FISHERMEN blockaded Cork and Waterford ports yesterday, continuing their protest at soaring fuel prices and EU fish quotas.
A flotilla of 50 vessels began the blockade at 10.45am at Roches Point and continued their protest throughout the day. The fishermen said they would be blocking entry to Cork harbour until further notice.
At about 2pm, trawlers began a blockade of Waterford port.
A spokesman for Cork Port urged the fishermen to end their blockade, stating: “While the Port of Cork is sympathetic to the fishermen’s plight, this protest is affecting both outbound and inbound traffic of commercial vessels to the harbour.”
However, the port’s deputy harbour master Paul O’Regan said there had been no large shipping movements during the day and, therefore, no big interruption to operations.
Describing the protest as “good tempered”, he said the fishermen had so far carried out their protest in a respectful manner.
“The fishermen contacted us in advance and we facilitated them by giving them berths in the city and there has been no danger to shipping. I think they have made their point.”
The Irish Naval Service said it was keeping a watching brief, but had not been asked to assist in removing the vessels. “It is a matter for the gardaí,” said a spokesman. “We have received no formal request for assistance, but we will respond to any such request. We don’t know how long it will last. It may be that when they have made their point, they will disperse.”
But the fishermen plan to escalate their action with a demonstration outside the offices of the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority in Clonakilty, County Cork, today. On Monday night, fishermen staged a protest at Cork Airport, preventing a cargo of imported fish leaving the airport. Earlier that day, 70 boats sailed into Cork harbour. Last week, the Federation of Irish Fishermen, an organisation representing about 90% of vessels over 12 metres, staged a march to Leinster House.
Yesterday’s blockade has not been endorsed by the federation. However, Fisheries Minister Brendan Smith has agreed to meet representatives of the federation in Athlone on Friday morning to discuss issues of concern to the sector.
Among the measures is aid for temporary cessation of fishing, a system akin to setaside in agriculture. However, the organisation is not specifically seeking fuel price subsidies.
EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg has conceded there is a crisis, but ruled out fuel subsidies or higher quotas as “false solutions”.
Meanwhile, the Irish Association of Seafood Companies, representing more than 90 processors and retailers, said comparisons being made between whole fish landed at quayside and processed fillets sold through retail outlets were inaccurate. “You need to take account of the various costs in food processing. You also need to consider the costs of labour, fuel, distribution, packaging and food safety compliance, which are all rising,” said its chairman Martin McLoughlin.
“Fish we source from other countries is not cheap... Customers want to experience a wide range of seafood, some of which are not fished in Irish waters.”
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