Skipper fears for future of local islands

March 10th, 2023 11:45 AM

By Jackie Keogh

Mr O’Driscoll wants a fishing scheme set up for islands and coastal communities.

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A SKIPPER from Cape Clear said he fears for the future of West Cork’s islands if the government doesn’t rethink its current decommissioning strategy.  

Pat Con O’Driscoll (77) has enlisted the support of Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (IS&WFPO) in Castletownbere, in calling on the government to give ‘dwindling island populations one last chance at revival’.

In a letter to the editor this week, the skipper proposes a pilot programme that would encourage and support fishing with hooks and lines for salmon, bluefin tuna, pollack and mackerel. And Mr O’Driscoll is suggesting it could operate successfully if each island community were to be allowed ‘a small quota to get traditional fishing restarted.’

‘I was born and raised on Cape Clear,’ he said. ‘I made my livelihood from fishing. The recent decommissioning has caused me to reflect on the support, or indeed the lack of it, shown to West Cork Islands and the fishing industry, by successive Irish governments, since the beginning of the state.’

Drawing comparisons with an initiative, organised by Lady Coutts with the backing of the British government from the late 1890s to the 1920s, Mr O’Driscoll said funds were provided to local fishermen to build a successful fleet and this was supported by the Baltimore Fisheries School, which under the guidance of Fr Davis provided the necessary training.

‘Why can’t our politicians look at our diminishing communities and introduce a sustainable fishing scheme for islands and small coastal communities?’ the skipper asked.

‘Sustainable and remote are buzz words in today’s world, as are regeneration, repopulation and environmentally aware,’ he added.

‘Why can’t the government be proactive in getting the traditional fishing industry restarted?’ he suggested, having drawn parallels between the ‘grow your own’ movement and the ability to ‘fish your own.’

Patrick Murphy told The Southern Star he will be asking the minister to change government policy to allow this pilot project to become a reality. ‘This is a very good idea,’ he said. ‘We in the IS&WFPO will be putting the proposal to the Minister in written form.’

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