Skipper defends giving away free fish
FISHERIES AUTHORITY officers have prepared a file for submission to the Director of Public Prosecution after a Wexford trawler owner gave away fish rather than discard them at sea.
Séamus O’Flaherty, who owns the Saltees Quest, gave away fish at Kilmore Quay in Wexford yesterday morning after the vessel exceeded its EU quota of monkfish. The vessel’s skipper, Jimmy Byrne, said he took the action to oppose the EU rule that requires over-quota fish to be thrown back in the sea.
The crew, which returned to harbour on Wednesday night, were monitored by a member of an Garda Síochána at Kilmore Quay before officers from the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority arrived yesterday morning to investigate the activity.
The authority, the statutory body that enforces fishing regulations, condemned the actions of the crew. Fisheries officers counted the catch of the Saltees Quest and prepared files for submission to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The fisheries authority said it found a substantial quantity of fish retained onboard at Kilmore Quay, which the skipper logged as having been discarded. It said all catches landed, including the fish caught by the Saltees Quest that were undeclared as “discards”, are counted against the national quota. By bringing the fish ashore, this detracts from the quota available for allocation.
The authority said it would continue to deter similar actions, to prevent damage to the livelihoods of legitimate fishermen.
In a statement, the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority said: “A fishing operation that results in large quantities of fish for which the vessel does not have a quota is undesirable for everyone. A prudent response would be to alter that operation – change fishing grounds or fishing techniques to try to avoid unwanted catches in the first instance. The quantities brought ashore as ‘discards’ in this morning’s landing are not consistent with this type of responsible fishing.”
Mr Byrne told The Irish Times he took the action of giving away the fish to draw attention to what he describes as the crazy system of dumping dead fish back into the water while thousands of people go hungry in Ireland.
“Four hundred thousand people are unemployed and people are ashamed to admit they don’t have enough money to feed themselves. Children are going to school without breakfast or coming home to no dinner while we are encouraged by the Government to throw these fish back into the sea. I personally know people who are going hungry – this is why I had to take a stand.”
Mr Byrne and his crew collected the fish, sorted them into 130 boxes and left them on Kilmore Quay to give them away free to the public.
Mr Byrne said he had always complied with EU fishing regulations but became increasingly frustrated as his crew were told to dump tons of dead fish into the sea when they had exceeded their quotas.
“I have a certain quota of fish to catch and the monkfish end up getting caught. There’s more monkfish in Ireland than ever before. I can’t tell the monkfish not to go into the net. Plaice and cod land in the net too but we have to throw them back.
“The Irish Government wants me to dump all these perfectly good fish into the sea but it’s pure madness,” he said.
Mr Byrne said there was an overwhelming response to the free monkfish and that people in Wexford were supportive of his action.
He said that Irish waters are becoming a graveyard because of the EU fishing regulations.