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No ‘smoking gun’ - part II

Editorial comment – Cormac Burke, Chairman, Irish Fishing & Seafood Alliance

Following on from my summary report of the EU 2018 Audit Report, several additional points need to be made – but as my previous article had to be so long, I decided to hold over the following comments for a follow-up article.

Taken in overall terms, perhaps the biggest realisation that should come to the reader of the EU Audit report is that, despite what everyone has been previously told, this EU report is not intended as a penalising of Irish fishermen – it is a clear punishment of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority and for their incompetence that was plain to see when the EU carried out their industry audit in 2018.

The SFPA have certainly turned around this report in an almost successful attempt to fool both Government and industry that this has been an EU directive to punish ‘infringements’ by Irish fishing vessels but when one ‘drills down’ into the legal jargon and EU statements of the Audit report, it becomes clear that contributions to the EU report by certain frustrated SFPA staff members were NOT saying that the industry is guilty of overfishing but that the system of operation employed by the SFPA was not fit for purpose and that therefore landings of Irish fishing vessels were not being monitored and recorded up to required EU standards.

And it is recognition by the EU Commission of this SFPA incompetence that has resulted in the most recent recommendations which have massive ramifications for the industry.

But two points here:

1. Given that its now clear that the information that was given by the SFPA to the EU has been shown (by the IFSA) to be totally unreliable and based on incorrect data of ullage tables and dipping recordings, the Irish fishing industry now definitely has the ammunition to challenge this report’s findings and the subsequent penalties that are being proposed;

2. The SFPA themselves continue to be proven as wholly incompetent (as reported in the 2012 Wolfe independent report, the 2017/17 Moran internal Government report, the 2020 PwC independent report, and now in the EU 2018 Audit report) and therefore is it not now time for the Government to look at this body, its status of unaccountably, and its extremely poor record in monitoring landings and it’s even worse record in consulting with the industry on matters of high importance.

The fact that the SFPA, in this most recent EU case, tried to bring punishment on every fisherman in Ireland in a bid to cover up its own incompetence is not only an abuse of power and a waste of taxpayers’ money, but it calls into question the entire moral standard of the Authority and of its senior members.

And latest news, with the understanding that fishery officers are also food safety officers, apparently some staff have declared that the newly proposed weighing at point of landing will endanger fish quality to the extent that such as system will be in direct breach of Ireland’s food safety and hygiene laws, the wheels are coming off this entire thing.

Government MUST immediately begin an independent inquiry, disband this body, and form a new competent monitoring body with accountability to an independent board - a body not only the ability to undertake its tasks to EU standards but to work WITH the Irish fishing industry instead of AGAINST it.

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