No catch as fish given away free
IT was the catch of the day but it was being doled out for free at a popular fishing port.
Hundreds of people flocked to Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford, after local fisherman Seamus O'Flaherty promised to give away his €10,000 catch of monkfish rather than throw it back in the sea because of EU rules.
When the 'Saltees Crest' berthed, skipper Jimmy Byrne was met by officers of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) who inspected the vessel and detained it because the catch exceeded the EU quota for monkfish.
There was a flurry of activity as Mr O'Flaherty, who owns the vessel, then gave away the fish rather than discard it.
"I took the action to highlight a campaign to oppose the EU rule that requires over-quota fish to be thrown back into the sea," he said.
The SFPA said it was preparing a file for the DPP. It also said it had found a substantial quantity of fish retained onboard the vessel which the skipper logged as having been discarded.
Under-declaration of fish retained onboard is a serious matter. EU regulations allocate a national quota for certain fish species, which is the maximum total allowable catch that Irish vessels can land.
This national quota is distributed among vessels in consultation with the fishing industry.
Discarding is the practice of returning unwanted catches to the sea.
All fishing vessels are obliged to work within the allocated quota for their boat size.
If a crew of a fishing vessel catches more than their quota, the surplus is discarded at sea.
It is a requirement under EU law that this discarding is logged. Logging of fish as a discard denotes the fish as caught but not landed.
Mr Byrne said: 'This is no accident, the bringing in of this fish, for I'm making a statement. There is no hiding of fish for I placed the extra boxes of fish on the pier for the people to take home.'
"Everything I did was honest. I kept some 3,000 kilos of monkfish, which was over the quota, put it up on the wall of the pier for the people.
"I did not benefit from it, the boat owner or crew did not benefit from it. I was making a statement that I will not dump the fish at sea. I also had 5,000 kilos of monkfish along with 6,000 kilos of megrim on board."
"The Irish Government wants me to brush all this up, dump the fish at sea, and say nothing. In Irish water the French have 47pc of the monkfish quota, the Spanish have 22pc, while us Paddys have only 7pc of the monkfish quota in our own waters," he added. "When I landed the 5,000 kilos of monkfish that was the monthly quota fished in five days.
"So I cannot fish monkfish for another three weeks. What we now have is a graveyard of fish in Irish fishing grounds.
"All the boats from the smallest to the largest have been told to dump fish. All I am doing now is making a statement.
"This is the first time ever in Ireland or England for fish over the quota not to be dumped and brought to port and put out free for the people," he added.