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THE TAIL WAGGING THE DOG


- more abuse for Irish fishing industry

Irish Government once again assists in another attack on the fishing industry -- only months after giving away 15% of Ireland’s fish quota

Ireland’s pelagic industry (mackerel, scad, herring & blue whiting) are once again to be the sacrificial lamb of the mis-management of the Irish fishing and seafood industry with the announcement last weekend that the traditional system of weighing of fish at their arrival to local factories in tankers from the quayside will no longer be allowed.

As other EU nations have factories based on the actual quaysides with no transportation of fish required, for decades Ireland has always had a special derogation allowing fish to be pumped into tankers containing chilled water and then brought to the local factories where fisheries inspection officers could weigh and record the volumes of fish before, during and after the processing stages — all within EU fisheries monitoring legislation.

It was with some satisfaction that Ireland’s Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) made the announcement that the “EU has withdrawn weighing derogation as a consequence to pelagic fisheries audit”

- - I say “with some satisfaction” because the proposal to remove this special allowance came from the well-publicised comments that were contributed to a 2018 EU report by the dysfunctional SFPA themselves who, at that time were in the midst of internal wrangling and their staff were refusing to visit various processing factories to undertake their required EU weighing and monitoring duties.

Despite they themselves being the authors of this latest decision, which will have huge ramifications for Ireland’s pelagic industry, the SFPA press release almost attempts to place the blame for this event entirely on the EU by saying that “the European Commission’s decision arises from the EU audit in Ireland in 2018 aimed at monitoring the implementation of Ireland’s controls for Pelagic fisheries”.

“The findings of that audit identified irregularities, including the manipulation of weighing systems in some instances, that were subsequently confirmed by the administrative inquiry conducted by the SFPA,” their statement read, but makes no reference to the fact that it was the SFPA’s own recommendations in that report that Ireland’s weighing derogation should be ceased by the EU Commission and that the so-called findings of that report never turned up any “irregularities” that were in breach of EU law.

Worse still in store for fishermen is the fact that if weighing is only permitted at point of landing, the SFPA will now likely attempt proceed with their other project in which they insist that tanker lorries of fish will only be allowed contain a maximum 2% water as they go on the weigh-bridge - - thereby crushing the fish under its own weight and making it useless as a human consumption seafood product for national and international markets.

The pelagic industry has fought this controversial issue and even invested €500,000 into the design and manufacture of a unique ‘flow scales’ weighing system that allows for the fish to be weighed by the fisheries officers as it travels from the vessel to the tankers, without any damage to the quality of the fish.

But, for reasons known only to themselves, the SFPA have rejected this system despite it being certified as the most modern and efficient of its type anywhere in Europe.

ACCOUNTABILITY

So here we are yet again - a recognised ‘dysfunctional’ body (as described in an PWC independent Government report), the SFPA, an Irish Government agency has recommended to the EU Commission proposals aimed to hinder the Irish fishing industry (under the guise of “increasing monitoring standards” but is in fact yet another flexing of muscle and an abuse of power), the EU Commission considers it a genuine claim as it comes from what should be a reliable source, so they consent to the proposal and then the SFPA informs the industry, the Dept Marine and the Minister that “we have to carry out this order as it comes from the EU Commission”.

If there was ever a case of ‘the tail wagging the dog’ then this is surely it.

After years of this industry being ruled by the Department of Marine’s reign of ‘divide and conquer’ and currently being ably assisted by a marine minister who is clearly out of his depth and has already proven that he has scant regard for the opinions of the people of Ireland’s coastal communities, the industry now faces a situation in which the IRISH Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority, the IRISH Department of Marine and the IRISH Government have all combined forces to further hamper the IRISH fishing industry.

For once, the blame on this occasion does not lie with the EU Fisheries Commission - they have simply rubber stamped a proposal that has come from the Irish ‘authorities’.

And this situation also answers the question that we all ask: why are other EU nations not harassed as much by the EU Commission as Ireland seems to be?

The answer is that much of the time the EU fishing monitoring department is not the problem - unfortunately our enemy lies much closer to home....

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