While the following article is quite a lengthy read, it is comprised of selected questions and answers from the recent Dail Eireann debate on fisheries (January 21st) and highlights: (a) the genuine concerns about the fishing industry from T.D.s of many different political parties and, (b) the fact that the Minister is continuing to churn out the same answers regardless of the question.
Personally, two things (amongst many) jump out at me: firstly I wish the Minister would stop saying “we fought tooth and nail to defend Ireland’s case” because if this is the embarrassing result of ‘fighting tooth and nail’ then I dread to think what would have been the outcome if they weren’t trying – and secondly, he talks about the Task Force and “engaging with the coastal communities” all the while making it abundantly clear that a tie-up scheme, and ultimately a fleet decommissioning programme, will be the recommended steps.
Deputy Charlie McConalogue
The EU-UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement will have a negative impact on the fishing industry but, while the outcome was a difficult compromise, the Government will work to ensure fisheries and coastal communities are supported.
Deputy Matt Carthy
From a fisheries perspective this was an incredibly bad deal for Ireland and it isn’t the first time that fishing communities are losers in our interactions with the EU - this is not fair and nobody would accept that it is fair.
Does the Minister accept that there needs to be a re-evaluation of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)? - anybody looking at this objectively would accept the quota Ireland receives is pathetic considering we’re the largest island in the EU and our quota proportion does not reflect that.
We should tell the EU that we are not accepting further treaty change until there is a CFP re-evaluation.
Also, does the Minister accept that there needs to be a Minister of State with responsibility for fisheries and the marine?
In the run-up to the next CFP review, taking place throughout the end of this year and into next year, I will make our view clear. My objective be to ensure a strong outcome to the CFP review in allocation of quota to Ireland.
Deputy Padraig MacLochlainn
Our fishing industry acted in good faith, working with other member states' representatives, and were shafted.
The burden that our fishing industry is being asked to take is shocking.
They don’t want financial compensation - they want to fish the abundance of fish in the waters around our country.
The Government voted down an amendment from Sinn Féin that mandated the Minister renegotiate the CFP to ensure the Irish fishing industry gets a fair share of the fish in its waters.
We fought tooth and nail, working alongside the fishing sector throughout the negotiation process to ensure that fisheries were prioritised and we held the strongest line possible.
I will continue at European level to put forward Ireland's case.
Deputy Sean Sherlock
The Minister mentioned a temporary fleet tie-up scheme in the context of the €1 billion Brexit adjustment fund. Is he giving consideration to a decommissioning scheme, and will he include smaller vessels that would have been excluded which were under the 18m threshold? We want to ensure that smaller boats would be included as well.
The Government is committed to address the impact that the sector has seen and part of that will be consideration of a temporary fleet tie-up scheme.
My intention is to set up a task force to ensure that ideas from those who are affected and from coastal communities fully feed into that.
We must be honest with fishing communities that the consequence of this deal will have an impact, especially on smaller inshore vessels.
I would ask the Minister give me an answer in respect of whether he will consider the idea of a decommissioning scheme specifically in favour of smaller vessels.
We have examined all contingencies, including the possibility of decommissioning.
Deputy Steven Mathews
Our fishing communities are going through a tough time and we still don’t know exactly the quotas and the total allowable catch (TACs) that will be shared out or what sustainability criteria will be applied to it.
Deputy Christopher O’Sullivan
Both the Taoiseach and Minister have acknowledged the impact that the Brexit deal will have on the fishing sector across Ireland.
Many aspects of it are unfair, such as the amount of quota share for a species like mackerel which has been given back to the UK.
Ireland will give back 26% while Spain will give back 0.2% and Denmark will give back 0.8% and, from those percentages, one can see that Ireland is unfairly burdened and severely impacted. It’s important we react because businesses will close and jobs will be lost.
I have discussed with the sector how a task force could be a constructive way ahead. I will be engaging with the sector on the task force's composition as it will be essential to have the views of fishermen and coastal communities.
There have to be opportunities with fishing other species. We mentioned mackerel which has to be looked at again and, for other species such as hake, haddock and monk, some EU nations, such as France, are not using their TACs. It’s important that we go back to those figures and see where there is ‘wriggle room’ for Ireland to increase quotas without increasing the overall TAC.
Any option will be fully explored. My objective is to ensure this sector is as strong as it can be at European level and we have a strong quota for various species.
Deputy Holly Cairns
Many small-scale fishermen feel that Government is working against them rather than fighting for them - this has been the case with successive governments.
At present, many are frustrated by bureaucratic technicalities - the Department should be out there working with them to meet requirements. This is the type of Department that fishing communities need.
Deputy Mairead Farrell
The fishing community is outraged at how once again it has been left behind and forgotten.
I also want to raise the concerning issue of the Porcupine Bank. While we are discussing this, this area is closed to local boats while British boats did not lose a single prawn quota and are now trawling for prawns while local Irish boats are currently tied up?
There is also concern among those who fish pelagic species as they have lost a large quota percentage, far more than other countries -- this is crippling the fishing community and it affects the entire community; not only fishermen but local shops, people who fix boats and every element of local economy.
We’re looking for renegotiation of the CFP to get a better deal for fishing communities.
I will continue to assess the situation. I fought hard on the Porcupine Bank at the EU Council and we will return to it at the next Council meeting. I hope we will have additional prawn quota for the Porcupine Bank by the end of March.
Deputy Dara Calleary
Regarding the inshore fishing community, they are often forgotten but are an important part of it in terms of their engagement in the industry.
They need a separate investment programme for fleet and infrastructure to assist them to get through this challenge.
Also, we have taken the biggest quota hit, particularly in mackerel. What are the chances of quota rebalancing within the short term? Renegotiating the CFP is more medium term and will not produce the kind of results that we need, but in terms of where the fishing industry finds itself, is there any willingness to adjust quota reserves across the countries that matter as a response to the Irish situation?
Deputy Johnny Mythen
I’ve met inshore and offshore fishermen who feel completely let down and say that they’re once again being used as sacrificial pawns on the chessboard of the Brexit-EU negotiations.
The loss of 15% of quotas will have a huge effect on communities and will inevitably cause job losses and a depletion of Irish fishing vessels.
It is a loss of a natural resource that rightfully belongs to Irish people. Their backs are literally being put to the harbour walls. They do not want to see their boats decommissioned - they simply want to fish as they have done for generations.
Were any solutions put forward to counteract the loss of quotas for the Irish fleet, especially in terms of mackerel and herring?
What solutions will the Government be bringing forward? What proposals are in place in terms of the CFP review and the loss in quotas? And will a support package be put in place to compensate Irish lobster fishermen to shield them from any new surge of US tariff-free imports?
Deputy Michael Collins
The latest analysis released by officials in the Department (DAFM) illustrates how out of touch the Minister is on this issue.
The preliminary analysis now confirms that the transfer of quota shares from Ireland is a staggering 27% higher than Government initially announced.
This sector faces a 26% cut in quota, worth €28.6 million. Approximately 60% of this cut will emerge in 2021 so the impact will be felt immediately.
What is the number of EU, non-Irish, UK and other coastal state vessels that have authorisation to fish in the biologically sensitive area in the Celtic Sea, off the west coast, Irish Sea and off the Donegal coast?
How does the Government monitor the amounts of fish that these vessels catch every day in Irish waters?
Our position has been to defend the fishing sector tooth and nail. It might be easy to present that as a sell-out but our approach was to ensure that it was prioritised.
Deputy Thomas Pringle
On the issue of mackerel quotas, as one fisherman told me that if mackerel had passports, they would be Irish, because this is where they are born and spend most of their lives. They only pass through UK waters to get back to ours to spawn.
Throughout negotiations, the Minister could have ensured that our mackerel quota continued to be caught in Irish waters rather than in Scottish waters and leaving it open to being part of the deal, which is what happened.
A ‘no-deal’ Brexit would have been a better outcome for fishermen because they could have held on to their mackerel quota and caught it in Irish waters.
The Minister has said that he will campaign on the CFP - I hope to God that he does, because the fishing industry has been let down repeatedly since we began negotiations to join the EU when the EU stole our fishing from us.
Deputy Richard O’Donoghue
I hope the Minister is not going to sell out the beef sector and the Irish farmers as he has just sold out the fisheries.
The debate can be read in full at: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2021-01-21/8/