WEST Cork fishers have strongly criticised the issuing of a marine notice by the Department of Transport, saying such a notice could affect their insurance premiums and ability to carry out their work.
The notice may impact the fishers’ plans to mount a ‘peaceful protest’ near the location of next week’s planned military exercises by Russia.
Up to 60 trawlers will be heading for the Porcupine Bank on February 1st as the prawn fishing season kicks off – approximately 20 of them based in Castletownbere. The Irish boats are due to spend approximately two weeks in the area.
This week the Irish South & West Fish Producers Organisation (IS&WFPO) said it would not be changing its plans to allow for the military exercises, as the organisation had received no official notice of the manoeuvres.
But late last night the Department of Transport issued a ‘marine notice’ warning Irish vessels of the dangers of operating in this area next week.
The notice took the fishing industry by surprise and IS&WPFO chief executive Patrick Murphy said it would ‘cause worry and consternation for hard pressed hard working Irish fishermen’.
Mr Murphy told The Southern Star: ‘We will have to advise our members to contact their insurance brokers to see if this will jeopardise the expensive cover for vessels steaming to and working in the Porcupine Bank.’
He added: ‘This flies in the face of Green Party principles of protecting our marine environment. How can the Minister of Transport Eamon Ryan, the leader of the Green Party, ever claim he stands for Green Party principles after issuing such a notice to our fishing vessels who pledged to protect the sensitive marine area of the Porcupine Bank?’
He said the issuing of the notice means the minister has now ‘lost all credibility’ and the notice ‘highlighted the ineptitude of this government when it comes to protecting Ireland’s marine rights for our fishing communities.’
The notice, issued last night, says the ‘Department of Transport has been advised by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) that the Russian Federation will carry out naval manoeuvres off the South-West coast of Ireland from 03 February 2022 to 08 February 2022 inclusive.’
It adds that the exercises will be undertaken outside of Ireland’s territorial sea but within the Exclusive Economic Zone, EEZ, and outlines the exact co-ordinates of the locations.
The notice continues: ‘The Russian Federation has indicated that the exercises will include the use of naval artillery and launching of rockets. Given the nature of the planned exercises and the presence of naval forces, vessels and crew are advised of serious safety risks in the operational area. Masters should navigate their vessel to ensure safety at all times.’
Specifically, the notice states: ‘All mariners are also reminded of their responsibilities under the International Regulations for Prevention of Collisions at Sea (COLREGS).’
It notes that ‘marine notices are issued purely for maritime safety and navigation reasons and should not be construed as conferring rights or granting permissions.’
Mr Murphy asserts that such a marine notice could have an effect on insurance premiums for boats going about their normal fishing activities next week and, as such, could impact on plans for a ‘peaceful protest’ in the area where the manoeuvres are due to take place.
Mr Murphy said he would be meeting with interests in the industry today to discuss their options.
Mr Murphy and members of the organisation are also due to meet Russian ambassador Yury Filatov this morning in Dublin to outline their plans and voice their concerns about disruptions to their ability to work next week.
It was expected they would also be requesting that the manoeuvres be carried out further south of the fish-rich Porcupine Bank.
- The notice is available to view at https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/ccc42-marine-notices-2022/