Farming & Fisheries

Discrimination of inshore fishers can’t be allowed to continue says TD Cairns

February 16th, 2023 3:50 PM

By Southern Star Team

Holly said inshore fishers make up over 90% of all fishing vessels.

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THE recognition of the National Inshore Fishermen’s Association as a producer organisation is welcome news for inshore fishers as it means they have greater capacity to represent the sector with the Department of the Marine and decision-making bodies.

According to Social Democrat TD Holly Cairns the status recognition is long overdue, as despite inshore fishers making up over 90% of all fishing vessels and the vast majority of those employed in the sector, government policy and quota distribution favours larger vessels and the bigger players.

‘The clearest example of this appalling disparity is the mackerel quota. Currently only 2% of this quota is assigned to all vessels under 15 metres – over 2,000 in total – while 98% is given to a small few larger boats. In June 2021, this meagre quota was reached for that year, meaning small fishers who were just getting by were not permitted to catch even a few dozen mackerel for sale at the likes of a farmer’s market or local restaurants. 

‘Inshore fishers are being hit by the same skyrocketing costs as other food producers, yet they are not getting the same attention,’ the Cork South West TD said.

‘Disgracefully, many of the government support schemes for the fishing industry in recent years have excluded inshore vessels. There will be big public announcements but then fishers see the small print and realise they are ineligible. This is incredibly frustrating and disheartening for the sector,’ she added. 

She also highlighted the region’s small piers which are falling into disrepair and lack basic amenities, like slipways. ‘A well-maintained pier can support several fishers, providing a livelihood for families around West Cork. 

‘Our inshore fisheries are more environmentally friendly, they practise the kind of fishing found in coastal and island communities for centuries. This is where the vast majority of employment is in the sector. This is the segment that should get the most support, get the fair allocation of quotas and funding. However, the opposite is actually happening.’

Independent TD Michael Collins said the plight of the inshore fishers pointed to the need for a stand-alone Minister for Fisheries and for a far greater degree of co-ordination capable of bringing about effective resolutions. 

‘We simply cannot proceed with the kind of unfocused, ad hoc approach to fisheries that we have seen to date.’

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