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SFPA - laziness or a hidden agenda?

Editorial comment by Cormac Burke, Chairman IFSA

As always, keeping regular observation on various fishing industry ‘Authority’ bodies, it struck me today as I glanced at the SFPA (Sea Fisheries Protection Authority) website that 1.) 99% of their news stories are of a negative nature as in charges, fines, breaking of regulations etc. and 2.) any story with a news headline containing words such as ‘convicted’, ‘illegal’ or ‘offences’ etc is accompanied by a photograph of the Killybegs pelagic fleet.

Now this may just be laziness on the part of whoever edits the SFPA website, or worse still an acknowledgment that some within the SFPA staff don’t know the difference between a demersal and a pelagic vessel - - but the cynic in me believes that this is not merely an accident but a clear and intentional agenda as part of the SFPA’s longstanding attempt to create a subtle link in the minds of the public of illegal activities in the Irish pelagic catching and processing sector.

As can be clearly seen in the sample screenshots of just two of the news reports from June & July this year from their website which accompany this article, one is regarding bass and the other monkfish, and yet both stories carry (out-of-date) photos of the Killybegs’ pelagic fleet.

Almost two decades has passed since the SFPA organised and led a highly publicised massive ‘raid’ which included Garda, Fraud Squad and Revenue investigators on the Killybegs’ pelagic industry at a massive cost to the Irish tax payer, and yet this operation turned up almost nothing incriminating.

And all of this latest subtle anti-industry propaganda is the current backdrop to one of the biggest fiascos in fishing industry control & monitoring in the whole of Europe as the SFPA, since insisting that they will no longer monitor fish quantities and/or species differences at factories as they had previously done are now forcing vessels and factories to base figures on random samples taken at various times at the quayside.

Therefore, whilst telling everyone that Ireland has an EU obligation for accurate landing & processing figures, the system they themselves are now forcing upon the industry by only using random pier-side samples is constantly producing inaccurate figures which will eventually, at the end of a season, produce a correct total gross tonnage of fish landed (as the lorries must go over a weigh bridge) but that the species make-up of amounts landed and processed will conflict with the actual physical amounts landed and processed.

For example, it was the SFPA who insisted that some 79 CC TV cameras (with live feed to SFPA HQ) were installed in the fish factories of Killybegs, but then announced their refusal to continue to carry out fish monitoring at these factories and insist on samples taken at the quayside to come up with total amounts.

For an organisation that is attempting to portray itself as being ‘ahead of the game’ in comparison to other EU monitoring authorities, in terms of working with pelagics the SFPA has managed to once again make Ireland the laughing stock of the EU fishing industry with ever-changing Mickey Mouse regulations and a damning indictment that this organisation, far from being the ‘competent authority’ it claims to be, is in fact the exact opposite.

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