The view from one of the Clogherhead boats as they sailed up the Liffey at dawn this morning.
Fishermen from Clogherhead set sail for Dublin yesterday to join colleagues from around the country to take part in a mass protest in Dublin this morning against Irish Government and EU fisheries policies which they say are putting their livelihoods in jeopardy.
Cormac Burke, the Chair of the Irish Fishing and Seafood Alliance (I.F.S.A.), a relatively new organisation which was established to represent all sectors of Ireland’s fishing, seafood and ancillary service industries, told Drogheda Life that the Clogherhead boats formed part of a flotilla of over 100 fishing vessels to sail up the River Liffey early this morning.
“We’re simply seeking recognition by Government and the Department of Marine that the seafood industry in Ireland requires their urgent intervention to redress the devastating outcome that Brexit has beset upon the industry.
He explained that fishing quotas had been cut drastically and that the return of national waters to the UK had been particularly damaging to the Irish fishing fleet.
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“If you can imagine the Irish waters as a football pitch we have been left with just one penalty box to fish in” he said.
The Government is using scientific advice to reduce the Irish quota and then the EU says you’ve got too many boats for the quota. It’s a never-ending circle.”
He also said that it was affecting Ireland more than any other country and that the Irish Sea quota for boats from other EU countries had hardly been reduced.
He gave as an example the quota for monkfish which was just 7% for Irish boats in Irish waters while France has a quota of 69%.
He said that it would be more lucrative for him to get rid of his Irish boat, buy a French one and fish using a French licence.
“Quite aside from the current situation of Ireland only having 15% of fishing rights in Irish waters, in terms over overall EU Ireland physically owns 14% of the waters in the EU but is only allocated 3.2% of the EU fish quota.”
Speaking at today’s protest Mr Burke said: “today is a celebration of the rebirth of a new and wholly united industry – all fighting side by side against a mounting crisis that sees our fishermen and coastal communities virtually under attack from the combined forces of the EU Commission, our own Government, our own Department of Marine and the out-of-control Sea Fisheries Protection Authority.
“Its six months since our fisheries minister announced that the outcome of Brexit would cost this industry around 48 million euros in lost quotas – a figure which we have by now calculated to be more in the region of 250 million euros.
“There have been many sins committed in the past few years by a government that refuses to defend its fishing tradition to the same level that other EU nations do – but the biggest crime of all is the apparent strategic neglect and decimation of Ireland’s seafaring communities.
“The populations of Ireland’s coastal regions - for so long the lifeblood of this island nation – are experiencing first-hand the attitude of shocking apathy by this government towards the fact that the socio-economic impact as a knock-on effect of a fishing industry in crisis will mean the loss of thousands of jobs – local businesses will close down, schools left with dwindling numbers of children and ultimately the death of many villages and towns.
“And our government’s response? – “oh well lads, it’s tough – here’s some EU money to scrap your boats so we can reduce the size of the Irish fleet to match the last 15% of quotas we have left in Irish waters because we, without consulting anyone, gave the other 85% of a national resource which is owned by the citizens of Ireland to the rest of the EU fishing fleet”.
“The EU are literally buying up fishing rights in Irish waters and this government is standing idly by and paying no regard to the fact that WE the people of Ireland, not the government, own these resources.
“One clear message today to Taoiseach Michael Martin, Fisheries Minister Charlie McConalogue, the Department of Marine and the SFPA: If you aren’t part of the solution then you are part of the problem!”
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