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Minister for Marine “committed” to protecting inshore waters for smaller fishing vessels

Responding to a question in the Dáil this week from Independent Galway West TD Catherine Connolly. Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue said he is currently appealing the recent High Court ruling which overturned a Government policy directive to protect inshore waters by excluding trawling by vessels over 18 metres inside the six-mile nautical limit. He said the ruling has been appealed by the State to the Court of Appeal. While he could not comment on the matter, he stated that he is “committed to delivering the promises made in the Programme for Government that inshore waters continue to be protected for smaller fishing vessels and pair trawling be prohibited inside the six-mile limit”.

Deputy Connolly.had asked him if he intended to conduct a second consultation process on trawling activity inside the six nautical mile zone in view of a recent High Court judgement which found that the previous consultation process was defective.

Targeted income supports needed for Ireland’s fishing community

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Fisheries Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has raised the need for specific income and social protection supports to be examined for Ireland’s fishing community by the Department of Social Protection and Employment.

Teachta Mac Lochlainn, when speaking on the Social Welfare Bill in the Dáil this week, said: “We need to do something radically different when it comes to social protection and Ireland’s fishers. I encouraged the Minister to commission a piece of work on how we treat fishers when it comes to income and social protection supports, and to include fishers in this piece of work.

"The uniqueness of the work of Irish fishers and their vital importance to the Irish economy and food chain has to be recognised when administering social protection payments.

"This Covid-19 crisis has exposed the deficiencies in the current social protection system and how it treats Ireland’s fishers.

“In March, when Ireland’s export market was all but wiped out, there was no domestic market to replace it and fishers were left scrambling to find income. The Pandemic Unemployment Payment was opened up to the fishing community but it didn’t recognise the uniqueness of the nature of fishing, which is dependent on weather, conditions, time of year and availability of fish stock.

"Fishers couldn’t access temporary wage subsidy supports because most are on self-employed contracts. They couldn’t access working capital loans as there was existing debt with financial institutions and they were locked out of restart grants from local authorities because they do not pay rates.

“The tie-up scheme from Europe to cover weather events was totally inadequate and ill-thought out. It was too little, too late.

"With Brexit and in particular the ever increasing threat of a no-deal Brexit, I am appealing to the Minister to do something very different. The Irish fishing community is in serious trouble and needs support.

"We need new thinking for Irish fishers and I am asking the Departments of Social Protection and Agriculture and Marine to put together an urgent task force involving fishing representatives to look at introducing targeted specific measures that the fishing community."

Minister McConalogue meets National Inshore Fisheries Forum

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D., recently hosted a meeting of the National Inshore Fisheries Forum (NIFF) online with representatives from the industry dialling in from around the coast this week.

He said that the inshore sector had faced “a particularly tough trading year with its key food service markets in Europe and elsewhere among the worst-affected by COVID-19 restrictions. “As essential workers, fishers have been in a position to continue bringing ashore seafood. However, I am conscious that the prolonged closures and restrictions on trading for hotels and restaurants across Europe have had a marked impact on Irish seafood trade.”

The NIFF delivered presentations on the challenges small scale coastal fishers have faced in accessing financial supports and on opportunities the sector would like to maximise into the future. The Minister encouraged the inshore sector to feed into the development of the Operational Programme for the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund 2021-2027.

Mental health and the well-being of fishers were also highlighted by the NIFF at the meeting, with particular focus on the worries that the pandemic has brought from finances, to health and social inclusion.