The west Cork-based Irish South and West Fisherman’s Organisation expressed its “concern and disappointment” following a report from the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) last week, about detentions so far this year.
SFPA said marine inspectors have, in association with the Irish Naval Service, detained 14 Irish and EU-registered fishing boats in the first three months of the year for suspected breaches of fishing regulations. They were detained at various locations in Wexford, Cork, Waterford and Dublin. It claimed there were 28 cases of alleged illegal landings of fish off Irish shores, and a further 14 vessels were issued with warnings.
But Gerard O’Flynn, the chief executive of the Irish South and West Fisherman’s Organisation (ISWFO), said many of these offences relate to minor technical infringements. “This negative approach is completely undermining the good name of Irish fishing,” he said.
Such tactics by the state agency, he said, were also contributing to unnecessary tensions within the industry.
In most European countries, these issues are dealt with by administrative sanction rather than formal use of the courts, he said.
And he called on Agriculture Minister Mary Coughlan to ensure that administrative sanctions for breaches of minor fishery offences are introduced without delay.
“It is ironic that a process that is deemed suitable for a majority of European fishing countries and is endorsed by the EU Commission has yet to be introduced here,” he added.
Mr O’Flynn also said it was ironic that the report from SFPA was released in the same week that the state and the industry were promoting Irish seafood at the World Seafood Congress in Brussels.
“I would hope that ministers Coughlan and Cowen will recognise that it scarcely amounts to a value for taxpayers’ money approach, if one state agency is undermining the efforts of a sister organisation to promote growth and employment in the fishing industry,” he said. The ISWFO chief also questioned the value of an intensive radio campaign currently being conducted by the SFPA. He said it was only serving to alienate fishermen and create unnecessary tension between the authorities and the industry.
“This radio campaign budget could be put to much better use in promoting Irish seafood or in conducting essential research on the current state of our fish stocks,” he said.