Marine Minister Michael Creed’s decision to allocate 87% of an additional mackerel quota to 23 vessels in the Donegal fleet has been compared, by angry counterparts on the western seaboard, to the closure of a huge factory in an urban area.
The Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (ISWFPO), headquartered in Castletownbere, claimed 700 jobs in Galway, Kerry and West Cork ports were at risk due to the minister’s decision over an additional quota allocation, with a likely monetary value of €10m.
The ISWFPO — which had sought the full additional quota — said there would be public outrage if so many jobs were lost in an inland provincial town.
Its chief executive Patrick Murphy and board chairman John D O’Sullivan, in a strongly-worded joint statement said:
“The policy choice made by the minister and his civil servants is revealing and underpins the existing deeply embedded policy of apartheid in the Irish fishing industry and the anti-competitive and monopolistic fixing of the Irish fishing fleet, whose primary objective appears to be to look after the interests of the owners of a closed club in the fleet’s pelagic segment.”
It further claimed: “The minister has rejected the proposals put by the ‘IS&W’ without any opportunity being given to show that the future maintenance and viability of up to 50 fishing boats dependent upon fishing for whitefish species, all along our coastline, is not just possible but wholly economically feasible.”
The ISWFPO said the Cork-based minister for agriculture, food and marine had “bent over backwards and contorted himself to ensure that nobody could complain he was favouring fishing interests and communities here in the south”.
Appealing to Mr Creed to revisit his decision, it also warned some members have sought and are receiving legal advice on challenging the decision in the courts.
The allocation of the additional 2017 mackerel quota of 10,589 tonnes followed a review into mackerel quota sharing arrangements.
Large mackerel boats in Killybegs have pioneered and dominated the mackerel industry worth about €87m and representing about 60%-80% of the total income in the North-West.
The 23 Donegal refrigerated seawater vessels have traditionally secured 87% of the pelagic fish quota with the remainder shared among smaller vessels in Castletownbere which is primarily a whitefish port.
The Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) insisted a review of the allocation had been “unnecessary” and “a distraction” as the industry focuses on the implications of Brexit.
KFO chief executive Seán O’Donoghue said: “[I am pleased the minister] separated fact from fiction.
“He was not swayed by unfounded and distorted facts.
“All we had sought was that the existing percentage sharing arrangements be maintained which have shown to properly deal with year-on-year fluctuations in the national mackerel quota in a fair, transparent and balanced way.
“We have not gained additional fish, we have retained the existing percentage sharing arrangement which was in place due to the work we have put into building a pelagic industry in the North-West.”
The ISWFPO claimed 200 jobs on board boats and up to 500 in fish processing could be affected.