Opinion: Minister must take control of illegal fishing activities in Ireland
June 24, 2021
Next Monday 28e In June, our Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Navy, Charlie McConalogue, will decide, together with his European peers, on how fishing activities should be monitored and controlled to ensure they comply with fishing rules. sustainability of fishing.
Twenty NGOs, including 10 from Ireland, recently encouraged the minister to ensure that Ireland plays a positive role in this review of the EU’s fisheries control regulation.
The EU Fisheries Control System was created to ensure proper monitoring, inspection and enforcement of fishing operations in EU waters and the activities of the EU fleet in the EU. whole world. The idea is solid: by better controlling fishing, we can end overfishing and help strengthen the health of the oceans in the face of climate change.
The NGO letter highlighted how a strong fisheries control regulation is crucial to deliver sustainable fishing activities in Irish and European waters, and how Ireland can and must take leadership to improve the way our seas are exploited.
These recommendations come at a time when the Irish fishing industry is in disarray and the international reputation of Irish fishing controls is at an all-time low, following the unprecedented decision by the European Commission
revoke Ireland’s “control plan” which allowed the Irish fishing industry to weigh their catches at processing plants rather than at the port.
This drastic measure comes after fifteen years of reports and audits on failures in Irish fisheries control.
The most recent of them highlighted “serious and significant weaknesses” in the Irish control system, in particular unquantified illegal landings; suspicious modifications to the vessel; falsification of weighing operations; lack of effective enforcement and sanction for non-compliance; and the complete lack of control or enforcement of illegal targeting, catching and landing of bluefin tuna.
In response, a spokesperson for the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organizationaccused
The Irish Marine Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), which is responsible for enforcing the control regulation, is “a dysfunctional organization that is not fit for purpose”. The Irish Fish Producers’ Organization has also called
the âtotally dysfunctionalâ SFPA.
These accusations stem from a recent independent report see again
of the SFPA who found that the fisheries control authority “is not functioning effectively and requires urgent attention.”
Only the tip of the iceberg
The European Commission appears to have lost confidence in the ability of the Irish authorities to control our own fishing activities.
In addition to tearing up Ireland’s control plan, Ireland could have to ‘pay back’ thousands of tonnes of illegal landings – thanks to reduced annual quotas – while â¬ 40 million in funding from the European Fund for sea ââfishing are already selected.
This may be just the tip of the iceberg, as the Dutch government recently revealed that the Commission intends to initiate infringement proceedings against the Member States in the northwest of the EU ( including Ireland) after a recent audit found serious flaws in the implementation of the EU’s ban on the discarding of fish at sea.
The revised EU control regulation presents a ‘golden opportunity’ to tackle many of the loopholes that have led to the current crisis in Ireland.
For example, the Commission has proposed that modern remote electronic monitoring (REM) tools, such as closed circuit television and sensor data, be introduced to support the monitoring and control of high risk vessels.
The use of these tools has already proven to be superior to conventional controls, such as inspections at sea and in ports, in terms of cost effectiveness and potential coverage.
By supporting the adoption of these tools, Minister McConalogue could boost Ireland’s efforts to revolutionize the management and monitoring of commercial fisheries. Digitization and new monitoring tools will provide better data to inform science, management and conservation.
By taking a progressive stance in favor of strict control regulations, Ireland could move from being a laggard to a leader in eliminating illegal fishing activities, for the benefit of our marine environment and Irish fishing communities. that depend on it.
Fintan Kelly is the Policy Officer at BirdWatch Ireland