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Farming & Fisheries

Inshore fishermen plan to make plight an election issue

April 18th, 2024 2:26 PM

By Martin Claffey

Inshore fishermen plan to make plight an election issue Image
Nifa says that Ireland’s inshore fleet can’t survive without subsidies. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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THE chair of a body representing inshore fishermen said they will make their treatment by government an election issue.

Michael Desmond is the chair of National Inshore Fishermen Association (Nifa), which represents 150 fishermen working in the inshore sector. Ireland’s inshore sector accounts for around 95% of Irish fishing fleet, almost all of whom work within 12 nautical miles of shoreline.

Mr Desmond highlighted in The Southern Star last week the plight of inshore fisherman who have been badly hit by the poor weather curtailing fishing over the past five months.

But he said their incomes have been dwindling over a longer period due to government policy and inaction. ‘The way we have been treated as a sector since Brexit is nothing short of disgraceful,’ said Mr Desmond.

Mr Desmond, who fishes out of Roaringwater Bay, said that in 2021, when Micheál Martin was Taoiseach, he came to Castletownbere to meet fishermen.

With shellfish markets collapsed during Covid, Mr Desmond said inshore fishermen sought aid at government level.

‘I proposed a continuity grant of 25% of income from the previous year but Mr Martin said the Brexit task force could deal with this. We didn’t get either.’

Nifa are also furious that EU aid budgets through Brexit supports was not fully spent, believing they could have been redirected to the inshore sector.

Of €251.6m allocated based on the report of the Sea Food Task Force and advice from BIM, €178.2m was used.

A Department statement to The Southern Star said: The budget allocation for each scheme was based on the report of the Sea Food Task Force and advice from BIM, based on their knowledge of the industry.

‘In some cases the full scheme budget allocation was not used as the value of eligible applications for the schemes was lower than was anticipated by the Seafood Task Force and BIM. These schemes were developed and implemented from 2021 to the end of 2023, and required State Aid decisions from the EU Commission.’

Nifa members including Mr Desmond appeared before the Joint Oireachtas Committee in February this year as they made their case for funding.

‘All of our problems were noted. The politicians we met afterwards used words like “shocking” and “harrowing”. But afterwards there was nothing,’ he said.

He added that for every job at sea, seven more are supported in related industry on shore. ‘We will be asking questions before the elections,’ he said.

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