A FISHING industry boss has described as ‘madness’ a clause requiring fishermen seeking decommissioning to confirm they are not exporting arms to Russia.
Patrick Murphy, head of the Irish South and West Fish Producer’s Organisation (IS&WFPO), said he believes the statutory declaration is ‘just a generic clause for everyone who receives money from the EU purse.
‘But,’ he said, ‘it shows the madness of the era we are living in. The fishermen of the Irish South and West – named custodians of the sea in their defence of our waters from Russian military exercises – are now to pay the price for the EU and UK Brexit deal.
‘To add insult to injury,’ he added, ‘they want a legally binding declaration that any spare money from the buyout of Irish futures must not be used to undermine Ukraine, our friend, which is not yet part of the EU family.’
A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine said BIM, who are operating the scheme, confirmed that there is a standard clause in all grants that BIM issues that requires applicants to declare that they are in compliance with EU Council decisions.
The IS&WFPO chief confirmed that Castletownbere is to lose one third of its fishing fleet under the €63m Brexit voluntary decommissioning scheme arising from the trade and co-operation agreement.
‘We have 60 boats and 19 owners have applied for decommissioning,’ said Mr Murphy. ‘Ireland paid the biggest price of all the countries for the EU and UK trade and co-operation deal. On paper, it says we gave away 15% of our fish, but in actual fact we gave away 25%.
‘If we were given a bigger quota not one of these 19 vessels would be decommissioned. There would be a future in our industry,’ he claimed. Mr Murphy gave an example of one family, 70 years in the industry, that will come out with ‘nothing but debts’ after the deal.
Last February, The Southern Star reported how the IS&WFPO successfully lobbied the Russian embassy not to conduct military manoeuvres near their fishing grounds.
At the start of this century, Mr Murphy said, Ireland had a 400-strong offshore fishing fleet, but that will soon be reduced to 120. ‘No other industry has seen such a decrease in their numbers in this century,’ he said. Mr Murphy also pointed out that a Bord Iascaigh Mhara report showed that 85% of the socio-economic activity in Beara was primarily generated by fishing.
Meanwhile, Deputy Michael Collins met with Council representatives, the harbour master, and fishermen in Union Hall last Friday to highlight the need for vital equipment. Fishermen in Union Hall need a double winch system for the wires, used for their nets, after being told they cannot lay it out manually in long line any more, while, in Baltimore, an independently-owned weighing scales at the pier is urgently required. Deputy Collins called on Cork County Council, who have jurisdiction over the pier, to support an independently-owned scales. Failure to do so would effectively mean there could be no bulk landings of pelagic fish over 10 tonnes in Baltimore, and the catch would have to be taken to Castletownbere to be weighed. Mr Murphy said the last operating pelagic factory outside of Killybegs – in Baltimore – could now be ‘under threat’.