Industry facing nightmare scenario, warn fishermen

A RANGE of issues threatening the future of many of the 6,000 people employed in fishing will be raised by the industry with an all-party committee today.

Fish producer organisations are to highlight the nightmare scenarios Controversial EU decisions on the Irish Box and fleet tonnage and Government plans to hike port charges in state-run fishery centres being the main ones.

Industry leaders will advise the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources of the serious risks to the future of the €350m industry.

Jason Whooley, manager of the Irish South and West Fishermen’s Organisation said: “We’re delighted to have an opportunity to meet with a cross-section of politicians to discuss crucial issues facing the industry.

“At the moment we are facing major problems. It’s true to say that the outcome of these negotiations will have a major impact on the future structure of our industry,” he said.

The Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) and the Irish Fish Producers Organisation are also part of the industry deputation.

KFO chief executive Sean O’Donoghue said that the EU-driven measures present the biggest threat to the survival of the Irish fishing industry.

Underlining the urgency for Government support in advance of a July 15 meeting of the EU’s management committee, Mr O’Donoghue said the EU’s tonnage proposals threatened to wipe off, at a stroke of a pen, 15-20% off the Irish fleet capacity.

“It’s an off-the-wall move and it will present massive problems for a large number of trawler owners,” he said. “Unless a compromise is achieved, a nightmare scenario is facing Irish fishing.

“The industry is expecting the minister and the Government to take whatever action is required to have the decision annulled immediately,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr O’Donoghue urged Minister Dermot Ahern to scrap his proposals for port charge increases in the five fishery harbour centres until proper consultations are conducted with the industry.

He called on the FF/PD administration to honour its pledge in the programme for Government to revise the management of fishery harbours.

“The minister’s exorbitant and unjustifiable increases, ranging from five to tenfold, will drive vessels away from ports and will lead to substantial job losses in the State-run fishery harbours,” he said.

The KFO leader claimed some vessels could be faced with yearly port charges of €70,00-€90,000.

“We are not opposed to charges but they have to go hand-in- hand with effective harbour management,” he added.

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