Plans to cut the Irish whitefish fleet by over 30% will not preserve fish stocks in Irish waters, the Irish Fish Producers Organisation has warned.
The Killybegs-based group says the Marine Minister’s €60m decommissioning scheme will leave the stocks available to European vessels to fish instead.
IFPO chief executive Aodh O Donnell says the scheme must be accompanied by plans to develop and support a greener and more innovative Irish fishing industry.
O Donnell said: “Many fish producers are being forced to decommission because fuel costs mean they simply cannot afford to put to sea any longer. We estimate that around 60 whitefish vessels will be scrapped under decommissioning. This will create up to 500 permanent redundancies and directly impact on the livelihoods of up to 300 coastal community families. There will also be a knock-on effect on the marine services industry and the wider coastal economy.”
“Rising fuel costs have been offset in other European countries by 30% EU fuel subsidies. But once again, the Irish Government failed to support our fishing fleet, refused to pass on these subsidies, leaving us at a competitive disadvantage. ”
O Donnell says the fuel crisis is simply the last nail in the coffin, following decades of Government neglect of the Irish fishing industry. “Quotas were so unfair and so small that the industry has been left with no alternative to decommissioning. We are constantly losing out to other EU states.”
“For example, Belgium has a 67k coastline, while the Irish coastline is 4400k, representing 12% of the EU waters. Yet Belgium’s fish processing sector had a turnover of €961m in 2019* compared to just €622m for Ireland. Germany has a coastline of 2389km, yet in 2019 their fish processing sector turnover was €2,196m in 2019.
“Furthermore, over the last 8 years, the Irish industry has fallen from 3rd highest in Europe to 10th place. The decommissioning scheme will reduce the whitefish fleet to a third of its 2006 size.”
O Donnell continued: “The big question is where is the fish? Who is catching the fish in our waters and outstripping the Irish fishing industry in the process?”
“We have the best and most productive waters in Europe. Irish fish producers have contributed to the sustainable management of fish stocks, while others have been able to exploit resources in our rich waters. Decommissioning is our Government’s solution to a historical legacy of failing to deliver for industry and coastal communities.”
“Everyone agrees on the need to preserve fish stocks. But we need a level playing field in Europe for the Irish fleet and we have NEVER had that. Ireland has the richest waters in Europe, amounting to more than six times our land mass. Yet the Irish Government record is one of lost and untapped opportunities for our fishing industry. They have NEVER sought or secured a fair share of EU quotas for fishing our own waters. ”
O Donnell says many will have no choice but to avail of permanent scrappage. “But the Government must also support the scheme with positive coherent policies for the longer-term development of the fishing industry.”
“We need a vision for the whitefish fleet which addresses global green agendas and creates a safer and more innovative industry, which harnesses the best technology. We need to build economic resilience and support sustainable employment at sea and in coastal communities. Other EU states have delivered growth and economic opportunities in their fishing sectors. It’s long past time for Ireland to do the same.”
“We call on the Minister for the Marine to support the decommissioning scheme with development plans which will create a sustainable future for our fishing fleet and coastal communities.”