Posts Tagged ‘Common Fisheries Policy’

Hector Goes Fishing

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Irish broadcaster Hector Ó hEochagáin had a real opportunity within this program screened on RTE to not only give viewers an insight into all the elements that make up the Irish commercial fishing sector, but to also widen the brief as to how Ireland’s wild sea fisheries resource could be managed ongoing to include tourism, less destructive fishing methods and marine protected areas.

A programme that started well by giving an accurate overview of the Irish fishing industry today concluded with the usual clichés about Ireland as an island nation, the mistrust of all parties involved, a sad but true image of the discards debacle showing the Kilmore Quay Flaherty’s chucking fish over the side, how dangerous the job is and the “joining the EU/sell out chestnut”.

Hector failed to mention gross over fishing within Ireland’s territorial waters to include the Irish fleet and how over fishing is the real reason why supply and job creation within the sector is hamstrung. Also that recreational sea angling to include its 4500 jobs contribution, many tourism based, is worth €127 million or 15% of the €700 – 800 million total commercial fishing sector revenues.

Shining lights within the broadcast though were Martin Howley’s assessment of the Irish Pelagic fleets contribution and also fisheries Minister Simon Coveney, who to be fair gave a balanced picture as to the negotiations involved when we joined the EEC, citing prevailing thinking nationally on what was best for Ireland’s future. The Minister also alluded to a lack of national vision and ambition with regard to maritime affairs at the time and what would have happened in his opinion if Ireland had subsequently negotiated more control of its waters pre 1973 referencing over fishing in the Irish Sea.

However the words “over fishing or destructive practices” never left Hector’s lips creating what was in short an unbalanced review of Ireland’s commercial fishing sector and therefore another missed opportunity to further a wider view as to how Ireland’s marine resource can be best utilised and managed into the future.

See also RTE player: Hector Goes Fishing, online until 24th March 2014.


Fish For the Future

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

The EU fisheries policy may seem complicated, but it is actually pretty simple: we must fish less now so we can fish more tomorrow. The infographic below explains the Common Fisheries Policy in five minutes.

Important discussions are taking place in the European Parliament right now and there are divisions between MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) across all national delegations and political groups.

Fish For the Future is a cross-party group of MEP’s who want to end over fishing and rebuild fish stocks. They are fighting against those who prefer the short term benefit of allowing fishermen to catch the last remaining fish over ensuring European fishermen a long term future.

The following graphic explains quite clearly the present state of our marine fin fish resource, and offers real solutions for rehabilitation and future management.

Beginners’ Guide to the Common Fisheries Policy – Fish For the Future
Courtesy of: Fish For the Future


Taking Stock of a Missed Opportunity.

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

If I had invested my life’s work and hard earned money in the Irish commercial fishing sector as it exists today, I would at the least be worried and possibly leaning towards anger. Correspondingly, if I were leaving school or college in 2012 with aspirations of building a sea fishing based career or business I would feel sorely let down.

Minister for Agriculture, Food, and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD returned home from Brussels mid December after the annual EU fisheries negotiations declaring that he was “delighted with the outcome of these negotiations which delivered my key priorities and will allow the Irish fishing fleet look forward to 2012 with optimism”.

The Stock Book.

The stock book is the annual review of sea fish stocks and management advice delivered to the Minister by the Fisheries Science Services section of the Marine Institute. This important document forms the basis of commercial fisheries negotiations, and once you break through the jargon makes for interesting reading, especially when backed up by practical knowledge and experience on the ground.

As highlighted in recent columns the south coast has experienced an influx of large codling this winter. These fish first became apparent offshore in early 2010 as one year old juveniles 30 – 35 centimetres long. Today going into 2012 after feeding hard these codling are in the three – four pound bracket, becoming sexually mature, and spawning most likely for the first time. They represent visual evidence that 2009 delivered a good year class for Celtic Sea cod, a fact which the scientists agree with.

ICES commercial fishing divisions around the Irish coast.

The last strong Celtic Sea cod year class was in 2000, an injection which helped sustain an already depleted and hard hit stock through the last decade. Science has gauged the present day spawning stock of Celtic Sea cod to be in the region of 10,000 tonnes with a mean average age between 2 – 5 years. These fish are not big by cod standards probably averaging 10.lbs weight or less, the species is capable of growing to well over 100 lbs left to its own devices, and are young cod only maturing around their forth year.

Minister Coveney accompanied by industry lobbyists secured a 77% increase on Celtic Sea cod landings for Irish vessels in 2012, raising Ireland’s quota share to approximately 1500 tonnes, it’s not a lot but for hard pressed owner/skippers it certainly helps relieve the pressure. For the youthful aspirant dreaming of a marine based career however things do not look so hot, short term expedience again trumping long term gain.

Stock book figures highlighting 2012 cod quotas for the Celtic Sea.

Increasing the catch quota on a depleted fishery based on the first decent spawning year in a decade just does not make sense when we are looking to maximise our resources into the future. The Minister for all the fanfare has secured only a pyrrhic victory, helping neither skipper or student plan their future with any degree of certainty. Sadly another missed opportunity for the Government who promised real change less than 12 months ago….

First published People Newspapers, Tuesday 3rd January, 2012.

Back to the Future. “A campaign to restore Ireland’s and the World’s Lost Marine Biodiversity.”

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Today on World Oceans Day, June 8th 2011, Minister Simon Coveney will address an Oceans 2012 event whose primary message, aimed at those who are reforming the EU Common Fisheries Policy, is “We want our marine biodiversity back“. It will be interesting to hear his contribution.

Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney addressing the Oceans 2012 event at Trinity College on World Oceans Day June 8th 2011.

The historical and present tradition is that the marine commercial fishing industry, politicians, and eurocrats decide how Ireland’s inshore and oceanic waters are managed. Their record is appalling, and banner headlines on page two of last Saturday’s Irish Times dated June 4th 2011 do not inspire confidence that Minister Coveney is going to tread anything but the same well worn and disastrous path. How can the Minister forecast the creation of 158 seafood sector jobs when upwards of 50% of the 56 already commercially targeted fish in Irish waters are dangerously overexploited with the status of many others uncertain.

Until such time as the brief is widened to include all interested parties around the table and the marine is looked at from a position whose terms are based on restoration, strict management which may have to include entry restrictions to the industry, and a wider socio economic input to include recreational angling and other tourism interests, then unfortunately Ireland is going to further squander and destroy the one resource that really can turn around our ailing economy.

It is possible for recreational sea angling  and commercial sea fishing to co-exist, they did in the recent past before we sold our territorial waters to the then Common Market. When one considers just one statistic it puts a lot in perspective. The pelagic fleet is the flagship of Ireland’s commercial sea fishing sector probably responsible for most onshore processing jobs. In 2009 the Irish pelagic catch (predominantly herring, mackerel, blue whiting) was 155,000 tonnes worth approximately €112million. In 2010 the volume landed was marginally up but the value stayed the same. It is reasonable to assume that the margins were down and the costs were up in 2010.

155,000 tonnes is an extraordinary figure for one nation to remove from the sea. Contrary to what the industry says mackerel as a resource are being hammered, the dramatically reduced shoals off north Co. Wicklow compared to 20 years ago and the preponderance of joeys within the catch prove this. Also when one considers that blue whiting end up as fish food for the aquaculture industry at a weight conversion ratio of 4:1( four kilos of blue whiting makes one kilo of farmed salmon) the whole excercise just does not make economic or environmental sense.

John Daly (Skipper), John Quinlan (Irish Bass), and Johnny Woodlock (SFAG) at the Oceans 2012 event.

Contrast those figures with recreational sea angling whose understated contribution to the economy is €33million. This is a totally underdeveloped industry reliant on a decimated resource which hinders its growth just as it does for the commercial sector. If restoration policies were implemented Ireland could develop a destination sea angling market the envy of Europe and the web of benefits filtering out into the accommodation, restaurant, pub, general leisure industry, and artisan fishmongers from what is accepted as a sustainable industry has to date not even been quantified.

This evening the Minister has a real opportunity to show that he has guts and vision, time will tell….

Postscript: The Ministers address was passionate, his family does hold a strong connection with the sea, and he did show an awareness and understanding of the current situation regarding overfishing and its future implications with respect to biodiversity and the seas as a primary food source for humanity world wide.

That said, even though his spoken wish that his grand children would be able to experience a vibrant and bountiful ocean (not his exact words) was sincere, his line followed the usual industry/EU/political form referencing aquaculture, job creation in rural coastal areas, value added seafood products, exports, etc. He discussed conservation measures as being important to underpin the industry on going but stopped short of laying down the law.

Overshadowing and influencing his whole speech was the EU and Ireland’s commercial industry line. Unfortunately there was no door opened to representation from wider interest groups on the future of how Ireland manages its territorial waters. The status quo continues with still a minority maintaining full controling influence on Ireland’s primary natural resource, a pity given the day that was in it….