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Fear Washes Over Optimism

The South - West View from Patrick Murphy, Chief Executive of the Irish South and West Fishermen’s Organisation, who says that the New Year has brought, not optimism, but fear.

The start of the New Year brought, instead of a feeling of optimism washing over the Industry, I feel it is one of fear.

I wonder am I alone when I say this?

For two years I have served in this role as CEO of the Irish South and West and, to quote one of our senior and most wise members, Mr John Tattan: “We are only bailing water, trying to stay afloat.” Forgive me, John, for quoting you but truer words have never been spoken in my opinion.

We are a hard-working Industry, I am sure no one would disagree with that; We are a high-risk Industry, no one would disagree with that; We are a family Industry, again this is true, but we fish in the richest fishing grounds of Europe and the share of the fish we get is crumbs; but how many readers agree with this? I for one certainly do.

I love the Industry that is a part of my life and has been so since I was a baby, from fishing with my father, Danny Murphy, as a young boy around the islands of Roaring Water Bay in a 17ft timber punt, hand-hauling shrimp pots to what I am doing today. It has been some journey.

I returned from the December EU Fisheries Council with mixed thoughts and a feeling of trepidation about the year to come.

As I have stated time and time again, like a vinyl record with the needle stuck in a groove, repeating that we should look for a greater share of the fish that inhabit our waters, but we struggle to find ways suitable to encourage others in a bid to look for more.

This shortage of fish quota which our country has to catch will have devastating effects in the years to come (2019---). Those who have young children or are young enough themselves will know from the early Harry Potter films “he who should not be named” seems to apply now to the Landing Obligation and BREXIT.

Through the joint efforts of many members of the NWWAC, Commission, Scientists, members of BIM etc., in trying to seek methods to avoid choke species under the Landing Obligation, by looking at technical measures, avoidance, swaps …… and the outcome of this was formalisation of a document we called the ‘Mitigation Tool.’

It clearly showed some problems we tried to solve could only be done by properly distributing the stocks in areas in proportion to the effort of the fleets, rather than under the current share system governed by “Relative Stability”.

We could not find all solutions to the problem of choking our fleets in some species.

Do not get me wrong, the work that was carried out, I must say was simply brilliant and the forward strides that were made during the process were immense but sadly, without implementation, not much good.

Simply, the room is full of elephants and I ask the question why can we not see them?
I will try and look for some positive words to end this piece so on that note, I will add the IS&WFPO are grateful to the British Ambassador, Mr Robin Barnett, for giving us the opportunity to meet with him and Mr. Anthony Cooper to discuss with them the importance of our fishing industry to our coastal region, with details of its economic importance to Castletownbere and the community of the Berra Peninsula.

Like all our fishing ports, from Killybegs to Castletownbere, without the income from our fishing vessels, these communities’ socio-economic health would be classified in medical terms as being on life support.