Tuesday 19 September 2017

100 fishery workers could lose jobs in row over quotas

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

OVER 100 Irish fishermen and fish factory workers face losing their jobs in a row over quotas and the dumping of fish catches.

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) is to stage an emergency meeting with Ireland’s largest whitefish operators, O’Flaherty Brothers, today in a bid to avert the loss of the trawler and factory jobs in Wexford.

A total of 15 Kilmore Quay-based trawlers were ordered to stop fishing last Friday because of fears specific EU quota limits had been exceeded.

Wexford fishermen slated the move as “a nightmare” just weeks before Christmas.

There are now mounting fears the trawlers could be forced to remain in port until the New Year while French, Spanish and Belgian trawlers continue to fish the bulk of stocks off the Irish coast.

Denis O’Flaherty slated the EU quota regime as “absolutely insane and impossible to operate and control.”

A number of Kilmore Quay skippers refused on moral grounds to dump fish catches at sea last week – and brought them into port to properly declare them.

But this was interpreted as a quota infringement which triggered the immediate fishing cessation order.

“It is absolutely heart-breaking. There are huge fish stocks out there and we have only been given the crumbs of what is available,” he said.

“The French only fished for 38pc of their monkfish and megrim (a type of white sole) quota last year in Irish waters but they steadfastly refused to give us their unused quota,” Denis said.

“It is the same this year though they have fished a bit more. We have a quota for just 3,000 tonnes of monkfish in one area compared to 18,000 tonnes for the French. And we are not even allowed to fish in other areas alongside them,” he said.

The French have a quota in one area of the Irish Sea for 8,000 tonnes of megrim while Irish boats have a quota for just 3,000 tonnes.

Spanish and Belgian boats also have quotas in excess of Irish limits.

Denis said that 80 Kilmore Quay trawler workers face losing their jobs this week if the impasse is not ended and fishing permits immediately restored.

A further 18 fish factory jobs will go within days in the absence of whitefish stocks to process.

An SFPA spokesman could not be contacted for comment.

However, SFPA officials will stage an emergency meeting with Kilmore Quay fishermen in Clonakilty, Co Cork at 2pm today (Monday).

Marine Minister Simon Coveney has been lobbying in Brussels and Strasbourg for improvements to the Irish quota and a system whereby unused quota can be transferred within national fleets.

To date, this has been resisted by both the French and Spanish which dominate the EU fish quota stocks.

“It is absolutely soul destroying. I have fishermen coming up to me and asking if they have jobs to go to next week. Christmas is just five weeks away and this should be one of our busiest times,” Denis added.

 

Irish Independent

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