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Sad but true...

In some other parallel universe, Susan Steele, the outgoing head of Ireland’s Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) and newly-appointed Executive Director of the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) believes that her tenure at the Irish authority has been successful and that she has acted as a “relationship builder” in her role, writes Cormac Burke, IFSA Chairman.

The Irish fishing industry will be gob smacked to hear that Ms Steele thinks that the relationship between the SFPA and the Irish fishing industry is anything other than disastrous – and is possibly the worst relationship in living memory of a control authority and fishermen of any EU Member State.

Perhaps the learned Ms Steele needs to examine the Oxford Dictionary’s description of the word ‘successful’.

As reported by ‘thefishingdaily’, Ms Steele was speaking to the European Parliament’s Committee in Fisheries (PECH Committee) whilst announcing her aims to increase the number of EFCA inspection patrol vessels at the agency based in Vigo, Spain from one to three in order to “crack down” on the EU fishing fleet.

Am I missing something here?

The SFPA has been openly been found to be “incompetent”, “inefficient” and “not fit for purpose” by no fewer than three Irish Government reports in the last decade – and these findings are then backed by an EU Commission report, you know the one, the report that the SFPA lied to the Joint Committee of the Oireachtas and to the industry when they said that it was the industry that was incompetent in its compliance to regulations when in fact the EU report had very clearly stated that it was the SFPA themselves who were not fit for purpose (hence why this report has been kept hidden from the industry for the past three years).

And yet, despite the Minister admitting last week to private meeting of this Oireachtas Committee that the SFPA had “misled this Committee” in regard to the EU Audit report and the weighing debacle, there appears to be zero recriminations – not even an effort of apology from the SFPA nor any Government action on the industry’s calls for disbandment and reformation of this dysfunctional body.

Not just perplexed by this lack of punishment, the Irish fishing industry cannot understand that the head of an organisation with such a renowned record of incompetence can be promoted to a senior EU job of such importance and then report bare-faced lies of the ‘good relationship between Ireland’s fishing sector and the control authority?

Hilariously, Ms Steele also told the EU Parliament that she “regards it as extremely important that we have a level-playing-field within Europe” and that EFCA has a key role in this level-playing-field.

Given that Ireland is now only allowed to catch 15% of the total quota in its own waters the term “level playing field” has long since been debunked as a myth and Ireland being under control of the EU Commission means that Irish fishermen will never experience anything like a level playing field.

Or perhaps she is referring to a level playing field in terms of policing the EU-wide industry – in which case can we look forward to seeing an SFPA-style of ridiculous penalty points regulation and a weighing at point of landing also imposed on the fishing industries in Spain, France and Netherlands?

And, in the new role as head of the EFCA, will Ms Steele be raising the strange situation where Ireland is the only EU Member State that its monitoring and control authority are an isolated and unaccountable body and not even answerable to the fisheries minister?

The numbers game

Also, worth noting that at that same meeting, Ms Steele reported to the European Parliament that last year there were some 38,450 fisheries infringement cases in the EU.

Since Ireland’s fishing industry have been continually linked in the media with “huge levels of overfishing and ongoing infringements” through ‘leaks’ (and, in case you’ve just arrived here from another planet ‘leaks’ mean propaganda passed to the media by the SFPA themselves and the Dept. of Marine), are we not therefore within our rights to ask what is the exact official percentage of supposed infringements by Ireland in the overall context of the EU?

And, now that she is in a position to know the facts, perhaps the information on actual numbers of fishery officers in each EU Member State can be released as it is widely believed that Ireland has more officers in Killybegs or Castletownbere that some other EU nations have for the whole country…

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