By Juno McEnroe and Harry McGee
THOUSANDS of fishers and onshore industry workers will stage a peaceful protest today against planned new legislation to extend criminal sanctions for fishing offences.
Almost every available large trawler in the fleet, along with some Norwegian-based Irish boats, will participate in a demonstration at key ports.
An armada of 250 vessels will sail into Dublin, Waterford, Cork and Galway.
The industry is opposed to new laws extending criminal sanctions, instead preferring administrative penalties overseen by an ombudsman.
The Irish Fish Producers Organisation’s Lorcan Ó Cinnéide emphasised the protest would be peaceful. "We are not blocking any ports. It is in co-operation with gardaí and port managers, being scheduled to ensure commercial traffic runs as normal."
A joint statement from the country’s four major fishing groups warned the "far-reaching and totally unacceptable legislation would do nothing to address threats to the sector but have the effect of criminalising ordinary people trying to earn a living".
The industry claimed the legislation would further isolate Irish fishers from the advantages enjoyed by EU colleagues. However, the EU fisheries commission has adopted a tougher stance in recent years.
Concerns are mounting that Ireland could be the next country targeted by the EU amid claims of over-fishing, illegal fishing and under-reporting of catches in recent years.