By Olivia Kelleher
and Siobhán Cronin
MEMBERS of the West Cork fishing fleet were among a flotilla of trawlers which descended on Cork city on Wednesday, in a bid to voice their concerns over the future of the industry.
Up to 60 trawlers assembled at Roches Point after dawn and made their way to the city centre. On the quays, they held a rally, which was addressed by Cork South West TD Michael Collins, and from there walked to the Taoiseach’s office in Turner’s Cross to hand in a letter outlining their demands.
The fishermen and women believe that a perfect storm of disasters has left them battling with the aftermath of Brexit, reduced quotas, a shortage of crew and overly severe EU regulations.
Among those attending the protest was Paula Crowley from Castletownbere, whose partner Paul O’Sullivan is a fisherman. She says all they want is for their family to have the same opportunities as any other Irish family and to see the industry supported.
‘It is all about fairness. Fishermen miss out on important things, such as family birthdays, but it is all part of the life. My father is a fisherman, so I do understand that. Paul loves his job. It was what he was born to do.’
Patrick Murphy of the Castletownbere-based Irish South & West Fish Producers Organisation (ISWFPO) said fishermen and their families were now fighting for
survival. ‘Fishermen operate in the most dangerous profession, in the most hazardous and challenging conditions. All we are asking is that our right to earn a livelihood be respected and protected,’ he said.
He warned that what is happening with Irish fish stocks ranks as the greatest plundering of a natural resource in our history.
‘Irish fishermen will lose millions of euro in earnings if we are not given a fair share of the fish that swim in our waters. The UK has 75% of the fish in their waters. But Ireland has been reduced to 15% in Irish waters.’
He estimates that the industry could soon lose 4,000 jobs between catching and processing, if not supported.