Fishermen protest in Dublin over EU fisheries policy

Updated / Wednesday, 23 Jun 2021 18:20

The flotilla made its way upriver and the fishermen delivered a letter to the Taoiseach at the National Convention Centre

By Laura Fletcher

Trawler owners, their families and fishing representative organisations from across the country have taken part in a protest in Dublin city over quotas cuts, the impact of Brexit and the European Union Common Fisheries Policy.

A flotilla of 55 trawlers from all around the coast gathered at the entrance to Dublin Port before dawn and travelled up the River Liffey in convoy through the East Link Toll Bridge to Sir John Rodgerson's Quay.

It is the second such protest in recent weeks.

In May, a flotilla of trawlers from the south, southwest and southeast of the country travelled to Cork Harbour before holding a rally in the city.

Fishermen from Donegal, Galway, Cork, Louth, Wexford, Waterford and Dublin took part in today's protest, and the action had the support of the country's six main fishing organisations.

The Irish fishing industry is worth over €1 billion to the economy, with 16,000 local people employed in fishing and processing.

Brexit saw the value of the national quota cut by 15%.

This month the Seafood Sector Task Force, which was set up post-Brexit and includes representatives from the fishing sector, published its interim report.

It recommended that "all options to alleviate the loss of quota share be pursued ... as a matter of urgency".

It also recommended a voluntary temporary cessation scheme be offered to around 220 vessels directly impacted by the Brexit quota cuts, from September to December.

However, Chairman of the Irish South & East Fish Producers Organisation, John Lynch, who is a member of the Task Force Committee said that "a once off temporary tie-up scheme is not enough".

Speaking during the protest on Sir John Rogerson's Quay this morning, Mr Lynch said that the proposed scheme was "only for one sector of the fleet ... the demersal and prawn fishing sector".

Boats arrived early this morning

"There was nothing for inshore vessels, nothing for scallop vessels and nothing for the pelagic vessels and something needs to be done to compensate all sectors of the fleet and the processing industry for the losses they've had to suffer due to the Brexit deal."

Mr Lynch also skippers his trawler Eblana out of Howth in Dublin.

"When we went into the task force first ... we insisted we wanted burden-sharing and as much of our quota back from whatever place the Government could get it ... to date we have got none."

However, Mr Lynch said that they were still "working on that" and the interim report detailed "possible ways that we could achieve better quotas for Irish fishermen."

Caitlín Uí Aodha owns the trawler Dearbhla based in Dunmore East in Co Waterford.

"My family fished for over 150 years," she said.

"My daughter sent me a caption today saying 'no country for young fishermen' and it's not. It is very difficult to encourage your family to go to sea simply because there just isn't any support," Ms Uí Aodha added.

"The last year has been very difficult to be honest with you," said Ciarán Doherty, who operates the trawler Áine, a pelagic vessel, out of Killybegs in Co Donegal.

"The Brexit TCA (Trade and Cooperation Agreement) deal gave us a direct 26% cut on our mackerel quota, it doesn't matter what industry you're in, no industry can take a 26% cut.

"A direct result for our family business is that more than likely we'll have reduce the crewing levels by about three people, so we have 11 people employed on the vessel and about three people will have to make way, because otherwise it doesn't work," Mr Doherty said.

A similar protest was held in Cork in May

Trudy McIntyre's husband Shane operates an inshore vessel from Dunmore East, fishing for live crab and lobster.

For them the impact of Brexit was not immediate, but she said they are now feeling the "ripple effects".

"The displacement of foreign fleets from UK waters into Irish waters has had an impact on us directly," citing an example of having to replace 240 lobster pots that were towed in April, at a cost of €16,000.

The children and grandchildren of some of the fishermen taking part in the protest delivered a letter to Taoiseach Micheál Martin at the National Convention Centre, where the Dáil is sitting.

The letter outlined the protesters' concerns and calls for change, including the renegotiation of the EU Common Fisheries Policy, and a demand for equal burden sharing throughout member states following the Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

This afternoon, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue met producer organisations and fishing industry representatives involved in the protest.

Mr McConalogue described the talks as "constructive" and said he welcomed "continued engagement with the industry."

In an earlier statement he said that he and the Government "stand with our fishers" and recognised "the challenges facing the industry as a result of Brexit and the pandemic".