A recent meeting between fishing bodies and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has been described as ‘positive’.
Local industry leaders were given the opportunity to present solutions to current threats faced by the sector, including landings disparity, the decommissioning of the whitefish fleet and fuel prices.
“This was a positive joint engagement of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO and Irish Fish Processors & Exporters Association (IFPEA),” said IFPO chief executive, Aodh O Donnell. “This is the first step in a process aimed at ongoing engagement on the developmental needs of the seafood sector.”
Mr O’Donnell’s statement followed the hour-long meeting with the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Leo Varadkar TD. The meeting was also attended by the IFPEA chief executive, Brendan Byrne. The Department of the Marine was represented by Dr Cecil Beamish. The meeting was arranged by Manus Boyle and Declan Lovett of the Dunkineely and Killybegs Branch of Fine Gael.
Mr Byrne said the meeting centred on “building a whole of government approach to arrest the decline of the sector. He said it also focussed on the need to support industry at all levels in a process of innovation-led development”.
Mr O Donnell says landings of Irish fishing vessels in both domestic and foreign ports fell by a third since 2012. “Over the same period, landings of foreign vessels at Irish ports rose by 48%. There is a major disparity here, leading to a big drop in the amount of fish landed by Irish fleets. This hits hard at fish producers and fish processors, but also at other industries relying on Irish fish. We discussed this in the context of the adverse and disproportionate impacts of Brexit quota transfers. We emphasised that there is a need to achieve a rebalancing so that Ireland has a fairer share of quotas in the EU.”
“We are moving towards a situation where Irish processors, retailers and restaurants are forced to buy more fish from foreign vessels because the Irish fleet can no longer meet demand. We outlined how this is a threat to our food security and employment in coastal communities.”
The IFPO and the IFPEA also took time to press for the need to immediately draw down the existing EU fuel aid subsidies which other member states are already claiming. “There is no cost to the State in passing on this aid as it is already on offer. It makes no sense to force our fleet to compete at a disadvantage with other EU fleets who are getting as much as 30c/litre in fuel aid. Otherwise putting to sea will simply be unaffordable for increasing numbers of Irish vessels.”
O Donnell also outlined to the Tánaiste the need to back demands for the development of plans for the fishing industry’s future. He said the Irish Government needs to press the EU to achieve a more equitable share of quotas for Ireland.
“At present, decommissioning around a third of the whitefish fleet is being implemented to match the fleet to reduced quotas post Brexit. This is a bleak prospect for the sector. We have stressed the need for a developmental approach to modernise and renew the fleet. This needs to be supported by innovative ways of securing more quotas. We also outlined the need for Government to take account of fisher about the planned development of Offshore Wind.”
The IFPO and the IFPEA said the delegation was satisfied with the exchange of perspectives. Brendan Byrne thanked the Tánaiste for ‘’taking time in his busy itinerary to meet with industry representatives in a frank meeting and for sharing his insights. The Tánaiste clearly confirmed his commitment and that of the whole of government to working on sustaining this important industry to coastal communities’’.
Aodh O Donnell said we must “continue to build a consensus and work together to represent this sector and this is a step in this process. We must acknowledge the support of Manus Boyle and the local Fine Gael Branch who are working tirelessly to deliver a turnaround for the seafood industry. Thanks also to Colm Markey MEP for his drive and commitment in raising awareness of fishery matters at national and EU Level’’.