Fishermen can’t afford to fish due to rising fuel costs

July 11th, 2022 3:00 PM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Fishers’ representative John Nolan has described fuel prices as ‘horrendous’.

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CONSUMERS could see the price of fish soaring as rising diesel prices are forcing some West Cork fishers to stay in port as it becomes unviable to fill a boat and take it out to sea.

And one fishing lobby group has warned there may be ‘no fish and chips on Irish restaurant menus’ this summer if aid isn’t made available to the industry immediately.

The challenges fishers face due to rising fuel costs were raised at a recent meeting of Cork County Council, where one councillor said some fish factories are also struggling to get fish as the cost of diesel is ‘crippling’ the fishing industry. John Nolan of the Castletownbere Fishermen’s Co-Op said the price of diesel is horrendous, but added that they are at least grateful that they received a two-month tie-up scheme that they had sought from government.

‘This is a subsidy that is paid to the crews that we asked for, but next year we’ll be looking straight for a subsidy on diesel, because if it keeps going up it will be unviable to fish.’

He added that there is bound to be a shortage of fish when fleets are tied up. ‘The consumer may have to pay more for their fish because of the costs of going out to sea.’

And this week a Castletownbere lobby group called on the Minister for the Marine to release funds immediately ‘or traditional fish and chips may not be on Irish restaurants’ summer menus,’ Patrick Murphy of the Irish South & West Fish Producers’ Organisation, said.

Cllr Joe O’Carroll (FF) called on the government to implement fuel subsidies for Irish fishers, similar to what Spanish and French crews are getting, which he said is putting them at an advantage over their Irish counterparts. Their French counterparts received 30c a litre fuel subsidy, while the Spanish received 20c a litre.

‘I know of one fisherman who had to pay €42,000 to fill his small boat with diesel. That’s an awful ball of money to have and they don’t know what they might actually bring in,’ said Cllr Carroll, who added that the crew will be down €1,600 in wages as a result. Cllr Carroll called on the Minister to intervene with a subsidy and warned that the fishing industry faces collapse unless there is intervention.

His colleague, Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy, said Brexit has already been a ‘body blow’ to fishers and that fuel is now putting them ‘pin to collar’.

‘It’s costing between €50,000 and €70,000 to fill a boat with diesel and it is crippling the industry,’ said Cllr Murphy. He said some fish shops are closing as they can’t get fish, while some restaurants are struggling to get fish in Castletownbere.

Cllr Ross O’Connell (SD) said the rising fuel costs are pushing the industry to the brink and that his fisher friends ‘barely go out anymore as it’s become unprofitable to do so.’

Newly elected county mayor Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) said he had always called for a standalone minister for fisheries, while Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) said expenses have gone through the roof and that they are at the ‘whim of greedy oil magnates’. A 2c subsidy from the government is an ‘insulting’ sum of money, he said.

Diarmuid Murphy of The Fish Kitchen restaurant in Bantry said that the owner of The Fish Market, which operated downstairs in his premises probably foresaw what was happening down the road and that the fish supply would be low so he closed at Christmas.

‘That was his own choice but was probably a wise decision in the long run and others agree too. A lot of smaller fish shops are under pressure now and that’s not just in West Cork. And it’s not just fish, it’s getting difficult with other products like flour, as the prices are increasing,’ he said.

Diarmuid receives some of his fish from local boats in Bantry but getting good quality white fish like hake and haddock is proving a lot more expensive and said that ultimately has to be passed onto the customer.

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