Trawler sank during TG4 documentary on dangers of fishing, owner reveals

A fishing trawler caught fire and sank to the bottom of the sea during the making of a TG4 documentary.

Trawler sank during TG4 documentary on dangers of fishing, owner reveals

A fishing trawler caught fire and sank to the bottom of the sea during the making of a TG4 documentary.

The crew of the Susanne II had to be airlifted to safety 100km off the east coast by the Irish coastguard after an emergency beacon was activated.

Ironically, the boat was one of several being followed by TV cameras for eight months for a documentary highlighting the dangers fishermen faced on a regular basis and their battles against the quota system.

Fortunately, the three-man crew were all rescued with no serious injuries and there were no cameramen on board at the time it sank earlier this year.

The boat is seen going under the waves in the documentary, Tabú, which will be broadcast in the New Year, using footage from the rescue helicopter and RNLI boats.

Owner Ronan Forde said he was terrified all the men would be dead when he first got a phone call telling him the boat was in trouble.

Ronan Forde, the owner of the Susanne II during the making of a TV documentary about the dangers of fishing. Pic: TG4
Ronan Forde, the owner of the Susanne II during the making of a TV documentary about the dangers of fishing. Pic: TG4

“I feel relieved they are alive,” he told the documentary film crew.

“But the boat has gone. It’s a disaster. I don’t know what I will do next. It might be the end of this business for me.”

Castletownbere skipper Brendan O’Driscoll sold his boat and quit the industry during filming of the documentary because he was so fed up of the bureaucracy.

“In 1973 we joined Europe and we got the crumbs. We were sold out basically and I would be very, very fearful about the future of fishing in Ireland,” he said.

Patrick Murphy, CEO of the South and West Fish Producers Organisation, said the outdated quotas had been the same since the 1970s and had to be changed.

Footage from the sinking of the Susanne II during the making of a TV documentary about the dangers of fishing. Pic: TG4
Footage from the sinking of the Susanne II during the making of a TV documentary about the dangers of fishing. Pic: TG4

“I don’t think there is any industry in the world that has the same plan forty years later. The definition of madness must be fishing at this stage,” he told the documentary.

“The fish we are allowed to catch is narrowing all the time. It doesn’t matter if the boats here are going out of business and coastal communities are shutting down, ‘sure we will replace it with broadband.’”

Castletownbere fisherman Damien Turner said the monthly quota system was unfair because bad weather sometimes prevented them from going to sea and the quota did not carry over.

“If you don’t fish the quota you lose it which can be very frustrating when you are tied up.

“There is vast potential in the industry but we are not utilising it. We are being punished for mistakes that were made back in the 70s.”

Dunmore East fisherman Shane McIntyre said he only survived by changing from white fish to crabs and lobster which are not restricted by EU quotas.

He said it was soul-destroying when he had to dump fish overboard when his nets caught too much.

Rescue footage from the sinking of the Susanne II during the making of a TV documentary about the dangers of fishing'. Pic: TG4
Rescue footage from the sinking of the Susanne II during the making of a TV documentary about the dangers of fishing'. Pic: TG4

“You would be at home in bed and ask, why am I doing this? Why am I giving myself so much heartache? That finished me. White fish is a nightmare with quotas.

“Our government should demand, not ask, ‘we want more quota.’”

He said fishermen feared Brexit would mean the UK reclaiming all its waters, forcing even more EU fishing boats into Irish seas.

“We are fighting for scraps in our own country,” he said.

John Nolan, CEO of the Castletownbere Fishermen’s Co-Op, said last year French and Spanish trawlers caught enough fish to fill 1,450 trucks in the port while Irish boats were often tied up because of the lack of quotas.

“We have been terribly treated. We look at the big trawlers from other countries coming in and the lorries leaving here and we struggle to make things work.”

Tabú is on TG4 on Wednesday January 8 at 9.30pm.

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