Anyone who saw at the TV programme 7 Lá (Tuesday, TG4) will surely have been shocked by the devastation of our once vibrant fishing industry since joining the then European Economic Community in 1972.
We were told an industry that once provided a good living to thousands of fishermen and their families and those in the processing co-operatives from Donegal to west Cork and right around our coast, is now critically diminished and barely sustainable.
Large processing plants now lie idle along the coast due to lack of supply.
Not so long ago our seas had abundant stocks of sprat, mackerel, cod, whiting, haddock, monkfish, turbot and hake, to mention just some. The once vast shoals of herring, lauded in song and verse, were regarded as the ‘grass of the sea’, vital cogs in the marine ecosystem. The critical base of the overall food chain was the copious supply of plankton and micro fauna, now also gravely diminished.
Those at the coal face of the industry told us that the quota system under the auspices of the EU Common Fisheries Policy is grossly unfair to Irish fishermen and part of the great giveaway of the fishing industry to the larger EU nations since 1972. Irish trawlers are tied up in ports along the coast while larger Spanish, French and Dutch boats with their greater quotas continue to trawl our diminishing stocks in huge quantities. The situation is exacerbated hugely by uncontrolled foreign factory ships gouging our seas unabated.
The unprecedented and irreversible decline of our national fishing industry and our marine ecosystem is a legacy of our membership of the European Union coupled with the Irish government’s abject negligence in failing to protect a vital, lucrative natural resource.
Well done to TG4 for highlighting yet another appalling scandal.