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Actions of SFPA create a hard border on the island of Ireland – IFPEA

Fisheries control authority does not recognise Derry as part of Ireland

The actions of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) to remove the in-factory weighing permits of the two fish processors from Killybegs is condemned as nothing short of state harassment and adds to the narrative that the SFPA are not fit for purpose. The decision to remove the weigh permits from the same fish processors that were unable to land the blue whiting catches from a Norwegian vessel while still maintaining the fish fit for human consumption has been very well documented. On both occasions that this occurred the Master of the vessel decided to land the fish into Derry Port at Lisahally and the blue whiting catch was then brought back by road to Killybegs on trucks and tankers.

Killybegs harbour - Photo courtesy John Cunningham

The SFPA have decided to remove the in-factory weigh permits from Arctic Fish and Sean Ward Fish Ltd both of Killybegs on the basis that;

“the SFPA remains of the view that the landing took place outside of Ireland"

The SFPA further add; “Therefore, Art 61 (1) cannot be applied following transport from outside of Ireland to a permitted establishment in Ireland”

This is a shocking development on the ongoing weighing debacle, we now witness an Irish control authority imposing a sanction against an Irish fish processor on the basis that Derry Port is not in Ireland, that the special status for Northern Ireland which applies EU rules, regulations and rights in addition to other jurisdictional rights does not apply because Derry is not deemed to be in Ireland. This is despite the fact that EU rules, regulations clearly apply for all matters agricultural, for goods and services and other commercial activities on an all-Ireland basis.

Speaking from Brussels CEO of IFPEA Mr Brendan Byrne stated; “this is an extraordinary blunder on the part of the SFPA after Ireland negotiating a special status for Northern Ireland through the Brexit talks providing for EU rules to apply to Ireland equally but, in this instance, we have an authority of the state making an assertion that the protocol is not worth the paper it is written on”.

We must be conscious that the Irish fishing industry paid a massive price for the protocol arrangement through the Brexit /TCA talks process – with the loss of over €100 million euro of commercial value fish per annum. It was fishing that carried by far the heaviest burden at the conclusion of the Brexit Talks.

Aodh O Donnell, chief executive, Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO) commenting to the Marine Times said; “The development over the last 24 hours has shocked the seafood industry, is another blow to the sector and leads to additional uncertainty. Left unchallenged, this is going to have significant consequences for the sector generally.”

“There is long standing and a massive interdependence between the catching and processing sectors on the island. The special arrangement and protocol for Northern Ireland is key to the smooth running of the fishing industry island-wide.”

“The indication by the SFPA that they cannot treat the ports in Northern Ireland as part of the protocol arrangement is nothing short of shocking, and is contrary to the protocol and the Good Friday Agreement.”

“The IFPO calls on the Government to act now to defend the integrity of the protocol and the Good Friday Agreement.”

The SFPA by their actions have effectively created a hard border on the island of Ireland, while our Government are standing idly by. The final irony, at the time the SFPA are revoking permits on fish processors, the fish processing companies are competing at the Barcelona EXPO with other coastal states for markets sales for the coming year – but, that in itself epitomises the challenges faced by our fish processors at home and on the broader international markets.