----- The Voice of Ireland's Fishing Industry and Maritime Community - Published Monthly, Established 1989 -----

April 2017 Issue - Vol 29 No.11

April 2017 issue in all good stockists

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Marine Times Newspaper
Editor: Mark Mc Carthy
Assitant Editor: Tom MacSweeney

Features Editor / Advertising: Anne Murray

The Marine Times Newspaper is published by Marine Media Ltd.
Cranny Road, Inver, Co. Donegal
T: 074 9736899 / 9732635
E: marinetimes@eircom.net

Tom MacSweeney
Deputy Editor, Marine Times Newspaper

Does the Government and the Department of the Marine Respect Fishermen?

April 2017 Issue Vol 29 No. 11

At a time of instant communication, available through so many systems of modern technology, the single greatest difficulty, regularly identified in commerce, industry, the economy and in personal relationships is ensuring effective communication.

At a time when the fishing industry faces its greatest challenge since the disaster that EU Accession visited upon its future, our government administrators do not appear to have learned the lesson of history.

That lesson is that the Irish Government, Ministers, senior politicians and civil servants, gave away the wealth of the richest waters in Europe to the economic benefit of other nations by arrogant, ignorant and contemptuous dismissal of the economic importance of the fishing industry.

The importance of communication with the industry was dismissed. It didn’t exist. Irish government negotiators showed no respect for fishermen or the industry.

As far as the government was concerned, its only value was as a bargaining chip to get benefits for farmers.

There is no evidence that the present Government considers the existing fishing industry to be at great risk in the front line of the economic fallout of Brexit, so a similar disaster as happened in EU Accession, could be on the horizon.

The Green Party at its annual conference in Waterford last month called on the Government to re-negotiate the Common Fisheries Policy because of the problems it has created for Ireland. The Party also said the Government should protect Irish waters from rapacious ‘super trawler’ fleets by fully resourcing the Naval Service and the Air Corps.

Not a lot of hope can be held out for re-negotiating the CFP, but at least it was a public statement by a political party about the industry and communicated a message.

Unfortunately, I can count on one hand the number of politicians who have shown any genuine interest in fisheries and the coastal communities. They and their parties have not conveyed such a message in strong public terms.

In an island nation why is fishing in its widest sense, offshore and inshore wild fisheries as well as aquaculture, which together comprise the seafood industry, not at the forefront of national concern? Ministers, politicians, industrial leaders, devote a lot of attention to promoting foreign, direct investment. FDI is important, but foreign companies setting up in Ireland extract full return for the jobs they provide through returning profits to their international shareholders. These jobs can and have been taken away at the whim of international managements when they perceive the possibility of higher profits by moving to other jurisdictions.

Some governments have protected their fishing and maritime resources. Iceland and Denmark, for example, a big nation and a small one, by keeping these natural resources out of the hands of the EU which, in practice, has ‘colonised’ Irish waters for the benefit of larger EU Member States.

While, physically, Ireland is peripheral to the EU, in fishing terms it has been a goldmine from which EU quota regulations extracted massive economic profits for the larger EU fishing nations.
So we come back to the issue of communication.

The Department of the Marine organised an afternoon seminar in Dublin about Brexit, where Assistant Secretary General in the Department of the Marine, Cecil Beamish, told industry representatives that it was imperative that the Irish position was presented as a “united effort” to ensure a common voice. This because Brexit poses a serious set of particular threats to the industry.
While praised for co-operation with industry representatives during the December EU quota negotiations, the Department’s administration is more noted for slavish adherence to EU diktats and support of strict regulatory enforcement against Irish fishermen, compared with non-Irish, rather than effective communication on a level which would recognise Irish fishermen as equals with the Department in the successful operation of the industry.

There is another side – the industry needs more effective communication within itself and a united voice to face the challenges of Brexit. Despite efforts over the years and one short period of joint co-operation, unity has not been a notable asset. The current disagreement between Killybegs and Castletownbere over mackerel allocations does not bode well in this regard.

From producer, processing, exporting and catching sectors, I am told that a collective, united approach is necessary at all levels of the industry and with government to deal with Brexit. If Irish and EU Member State vessels are excluded from UK waters by Brexit arrangements, there will be increased pressure on European stocks and very much on Irish waters.

According to industry sources, Ireland shares 47 of 50 TAC quotas with the UK and the “Hague Preferences” could also become an issue.

How much effective communication is there on these fisheries issues and others which will arise during Brexit?

Do Department officials value, understand and respect fishermen?

As much as fishermen need a united voice, the Department needs to learn the lesson of history and communicate effectively with the industry. That means communication and mutual co-operation, not dictation and that is a rule of effective communication.