Scrapping fishing boats will ‘destroy industry and communities’

Representative bodies oppose Government plan for decommissioning of 60 trawlers

 A flotilla of fishing vessels in Dublin Port last June for a protest  highlighting the issues facing the Irish fishing community. Photograph: Alan Betson

A flotilla of fishing vessels in Dublin Port last June for a protest highlighting the issues facing the Irish fishing community. Photograph: Alan Betson

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The State’s smaller fishing trawlers and the communities depending on them will become part of folklore under the Government’s plans to scrap some of the fleet, the Oireachtas has been warned.

Under the plan from Minister for Agriculture and the Marine Charlie McConalogue, backed by European Union funds, 60 small and medium-sized trawlers would be permanently decommissioned.

The compensation on offer to the 60 whitefish trawlers who fish using pots, or beam trawls, works out at €12,000 for each tonne of weight of the trawler, but it does not take into account borrowings that have been built up.

Representatives from fishing bodies on Wednesday expressed their outright opposition to the Third Decommissioning Scheme proposed by the task force set up by the Minister.

Patrick Murphy of the Irish South & West Fish Producers Organisation told the committee that while the waters surrounding the Irish coastline are considered the “jewel in the crown” of the EU fishing industry, some Irish fishermen are now being told to decommission.

‘Wiping out’

“We will see the complete destruction of our fishing industry resulting from [this], as it is requires the wiping out of a third of the 180 vessels operating in Ireland’s offshore demersal/whitefish fleet, leading to the ultimate destruction of our Irish demersal fishing fleet,” Mr Murphy said.

“Eighty-five percent of the fish in Irish waters are not open to our fishing vessels and now our Minister tells us that we must decommission 60 boats while our colleagues in France and Belgium are not only investing in their fishing industry but are building boats as well. This will destroy not only the fishing industry but also the coastal communities,” he told the meeting.

The meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture and the Marine, chaired by Fianna Fáil TD Jackie Cahill, was attended by representatives from the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, the Irish Fish Producers Organisation, the Irish South & East Fish Producers Organisation and the Irish South & West Fish Producers Organisation.

Compensated

Those who choose to stop fishing must be properly compensated so that they can pay off any debts they have so they can move on with their lives, the politicians were told.

Mr John Lynch of the Irish South & East Fish Producers Organisation said decommissioning seems to be the only plan the Government has for the industry.

“When you decommission then that’s it,” he said, “When these boats are gone they are gone forever. What about securing the future of the industry for the younger people coming up?”

Sinn Féin’s Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said that the Government has all but “waved the white flag”, adding: “There is no fight from the Government, no fight to do what’s right for the fishing communities.

“Would any other country tolerate 85 per cent of their national, natural resources being signed away? Other EU countries are investing and building boats to come to and fish in Irish waters.” he said.