on Irish Fishing Fleet
2016 Issue Vol 29 No. 06
Marine Times Newspaper
The raids on the Fishing Fleets in Castletownbere and Howth were
not just on individual members of our fishing community; they were
a insult to the industry as a whole. The suggestion is, every skipper
is exploiting migrant workers and the crews are being mistreated
by every boat owner.
anyone remember the far gone days when fishermen used to go down
to the harbour in the morning and his two main worries were, will
the crew turn up and will the engine start? Assuming the first two
would fall into place, it was only when steaming off would he hope
that there might be some fish in the hold when he comes ashore.
We used to fish for the adventure, for the opportunity, for the
excitement and for the mystery of not knowing what will happen during
the week. Most of all, we used to love going to sea to earn our
those are far off days now. We joined the EEC in 1972 and as a country
threw in our lot in with the whole European ideal born
out of the ruins of WW2. We decided it would be better to work together
in economic harmony which would strengthen the whole more than that
of the parts. As a nation, we benefited from abolition of import
and export duties, more open borders and less red tape for those
doing trade between the member nations. As a country we prospered
and benefitted from grants and subsidies, especially in the agriculture
and the transport infrastructure sectors. We lost a little bit of
control of our own destiny to Brussels but sure, its worth
it we thought.
the Eurocrats decided, We like the power, we want to
make more of the decisions and take autonomy away from Dublin and
the other capitals of Europe. Led by the big boys of
Germany and France, they started with Maastricht, Nice (twice) and
Lisbon (twice) so tying us into the European ideal of a Federal
State of Europe.
where does it leave the fishing industry? Well, since fishing by
its nature we share common waters thereby became the test
case industry for this new regime. We are the industry that
transgresses the old borders and therefore comes under the sweaty
grasp of every eurocrat that wears a cheap suit in the commissions
offices in the Berlaymont or the Brussels / Strasburg / Luxemburg
parliament buildings. And what happens when you are under the microscope
of thousands of civil servants in every harbour, administrative
district, centre of local, national and European government and
the myriad of organisations tasked with assuring we are compliant?
It manifests itself into the truly disgusting and demeaning spectacle
that we witnessed in Castletownbere and Howth on Wednesday 5th October
last. We had five arms of the state that descended onto an industry
that has almost been scraped off the sole of the national shoe like
dog dirt. The industry has been persecuted, over-regulated, victimised
and basically is being actively chased out of business. Yes, the
Navy, the Guards, the Immigration services, the Revenue Commissioners
and the Workplace Relation Commission are all arms of the Irish
State but they are being given the instructions from their European
generals to round up the stragglers and finish off the Irish Fishing
industry once and for all.
these words too harsh or are we paranoid? Well, let us take a case
in a similar industry. Migrant workers being used to process crops
at harvesting time. The farm owner may not have an up to date tax
clearance certificate and maybe he hasnt all his paperwork
up to date with the Dept of Agriculture. Does the Armed Emergency
Response Unit of the Guards backed up with 4 other agencies descend
upon every farm in that county with sniffer dogs, helicopters and
block of all surrounding roads (There were two check points on each
side of Howth hill for fear the criminal fishermen would
make a run for it). Would that happen to the farming community?
Never! And if by any chance it did, the IFA, every TD in
the county and every civil rights activist would be on every TV
station, local radio and the social media would be full of it. But
when it comes to the fishing industry, we are seen as the industry
that needs to be cleaned up and we deserve it!
let us look at the result of the outcome! ONE foreign national was
found not to have the paperwork he should have on his person! He
was brought to his home to retrieve the paperwork and on production
of it was cautioned. So we had probably 100 plus members of government
agencies (not including the naval ships), from armed guards, sniffer
dogs, divers and dozens of officials in Hi Viz jackets to fix one
errand individuals mishap. As a tax payer alone, there has
to be questions, as a member of an industry I am proud to be in
for all my life, there should be answers from the minister at least
and apologies for heavy handed and youre GUILTY until
proven INNOCENT attitude taken by the state and the EU.
witnessed one boat owner of over 30 years at sea almost in tears
after the events of last Wednesday. He and hundreds like him are
honest hard working fishermen who just want to go to sea and catch
fish. Is he breaking the law no doubt he is Why? Because
all of the above agencies and we havent even mentioned the
SFPA, DOMNR, MSO, HSA, etc, etc are throwing so many laws, regulations,,
ministerial orders, by laws and made up EU regulations as
interpreted by the state (and always to the most extreme level
by this member state), that it is impossible to adhere to them all.
Gone are the days of making sure the life raft was serviced, your
mesh size was ok and the lads threw over the undersized plaice,
now we have an encyclopaedia of bodies each spewing out rules and
regulations impossible for an individual to familiarise himself
with, let alone adhere to.
on the case of as interpreted by the state, I was in
Galicia last year and said, Ill hire a car and go down to
Vigo and La Curuna for a drive and see the fleet as it was about
20 years since I was last in that part of the world. Well, what
greeted me? 5 Metre high fences around both harbours, with guards
on the approach roads and turnstiles for individuals to enter by.
When I approached and said I just wanted to look I was sternly told
no and go away. I said I was a pescador Irelandas
and they came out of their guard hut to turn my car away! What were
they hiding? Nothing - they were protecting their fishing fleet
and making sure what they did was away from prying eyes. When I
went to Vigo, the approach road again was blocked. I stopped outside
the barrier and a harbour security car stopped beside me and gave
me youre not getting in here pal look! The difference
is stunning, Spain protects their fishermen and industry, and we
persecute ours. Ill wager theyll never have an unannounced
armed police raid in those ports.
what were the raids ultimately for, what was their reason? Immigrant
workers were exploited by unscrupulous fishermen for their personal
gain. All of this on the back of a badly researched, poorly written
article in the Guardian newspaper last November. The headline read
Problems for migrant workers on fishing vessels an open secret
Well if so, the raids found nothing except the 1 misdemeanour and
we wont hold our breath about the apology or the explanations
from the authorities we can be sure that will never happen.
How can one piece of Crap Journalism lead to such irrational and
heavy handed approach by the state?
hard to explain someone who has never fished that the crew of a
fishing vessel arent just 5 or 6 guys who work together. They
are guys who work, eat, sleep, pass the time together, and share
stories about families, sports, their downtime and their problems
with each other. This is usually done on a 15 25 metre vessel
so by the nature, they get on together. If they dont they
move on, its simple. Its not an office or factory job
where we, at worst have to stick it out until 5 oclock. Try
telling this to the WRC or the Immigration services, but sure hey,
its after 5 oclock so we cant reach anyone until
Monday morning (Just hope its not a bank holiday or July or
August, theyre not there, a luxury fishermen dont have).
what can the state do to help us (Yeah, stop laughing)? In the same
week of the raids, the OECD said Ireland had the highest 15
26 year old social welfare benefits of the lot, 25% of the potential
young workforce on benefits! So while the fishing industry in being
persecuted while trying to adapt to a new system which is the Atypical
Workers Scheme, we have hundreds of thousands of young people sitting
at home watching daytime TV getting €193 (another €5 in
last weeks budget) a week from our socialist state rather
than be given the kick out the door like our generation was. But
then again that would be seen as abuse and sure who should we blame?
The fishing industry is the only one whod abuse their co workers
so lets blame them! Something is rotten in this state but
its not the hard working fishing industry.
green jersey Its a phrase thats been bandied
around but it surely doesnt apply to this industry. No, we
are not looking for rules to be broken or special treatment, just
fair treatment. I have been in the industry and for the life of
me I have not identified the reasons why as a state we persecute
this industry. Was it a bad summer weather wise? Well it was windy
more often than not, but worse than that, we seemingly had a wet
summer. Why is this important? Well, so much so the farmers of Galway
have asked for a 5 point action plan to alleviate the hardship!
And will it happen? As sure as night follows day. Every conceivable
action and stop is pulled to get funds from Brussels to fund the
industries around our natural resources, except fishing. Why do
the government and their officials have such a wish to eradicate
few facts and figures to back up that the regulation are strong
Population of Ireland 4,767,000
Number of Guarda 12,816
(An Garda Siochana website 31/12/2015)
Members of Guarda Ombudsman 77 (GSOC website January
Number of Farms in Ireland 139,860 (Bord Bia Website last
Number of Farm Inspectors 600
(Impact Trade Union paper 2015)
Number of Fishing Vessels 2112
(DAFM Licencing authority report 2015)
SFPA officers 88 (SFPA Report 2013)
for every 372 members of the public we have 1 Guard.
For every 166 Guards, we have 1 member of GSOC.
For every 233 Farms we have a farm inspector
BUT for only every 24 fishing vessel we have an SFPA officer
(This is before we hire 25 new officers this year so itll
with the SFPA alone, we have 10 times the enforcement numbers of
the farming community and nearly 8 times more than the Guards. And
we werent even raided by the SFPA on the 5th October!
As one of the skippers said to me last month, its never ending.
Every month we get a new rule or regulation thrown at us and never,
never do we say Oh, thats a good rule that might help
us in our day to day endeavours. Its always something
to put more pressure onto the industry, its always an onus
on us to adhere to it and its always at our cost. And now,
without the physical barriers being harsh enough, its now
the psychological pressures pushing down on us as well.
time the government instructed the Civil Service to
be what it says Civil to the members of the state (Yes, that
includes fishermen) and A service to us, not against us. Firstly
we need B.I.M. to be given the resources to go out and help recruit
a new generation of men and women who would come into the industry
and we need this immediately. Secondly, we need the government to
recognise the marine sector (not just fishing) is as big as or potentially
bigger than many other indigenous industries and appoint a minister
with sole responsibilities for Development of the Marine sector
and lastly we need better PR as an industry. When these third rate
articles are being written without proper research, we need to shout
from the roof tops that they are incorrect and our industry is clean.
If the article was true, every second boat would be tied up as the
skippers would be in jail, but, again, what did they find during
the raids- 1 piece of paperwork missing!
a long time since the day of a happy go lucky fisherman strolling
down the harbour and we know well never see those days again,
but surely it is not incumbent on the bodies of this state
our compatriots to treat us the way we as an industry were treated
on the 5th October last!
Proud life long member of the Irish Fishing Community