By Helen Riddell
FISHING organisations in Castletownbere have condemned the recent attempts in their own village, as well as Dingle, to prevent foreign vessels landing, amid fears of potential Covid-19 transmission.
Following reports that a Spanish-registered trawler was prevented from landing in Castletownbere on Friday, Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the Castletownbere-based Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation said: ‘I want to stress that there was never any blockade in Castletownbere. It was never about boats not being able to land. A group of local people came down to the pier to voice their concerns, but it was never about stopping any boat from fishing or landing their catch. The vessel in question was allowed to land, and take onboard ice and head out again.’
A statement issued by all the leading fish producing organisations in Ireland reiterated this, and confirmed that Irish fishermen enjoyed cordial and professional working relationships with their French and Spanish counterparts, as well as with the wider European industry.
Mr Murphy said both his organisation and local buyers such as the Castletownbere Fishermen’s Co-op are doing the best they can to support local fishermen at the current time.
The Department of Agriculture Food and Marine issued an information notice to all harbour masters which states that a separate designated landing zone will assigned to all incoming vessels, and all activity during the discharge of the vessel will be carried out within this designated area, with all crew to remain in the area during landing.
However, Mr Murphy called on additional supports for the industry at this time: ‘You can’t just close down the fishing industry. Factories which are closing now due to the spread of the coronavirus, pull down the shutters, turn on the security lights and that’s it. Boats may be tied up at the pier, but effectively they are still incurring costs. We have boats with sensitive electronic equipment and engines worth hundreds of thousands of euro which can’t be switched off and left idle.’