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

May 2017 Issue - Vol 29 No.12

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Liadh Ni Riada MEP
MEP – Ireland South – Sinn Féin – GUE/NGL

“We need to talk about super trawlers”

12th June 2017

The EU must address the issue of super trawlers.

To put it bluntly, the EU must stop tacitly backing multinational super trawler operators at the expense of ordinary fishing communities.

Not fishermen. Not fishing boats. Fishing communities. These destructive behemoths are wreaking unchecked havoc on coastal communities from Cork to Donegal.

Let's not pretend we don't all know what's going on here.

Super trawlers and wealthy, large-scale industrial vessel owners have benefited from a cosy relationship with national authorities, many of which are working with, if not for, these powerful entities whose significant business interests give them unaccountable political sway.

In Ireland they have created a tiny cartel which has isolated and impoverished the rest of our ordinary fishermen.

More often than not they are not inspected properly, blind eyes are turned while our own smaller fleets face the full weight of the law.

This neglect, and the failure by our governments to protect and represent the interests and well-being of our coastal and rural communities has resulted in the devastation of the livelihoods of small-scale fishermen, their families and the communities they are the bedrock of.

We know they have a dubious history when it comes to obeying regulations around quotas, catches and dumping.

We know all too well the environmental and economic damage they do to the territories they enter.

Need we recount the shocking statistics? The nets that can easily ensnare more than a dozen jumbo jets, the fact that just 5% of catch in Irish waters is processed here, the dolphins, sharks, turtles and even whales scooped up and killed in their enormous drag.

Australia has made moves to ban these monsters outright. Shouldn't the EU at least be talking about the possibility; at least be discussing the views of member states?

Yet the European Council seems determined to reject any changes to regulation surrounding them.

During the recent debate on the characterisation and definition of fishing vessels I put forward a number of modest amendments that were supported by the Committee but shamefully opposed by the Council.

The fact is there are major flaws in legislation that do not properly distinguish between small-scale, traditional and artisanal fisheries and large-scale industrialised fisheries.

My proposals would have balanced out some of these glaring inequalities, such as taking into account other vessel size attributes besides vessel length, their social role in coastal communities, the ecological impact of their gears, fishing and fuel capacity, processing ability and output, and the economics of the enterprise.

Legislation needs to take a step in the right direction in regulating these industrial floating factories that have been catastrophic for local communities and their small fleets, marine biodiversity and stocks.

The Common Fisheries Policy, Relative Stability and its ITQ system has enabled governments to auction off fish to multinational predators operating these colossal factory ships pushing out ordinary small-fishermen.

If traditional fishing communities are to survive the EU must establish proper technical and legal distinctions of small boats from large vessels. The de facto EU policy of supporting these multinational giants at the expense of ordinary fishing communities must come to an end.

And what of Brexit? Is Ireland to bear the brunt of fleets displaced from British waters; a further blow to our already beleaguered fishing industry?

If Britain exercises full control of its EEZ it could be the end of the Irish fishing industry as we know it unless the concept of “Relative Stability”, underpinning the CFP since 1992, is revised.

Brexit means Ireland will have over 33% of the most productive fishing grounds in the EU. What will happen to the displaced EU vessels who will no longer have access to British waters?

And where will the super trawlers go when they are pushed out of Scottish waters? Is Ireland to get no reprieve from these beasts until they've dredged every living thing from our oceans, churned up our waters and desolated our coasts?

If the EU won't act then the Irish Government must. They must use every available resource at their disposal to stop, search and inspect these boats every time they enter Irish waters. Let it be known that as soon as they are in our territory they will come under the most rigorous watch.

I won't shy away from the reality of what I am calling for here. Harass them; mercilessly, up to the limit of the law. Stand up for Irish fishing communities and force the EU's hand before there are no communities left to stand up for.