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‘Sole’ destroying


Last week one single Belgian beamer landed into Ireland with 3,740 kilos of black sole from Irish waters worth €75,000 in a single trip while an Irish vessel’s EU quota allowance for the same species is 200 kilos PER MONTH


Cormac Burke, IFSA



In the same week as Ireland’s fisheries minister was pictured on board the launching of yet another new Belgian beamer its no wonder that the fishermen of Ireland’s southeast coast are depressed and feel that they’re in a soul destroying existence as they are forced to watch a fleet of Belgian beam trawlers enjoy a bonanza of wealth in Irish waters while the Irish fleet are being forced to either decommission their vessels or attempt to soldier on with less than one twentieth of the black sole quota that Belgium has in Irish waters.


Since Brexit Irish fishermen have been forced into scrapping around 40 vessels, approximately one third of the entire demersal fleet and meanwhile, also since Brexit, Belgium has built seven new beam trawlers (up to 39.95m in length) with the most recent completed in February this year, mainly to operate in Irish waters, and with unsubstantiated reports that these new buildings came with either Belgian Government or EU grant aid of up to one million euros per vessel.


With around 20 Belgian beamers now working from the edge of the Bristol Channel all across the Irish waters of Areas 7f & 7g  it is no wonder that Irish fishermen are angered that a nation with a maritime coastline smaller than SE Ireland can build a fleet of new boats to fish in Irish waters whilst the Irish fleet is being forced into liquidation at the same time.


Indeed the pressure on fish stocks in Irish waters by this foreign fleet is increasing as wind farms in the North Sea has driven the Belgian beamers off 40% of their traditional fishing grounds there, coupled with a two-thirds reduction in the TAC for sole in the Irish Sea (Area 7a).


One such vessel landing in Ireland on April 2nd shows the huge disparity between the impressive gross earnings of one trip of a Belgian vessel compared to an Irish boat on the same grounds but restricted by minuscule quotas.


The vessel in question landed:

  • [SOL] 3,740 kg - black sole (current market price of over €20 per kilo);

  • [ANF] 1,073 kg - monkfish;

  • [LEZ] 1,293 kg - megrim;

  • [LEM] 856 kg - lemon sole;

And included in this total of 11,588 kg landing was a variety of other species such as cod, hake, ling dab, pollock and haddock.


This trip alone would have grossed the vessel well in excess of €150,000 whilst an Irish vessel fishing the same grounds but greatly restricted by vastly inferior quotas would only earn a fraction of this.


Another such Belgian vessel recently landed 6,100 kg of black sole on its previous trip and Belgian vessel landings regularly include several boxes of lobster and even quantities of whelks.


To add injury to insult for Irish fishermen, it is widely reported from the southeast and east coasts that very few, if any, of these Belgian vessels undergo any SFPA landing checks - - and, in the case of the above-named vessel, there was a low level of monitoring carried out by fishery officers that consisted of a simple counting and tallying of boxes without any inspection of their contents.


With Storm Kathleen recently blowing many of these vessels into Irish ports for shelter, it is a sad reminder for locals who are seeing the Irish fleet totally decimated while the fishing vessels of other EU nations have established ‘satellite’ ports for themselves (Dunmore East, Kilmore Quay, Howth and Dun Laoghaire for the Belgian beamer fleet and Castletownbere and Dingle for the Spanish trawling and long lining fleet).


“How long are we supposed to sit back and watch this?” one southeast fisherman commented to the IFSA.


“What kind of a government have we here in Ireland that they care so little for the resources in Irish waters and for the Irish fishing industry?


“Its bad enough that we have such a minor share in our own waters (Belgian sole quota in Ireland’s Area 7f & 7g is 80% - - Irish sole quota in same areas is 4%) but that we have to witness the decimation of our own fishing grounds by other nations who will just move on whenever they’ve exhausted Irish fish resources,” he said.








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