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Ireland’s continuing era of quota mismanagement

As we near the end of a year that will be remembered by the fishing industry as ‘black 2021’ for its catalogue of disasters, it appears that yet another not so ‘accidental’ cock-up will see a higher than normal level of certain species of whitefish quota being available at the same time as vessel owners are expected to take a tie-up scheme.

Whether it be simply poor administration by the Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine (DAFM), or an intentional and spiteful holding back of quotas during the year, it now transpires that the miserly monthly quota allowances doled out to the Irish demersal fleet since last January, combined with the return of some unused quota from other nations (originally part of bi-lateral quota ‘swap’ deals), has resulted in the biggest December quota allowances of the past ten years becoming available.

This would seem to have resulted in a quota for December so big that the demersal fleet will have difficulty filling it given that at least one week’s fishing time is lost every December due to the festive season.

And, unbelievably, the DAFM officials are rumoured to be considering to close the Porcupine Bank prawn fishery for December whilst there is going to be at least 100 tonnes of quota available.

With the EU quota rules only allowing for Member States to have 10% of remaining quota (of most species) permitted to be rolled over into 2022, surely the Irish whitefish / nephrop sector will see vital quotas going uncaught by the end of 2021.

And, on the other side of the coin, what of those who agreed to take the basic money on offer for a tie-up scheme?

The tie-up money is set by the DAFM criteria conditions governing each individual vessel and, whether a skipper opts to stay ashore for the month of July or December, the scheme makes no distinction as to what available quota (and therefore potential catch revenue) that vessel will be losing out on and the payment remains the same.

One can only wonder if those who were signing up for a tie-up in December were informed that the available quotas for that month would be a bonanza - the best quotas seen in any December for the past decade?

This, along with the fact that the same civil servants control both the quota distribution AND the tie up scheme (albeit via BIM), shows yet again that the management of the Irish fishing industry should not be in the hands of Department civil servants who have repeatedly shown themselves, either intentionally or through incompetence, to be incapable of working to the benefit of the industry rather than constantly against it.

Given that it could not be possible that any ‘managers’ of quotas, and of the fishing industry in general, could be this incompetent then people are again left with the only remaining conclusion that our administrators are openly continuing their 20-year-old agenda of working against this industry in every possible way.

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