EU fisheries policy may 'wipe out' coastal fishing communities

 

THE EU’s Common Fisheries Policy is trying to wipe out coastal communities, particularly in Ireland and Scotland, according to US photographer and Discovery Channel “fishing dude” Corey Arnold.

Mr Arnold, who is speaking at a marine exhibition in Galway today, said it was in these two jurisdictions that he found some of the “most dramatic examples” of the threat posed to small-boat fishing.

Best known as star of Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catchtelevision series, Mr Arnold is a young but seasoned photographer and fisherman who has spent many years working on some of the toughest grounds off Alaska in the Bering Sea.

He has worked on the seasonal sockeye salmon fishery, now owns his own boat in Alaska, and has documented the harsh lifestyle of the Bering Sea king crab fishing crews for the Deadliest Catch series.

He was recently hired by the US-funded Pew Environment Group to document the state of the fishing industry in Europe.

He has already travelled for the Pew project through eight EU coastal states, including Ireland and Scotland. He said he found fishermen just as concerned as environmentalists about the state of stocks, and “no one had a good word to say about Brussels”.

In his view, current European Union management policies favour large vessels and make it almost impossible for small boats, on which many coastal communities depend, to survive.

Mr Arnold, who is a guest of the Irish SkipperExpo which opened yesterday in Salthill, Galway, recalled how he had spent time with a small-boat skipper who was hand-lining for mackerel off Teelin, south Donegal. He also worked on shellfish pots off Newport, Co Mayo, as part of the Pew project.

“It struck me that these people have a great opportunity to land top quality, sustainably caught fish, but they get no real encouragement under current management policies,” he said.

“They barely get enough quota to survive, compared to the much larger vessels which get most of the quotas and can discard up to 50 per cent of their catch.”

The discards issue is very topical, due to a British media campaign. EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki said this week that she was seeking a ban on discards.

Irish fishing industry organisations support eradication of discards, but say avoidance and technical measures constitute the best approach.

Mr Arnold said fishery management practice in Alaska offered many lessons for Europe. “It is still a frontier fishery, but very tightly controlled,” he said. “There are observers on most vessels, which works very well.”

He is due to speak at the expo at 2pm today in the Galway Bay Hotel, Salthill. The exhibition, which attracted several thousand visitors last year, was opened yesterday by Bord Iascaigh Mhara chief executive Jason Whooley.