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Government-sponsored discrimination and intimidation of fishing sector in Killybegs despicable

Rural Independent TD for Cork South-West Michael Collins TD has rounded angrily on the Minister for Fisheries Charlie Mc Conalogue, for allowing the Sea Fisheries Protection Agency (SFPA) to inflict ongoing intimidation and harassment on the entire Irish fishing industry, as witnessed first-hand in Killybegs over the last eight weeks.

Speaking from Leinster House, Deputy Collins asserted: “The ongoing treatment of the fishing sector by the Sea Fisheries Protection Agency is callous, calculated, and destructive. Perhaps what is even more galling, is that this is all occurring under the watch of Donegal fisheries Minister Charlie Mc Conalogue, who is standing idly by and allowing this torture and abuse of power by a state agency to continue.”

“It is highly ruinous to unilaterally introduce a controversial change to fish weighing procedures on March 7th, when up until that point, an SFPA-approved pier-side weighing system for fish had operated and worked. The new regime forces the draining of refrigerated seawater from the fish storage tanks, with the dewatering breaking the cold chain and resulting in the fish being compressed during transport and made unfit for human consumption.”

“It is beyond belief that the Irish Sea Fishery Protection Authority is imposing the new weighing system, despite a High Court ruling stating that authorities should introduce an alternative system.”

“The ongoing weighing debacle is having a devastating impact on the sector and a solution must be urgently found. This should be a number one priority for any fisheries Minister, otherwise, the ongoing displacement could result in the loss of around €40 million annually to ports like Killybegs.”

“The new system means vessels are not prepared to land their fish in Killybegs, due to the unreasonable and unworkable weighing obligations imposed upon them, with many now choosing to land fish in Derry port.”

“The ongoing controversy is damaging the stellar reputation of quality Irish seafood and is losing business for our seafood exporters. Our fishermen in Killybegs and across the island are being completely ignored by the current government.”

"The dysfunctional approach being adopted by the SFPA is also having a wider socio-economic loss for the north-west region, with a loss of earnings for part-time fish processing workers who are missing out on badly needed employment opportunities.”

"Fish processing plants are a significant source of employment. Many are the backbone of the economy for our coastal communities. I have heard from frustrated and angry workers who are extremely angry at how the government is allowing this to unfold and continue.”

“Incredibly, not a single other EU country is being forced to adopt such an unworkable regime, meaning Ireland’s fishing industry is now being put at a huge competitive disadvantage.”

“Therefore, my Rural Independent colleagues and I are calling on Minister Charlie Mc Conalogue and the government to immediately call a complete halt to the new regime, implement the High Court ruling and engage constructively with the sector to find a common-sense solution that protects our fishermen and women, the processing sector and all the livelihoods within the industry,” concluded Deputy Collins.