Two Killybegs fish processors have had their in-factory weighing permits suspended by the SFPA amid the weighing debacle.
The action was taken by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) after it reportedly refused to recognise Derry as part of Ireland.
Earlier this month, a Norwegian vessel was prevented from landing its catch of blue whiting in Killybegs due to the approach which has been taken by the SPFA in regard to the weighing of fish. The weighing system would have rendered the fish unfit for human consumption.
On two occasions, the Master of the vessel decided to land the fish into Derry Port at Lisahally and the blue whiting catch was then brought back by road to Killybegs on trucks and tankers.
However, it has now emerged that the SFPA decided to remove the in-factory weigh permits from Arctic Fish and Sean Ward Fish Ltd both of Killybegs on the basis that “the SFPA remains of the view that the landing took place outside of Ireland”.
Speaking from Brussels CEO of Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association Mr Brendan Byrne stated;
“This is an extraordinary blunder on the part of the SFPA after Ireland negotiating a special status for Northern Ireland through the Brexit talks providing for EU rules to apply to Ireland equally but, in this instance, we have an authority of the state making an assertion that the protocol is not worth the paper it is written on.
“We must be conscious that the Irish fishing industry paid a massive price for the protocol arrangement through the Brexit /TCA talks process – with the loss of over €100 million euro of commercial value fish per annum. It was fishing that carried by far the heaviest burden at the conclusion of the Brexit Talks.
“The SFPA by their actions have effectively created a hard border on the island of Ireland, while our Government are standing idly by. The final irony, at the time the SFPA are revoking permits on fish processors, the fish processing companies are competing at the Barcelona EXPO with other coastal states for markets sales for the coming year – but, that in itself epitomises the challenges faced by our fish processors at home and on the broader international markets.”
Aodh O Donnell, Chief Executive of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO) said: “The development over the last 24 hours has shocked the seafood industry, is another blow to the sector and leads to additional uncertainty. Left unchallenged, this is going to have significant consequences for the sector generally.
“There is long standing and a massive interdependence between the catching and processing sectors on the island. The special arrangement and protocol for Northern Ireland is key to the smooth running of the fishing industry island-wide.
“The indication by the SFPA that they cannot treat the ports in Northern Ireland as part of the protocol arrangement is nothing short of shocking, and is contrary to the protocol and the Good Friday Agreement.
“The IFPO calls on the Government to act now to defend the integrity of the protocol and the Good Friday Agreement.”
Update – In a statement, the SFPA said that there has been no change in the fish weighing and landing arrangements between the Republic of Ireland and other jurisdictions as a result of Brexit.
They said: “Operators can choose to land a catch at a port in another jurisdiction – including both EU and non-EU countries – before transporting and processing the catch in the Republic of Ireland. However, the catch must be weighed on landing pierside in the landing state before transportation to the Republic of Ireland.
“A Common Control Programme that would permit transport to the Republic of Ireland for weighing after a landing in Northern Ireland does not and has never existed.
“The SFPA confirms it has withdrawn the permits for two pelagic processors. Both processors are still permitted to receive previously weighed fish for processing and sale.”