IT is impossible to hire crew for fishing boats because when boats are inactive, it is extremely difficult for people in this sector to Deputy Michael Collins Independent Deputy Michael Collins told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Arts, Heritage, Regional and Rural Affairs.
‘As we know, fishermen cannot go out to fish because of poor weather for many months of the year,’ he said. ‘The crew will not get social welfare. On that basis, fishermen cannot get their crew. There are huge difficulties. The Department of Social Protection needs to recognise and respect those issues. It is difficult enough to get people to commit themselves to go out fishing because it is a tough, tough job. My mother brought me up to respect fishermen because of the difficulties that the job entails.’
Deputy Collins said the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine will not recognise courses provided by the National Maritime College of Ireland in Ringaskiddy. That, he said, is a huge issue for many fishermen from the south-west. ‘Many travel to Donegal to attend a recognised course,’ he said. ‘This costs them a couple of thousand euro while a course is being provided locally in Ringaskiddy but not recognised by the Department. This issue has been raised with me many times.’
Quotas are a huge issue for ordinary fishermen, added Deputy Collins.
‘There are very poor landing facilities in some communities and poor pontoon facilities for the small inshore fisherman. These issues make fishermen’s lives far more difficult. Why should a man coming home with his catch for the day have to walk across several boats to bring the catch onshore? That is very unfair. There is no understanding of the way fishermen work. Some of them get up at 4am or 5am and work all day. They feel they are being disrespected when they come ashore.’
Fianna Fáil Deputy Margaret Murphy O’Mahony said she could not over-emphasise the importance of fishing to places in her constituency such as Baltimore, Castletownbere, Kinsale and Schull.
‘In many of those places, fishing is the only way of making a viable living and therefore the local economy is very dependent on fishing,’ she said. ‘It is vitally important that the fishing industry is looked after but I am not sure if the Minister, Deputy Creed, knows the extent to which parts of my constituency are dependent on fishing. For example, 95% of employment in the Beara Peninsula is directly or indirectly connected to fishing so the message about the huge importance of fishing in Cork South-West must go out from this meeting.’
In terms of the mackerel quota review, she said Cork south west and Kerry need more of the quota because 14% is not fair.
‘I call on the Minister, and I regret he is not here to listen to our views, to introduce a sense of fairness in that regard. It is not all take. The people involved in fishing in Cork south west are willing to trade in other quotas. We do not want to grab anything.
‘However, a sense of fairness must be introduced and I implore the Minister to introduce that with regard to the mackerel quota for Cork south west.’