SPANISH, French, Dutch-German, British and Lithuanian annual catches in Irish waters are valued at close to €2bn, according to a new report.
The report Saving Seafood and Harnessing our Ocean Wealth, commissioned by the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (ISWFPO), says Irish coastal communities and villages face being wiped out by the ‘treble body blow’ of Brexit, fish quota cuts and Covid unless government policy changes dramatically.
The government must now work with the industry to avert disaster, because it is being short-changed by disproportionate cuts imposed, with equally disproportionate benefits conferred on British, French, Dutch and Spanish fishers, the report claims.
‘At a time when Covid-19 and bank closures are devastating rural coastal communities, the huge potential of Ireland’s fishing industry could be a lifesaver providing a healthy and climate friendly food substance and boosting jobs and exports, said ISWFPO chief executive Patrick Murphy. ‘Instead, our industry is dying from disinvestment and policy discrimination.’
The Irish fleet has been reduced to catching ‘barely €200m worth of fish each year’ as the value of British catches increases to almost €1bn, he added.
To these cuts must be added the lack of investment in Irish fishing and inertia regarding the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
But, in a note of hope, the report, from Octavian Research, says an investment package of €330m could create thousands of environmentally and economically sustainable jobs and boost Ireland’s exports and green food brand.
The ISWFPO is calling on government to change the ‘relative stability’ provision of the new CFP due in 2023, and to signal an intention to do so ‘urgently’.
‘Irish fishing vessels cannot continue to suffer discrimination in our own waters,’ Mr Murphy said.
The report, researched and compiled by Octavian Research consultants, adds that Ireland has the potential to create up to 5,000 new jobs in the industry and that, compared to meat, fish production is responsible for significantly lower levels of carbon emission and significantly healthier as a food option.
The wind-down of oil and gas exploration makes fishing now the only unique industry of natural competitive advantage for half a million people who live in coastal regions, the report adds.