

A cornerstone of the CFP is relative stability. This means that as the quota expands or contracts from year to year each country’s slice remains proportional. If the Brexit deal was corrected for relative stability and the burden shared as it should be, then our losses would be halved. If relative stability cannot be restored then the CFP is dead and the Govt need to declare it so and renationalise our resources.

In the longer term the whole CFP needs to be challenged. Are you aware of how cynical a late grab of our nation’s fishery resources was carried out by the founding countries of the EEC? Exactly one day before Ireland’s accession talks began, the Council adopted the future regulation under which they gave themselves access up to our beaches. This should leave no doubt in your mind that we were hung out to dry in a very calculated manner.

It cannot be denied that the CFP has been a failure and it’s injustices were actively worked by the Tories and the Brexit party. We all remember Nigel Farrage dumping boxes of fish into the Thames. If only a small percentage of voters were swayed by this emotive argument it is possible that the CFP may ultimately have determined the narrow final winning margin in the UK referendum.

The damaging effect that the CFP has had in Europe is totally disproportionate to it’s economic contribution. Norway rejected membership on two occasions while Iceland decided against joining. Greenland, a home rule dependency of Denmark, pulled away. It is understood that the inherent injustices of the CFP played a significant part in all these decisions and the question must be asked is it worth this cost to Europe?

Surely it is not beyond European leaders’ ability to meaningfully examine the CFP when it is next due for review in 2023. Even with the critical new agenda of reducing carbon emissions there is a strong argument that those closest to the resource should access it proportionately. Coastal states should manage the stocks within their national limits in line with ICES advice in proportion to the stocks in their waters. This would leave only highly migratory species to be managed under the CFP.

Ireland’s leaders MUST have the courage and confidence to promote this argument with our European partners in the knowledge that it can lead to a fairer, more honest system resulting in healthier stocks which would be more in keeping with the stated aspirations of European partnership.

Please help us to correct the injustices of the CFP and begin the fight to rebuild our fishing industry and our coastal communities.

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