Internal tensions within surveillance authority over suspected irregularities in fish catches

Authority inspection staff at odds with senior management over level of disclosure to Marine Institute and Marine Stewardship Council

Fishery protection inspectors have been concerned about the activities of about a third of the fleet of over 30 vessels involved in the seasonal fishery, supplying half a dozen factories in Dingle and Castletownbere in the southwest and Killybegs in the northwest.

Fishery protection inspectors have been concerned about the activities of about a third of the fleet of over 30 vessels involved in the seasonal fishery, supplying half a dozen factories in Dingle and Castletownbere in the southwest and Killybegs in the northwest.

Fri, Dec 20, 2013, 01:01


Internal tensions have arisen within the State’s Sea Fisheries Protection Authority over its handling of suspected fraud in the Celtic Sea herring fishery.

Authority inspection staff are understood to be at odds with senior management over the level of disclosure to the Marine Institute and the Marine Stewardship Council about suspected under-reported catches from several vessels and factories involved in the Celtic Sea herring fishery last year.

It is an internationally certified Irish “sustainable” fishery that has been held up as a model by Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney.

Any irregularities would normally be reported by inspection authorities to the council ,while the Marine Institute’s scientific advice to the Government on fish stock management, and on sustainable quotas, would also be informed by any breaches.

Fishery protection inspectors have been concerned about the activities of about a third of the fleet of over 30 vessels involved in the seasonal fishery, supplying half a dozen factories in Dingle and Castletownbere in the southwest and Killybegs in the northwest.


Ministerial order
Authorisation for landing catches from the seasonal fishery was extended by ministerial order to Ringaskiddy, Co Cork, where there was no functioning weighbridge.

The inspectors were unable to get access to vessels at this landing point and as a result most of the 136 landings at Ringaskiddy during last year’s autumn fishery were not properly monitored. The access issue has since been resolved.

Tracking of landings was made all the more difficult as catches landed by individual vessels were delivered by trucks to factories. Inspectors were unhappy with a decision to allow the fish to be weighed on arrival in factories, rather than on independent weighbridges.

It is understood that evidence supplied to senior management, which indicated that there was up to 50 per cent under-reporting of catches by a percentage of the vessels on the fishery in 2012, has not resulted in any prosecutions to date. It was estimated that more than 7,500 tonnes of fish had been illegally caught, fetching up to €500 a tonne at the time.

The council’s September 2013 report refers to a “suspected isolated incident of systematic non-compliance concerning suspected under-reporting of landings during a three-week period in October 2012 at the port of Ringaskiddy”.

The authority said last night that over the period of the fishery, one case file for over-quota fishing was finalised and forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions, and seven written warnings were issued – one for under-declaration of catch onboard, and six for departing port outside the hours defined in the vessel authorisation.

The authority said it had met the Marine Stewardship Council’s audit group and informed it of its concerns.

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