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War of the words

Even the most intelligent of people can be manipulated with the clever use of words – with some people paid vast amounts of money to present one thing as something else entirely.

For example, if a company proclaims “our burgers are made using 100% Irish beef” they aren’t saying that their burgers consist of 100% beef but that the quantity of beef that they do use in their burgers is 100% Irish -- but naturally the reader or listener has received the information “100%” and “Irish beef” and the brain has drawn its own conclusion.

The manipulation of words can even be used in something as simple as water:

“Water is the main ingredient in all pesticides & herbicides – Fact! Overconsumption of water can lead to excessive sweating, urination and even death… Fact! All serial killers, rapists, drug dealers have admitted to drinking water… Fact! 100% of all people exposed to water will eventually die…Fact!”

That all of these ‘water’ statements are indeed factual could, if one didn’t know better, present a case that water is apparently the most dangerous element in the world.

And so, this brings us back to the wordsmiths and number crunchers in our own fishing and seafood industries and how their clever manipulation of words can be used when presenting the state of the industry to the general public.

In recent months Minister Charlie McConalogue, and his Department of Marine advisors, have gone to great lengths to tell everyone that the cost to Ireland of the fumbled BREXIT deal will be in the region of €43m and that it “could have been worse”.

Whilst few would agree that it could have been any worse, lets examine the figures upon which the Minister’s statement is based:

· Firstly, these figures are centred on a loss to the Irish fishing fleet of 15% of quota – but makes no reference to the other non-quota species that Irish fishermen have lost; for example the squid fishery that Irish vessels operate every year but that, since BREXIT, the UK are now attempting to exclude non UK vessels from – and this factor alone immediately increases the figure of €43m upwards;

· The Minister and his officials are well aware that, based on one year’s landing value alone, to equate the loss of 15% of quota to a predicted €43m loss does not include the five-year multiplier of the real loss i.e., €215m;

· And, while the Minister thinks people will believe that a 15% quota loss can be simply be translated into €43m, he must also be aware that quotas are considered in all financial institutions as ‘non depreciating assets’, as evidenced in the recent discussions between the EU Commission and Norway, when the real value of quotas was based on a 20-year period -- therefore the “only” €43m loss” we are being told about is, in reality, €860m.

But for anyone who holds reservations over my translation of the figures above, let’s look at the recently published BIM Seafood Report for 2020:

This report, proudly welcomed by the Minister himself, factually states that the Irish seafood industry was last year worth a total of €1.09bn and, after removing the value of the elements not affected by the BREXIT deal (aquaculture €180m and non-Irish landings €132m) that leaves a figure of €694m.

Now calculate the admitted 15% quota loss to Irish fishermen and the knock-on effect to the processing, retail and export figures and we arrive at €104.1m and, if using the EU/Norway declaration of quota valued over 20 years then the eventual loss to the Irish fishing and seafood industry is in excess of €2.82bn.

All of this of course does not include the priceless loss of 15% revenue to all of Ireland’s fishing and seafood communities – the reduction of 15% of fish factory and ancillary companies’ staff, the impact on the economies of coastal communities, a fleet decommissioning scheme and, in general, a further shrinking of this traditional maritime sector that will now become one step closer to turning Ireland from a once vibrant sea fishing country into a sleepy marine tourism destination where people, inhabitants from the very EU nations who are increasingly plundering our rich waters, can come to see the quaint little Irish coastal towns and take postcard photos of the old stubbly-chinned out-of-work fishermen sitting on a bollard on the quayside and talking about the great days gone by…

Shame on you Mr McConalogue and your Department civil servants for your part in this attempted deception of the Irish people – and a shame on this Government for assisting the EU Commission in its bid to eventually own the lion’s share of fish in Irish waters whilst Irish fishermen face ruination.

Cormac Burke,

Chairman, IFSA

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