ANGRY fishermen from across the country tied up their boats yesterday and took their concerns to the front gates of Leinster House over rising costs and restrictions in their industry.
Hundreds of fishing vessels nationwide were left unmanned in ports, in protest over escalating fuel costs, the importation of non-EU fish and the strict fishing quotas faced by fishermen.
Fishing leaders challenged recent comments by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan that people complaining about fuel costs were “whingers”, saying they were disappointed by the comments.
The Federation of Irish Fisherman (FIF) said its members were paying “astronomical” fuel prices.
Fuel costs include not only catching fish but processing them and transporting equipment such as nets, said chairman Michael Walsh.
“Fishermen basically feel that between themselves and the Irish consumer there’s somebody who’s making a lot of money but is carrying very little costs,” added Mr Walsh.
A 20% drop in fish prices because of imported stocks has also hit the industry, said the federation chief.
Fishermen also say they are struggling with an extremely low catch rate, agreed under EU laws.
To boost wages for fishing crews, fishing unions yesterday demanded the Government introduce temporary “tie-up aid”, which would see some vessels paid for staying at port while others could then fill their quotas at sea. The short-term compensation scheme could cost between €20 million and €30m.
EU laws must also be drafted to prevent foreign fish flooding markets and reducing domestic sales, say unions.
Some crewmen have recently only earned up to €100 each for 10 days work at sea due to high costs vessel owners are facing, according to the FIF.
Cork fisherman Bill Deasy yesterday said his 45 years at sea were coming to an end because he could not afford to pay his crew.
The 64-year-old said the price of diesel had doubled in two years and fuel now accounted for 70% of his boat’s costs.
“I’ll have to tie up shortly as I won’t have the crew, that’s the same as for all boat owners,” he said.
Cathal Boyle from Killybegs, Donegal, said running his eight-man crew cost thousands of euro a day just to pay for the 6,000 litres of petrol needed.
“If anything goes wrong on a day, the crew earn less than the dole,” he explained.
His business has begun exporting fish to Scotland, France and Spain to help boost profits.
The Department of Marine last night said fishermen’s concerns had been noted at a recent meeting with ministers late last month.
Ministers are expected to discuss the plight of the industry in Ireland with EU colleagues at a forthcoming EU Fisheries Council on June 23.
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