Your move Minister...
“Major conflict is on the horizon unless Minister McConalogue begins to recognise the industry’s frustration” – Cormac Burke, Chairman IFSA
With the outcome of BREXIT kicking off what has become a crisis year for the Irish fishing and seafood industry, the ongoing battle of wills over the proposed introduction of a ‘weighing at point of landing’ regime which is to be imposed as a penalty on foot of prosecution for crimes detailed in a report that no one is allowed see – plus a totally unjust penalty point system – is all combining to bringing the frustration in the industry to boiling point.
All eyes will be on tomorrow’s (May 11th) Oireachtas meeting of the Joint Committee on Agriculture and the Marine where the agenda for part one of the talks will include the Sea Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2021, as well as the 2020 PwC review report of organisational capability of the SFPA and the EU Commission’s decision to revoke the Irish Control Plan for the weighing of fishery products after transport (Article 61(1)).
Part two of this meeting, to be witnessed by representatives of the IFPO, KFO, ISEFPO, ISWFPO and IFPEA will discuss the Sea Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2021 and all related matters.
However, and without pre-empting the outcome of these talks, the stubbornness of the Minister, the Department of Marine and the SFPA to genuinely consider any alternatives or to soften their stance in any form, means that fishermen and seafood processors (nephrops, whitefish and pelagic) have all reached breaking point.
Although the IFSA is not advocating any form of militant action at this time, the growing calls from the industry for protests and the blockading of ports certainly has the sympathy of this organisation – particularly in light of recent protests by French fishermen over various issues which were held, rightly or wrongly, got them an immediate reaction from their government.
During this time Ireland’s representative producer organisations (POs) are calling for calm and for people to wait and see if any relaxing of proposed measures can be negotiated but, based on previous history, many in the fishing industry believe that ‘waiting’ has never achieved anything in the past.
The ‘weighing at point of landing’ saga is already having major ramifications with some whitefish buyers now rejecting certain quantities of fish as the additional handling of the catch during weighing at the quayside is damaging the quality of the fish – and one processor was warned that he would be “read his rights” if he refused to adhere to the new system.
The Minister MUST recognise that this industry is about to explode in anger – and just one more comment from him telling everyone how lucky Ireland is that the outcome of BREXIT could have been worse, or how it’s the EU Commission’s fault that the weighing at quayside is written in stone – or more time wasted with the posturing of Task Force or the ‘Virtual Town Hall’ meetings could literally push this industry over the edge.
The industry needs to see action NOW or else it may be forced to take matters into its own hands.
Photo (Irish Times) - in June 2008 the Irish fishing industry brought its concerns to the general public by sailing its fleet into Dublin