Fishing reps want probe into Spanish trawler case

Fishing industry representatives want an investigation into how a Spanish-owned trawler with sick crew onboard was allowed to dock in Ireland.
Fishing reps want probe into Spanish trawler case

Fishing industry representatives want an investigation into how a Spanish-owned trawler with sick crew onboard was allowed to dock in Ireland.

The MFV Notre Dame docked in Castletownbere on April 21 where it unloaded fish it had caught since leaving Spain on April 10.

Its skipper then left after a few hours and carried on fishing until the 32.8 metre boat was forced to return to Spain when the skipper fell ill.

When it arrived back at Celeiro Port around May 3, it was met by health officials who tested the skipper and his 15 crew members.

At least eight are believed to have tested positive, including one of them had reported feeling ill shortly after the boat left Spain.

The Department of Agriculture has not said whether or not it will investigate, and the Spanish Embassy insists “there was no incident”.

But Patrick Murphy, of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation said: “There needs to be an investigation into this matter.

“We understand the skipper made a declaration about his crew, as he is required to before docking.

“However, if it is true a crew member took ill after the boat left Spain, and the captain declared this, then why was a boat with at least one crew member who had a recent history of illness allowed to dock at Castletownbere?

“We need to learn from this incident and we need to know exactly what happened.

"If we don’t, this sort of incident is going to lead to the sort of protests we had earlier in the year.

“And there is going to be a perception by our Spanish colleagues that there is hostility towards them, when there isn’t among the fishing community.”

He added: “This is not a fishing issue.

“This is a health and safety issue and those Spanish fishermen were at risk of dying, and that concerns us.

“Although we come from different countries, as fishermen and women, we are part of the same fraternity.”

He is worried this incident will lead to a repeat of protests in Dingle and Castletownebere by dozens of people who, earlier this year, blocked access to the piers by foreign registered vessels.

Protesters were worried the harbours are not policed in a way that people suffering from Covid-19 could not get into local communities.

Shortly after the protests ended, the Department of Agriculture introduced the need for all fishing boats entering port to make a full declaration about the health of their crew.

Javier Gonzalez, Spain’s deputy Head of Mission at the Spanish Embassy in Dublin, said: "The Embassy of Spain considers there was no incident and understands that Spanish vessels comply with national and European regulations.

“The crew of Notre Dame Cedeira remained on board during the port call in Castletownbere. Nobody went ashore.

“The declaration of the skipper is addressed to the Irish authorities.

“The Embassy of Spain doesn’t know the content of the declaration.”

The HSE said it could not discuss what details the skipper of the boat declared before he arrived at Castletownbere.

The Department of Agriculture said procedures in place for the Covid-19 crisis were implemented in full during the landing.

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