The flotilla consisting of boats from Dingle, Castletownbere, Baltimore, Union Hall, Ballycotton, Kinsale, Dunmore East, Crosshaven, Kilmore Quay and other fishing communities steamed in single file from Roches Point, at the mouth of the harbour, to the docks in Cork city centre for a rally that was attended by nearly a thousand fishermen, friends and family.
The rally was addressed by fishing representatives plus two West Cork TD’s and the tone of the speeches was defiance and resolution to keep demanding change.
Afterwards, 15 skippers and crew members accompanied by the large crowd marched to the office of Taoiseach Micheál Martin in the city to hand in a list of their demands.
The protest was organised by the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation and was aimed at highlighting to the public the difficulties facing the Irish fishing industry
Irish fishermen’s demands and grievances include –
Renegotiation of Common Fisheries Policy to give Ireland is a fair quota allocation reflecting the contribution of fishing grounds to the EU.
Equal burden sharing throughout EU Member States as the Brexit TCA Agreement between EU and UK was both unfair and unjust, penalising Ireland’s fishing industry.
That Penalty Points for fisheries offences should only be applied to license holders and skippers following a court conviction.
The revocation of Ireland’s Fish Landing Control Plan by the EU Commission on the basis of unproven and unprosecuted allegations against the entire Irish fishing industry must not be allowed to destroy Ireland’s reputation in the production of premium quality fish.
The immediate reinstatement of access to traditional fishing grounds at Rockall.
The Migrant Workers Atypical Scheme governing non- EU/EEA fishers must be reviewed to ensure a level playing pitch for all those working in the Irish fishing industry.
Equal rights with all seafarers and marine workers under revenue and taxation laws for fishermen who spend longer than 24 hours at sea.
For the Brexit Adjustment Reserve Fund – now known as the BAR Fund – of which €1.2 Billion is said to be available to Ireland, to be used to redress the damage to the Irish fishing industry caused by the unfair loss of quota, and for a compensation package to be assessed and paid on the basis of the loss of earnings that will accrue from generation to generation and year after year into the future.
Patrick Murphy, CEO of the IS&WFPO, said the Brexit deal agreed on 24th December last year between the European Union and the UK will result in Irish fishermen losing millions in earnings if they are not given a fair share of the fish that swim in Irish waters.
He contrasted the situation in the UK, which will be able to fish for 75% of the fish in their waters as a result of the Brexit deal, with that of Irish fishermen who are limited to fishing just 15% of the stocks in Irish waters.
‘It’s estimated that job losses of 4000 or more in both the catching sector at sea and the processing sector onshore will inevitably follow these savage cuts,’ he said.
‘Fishermen don’t want to be in this situation. It is not what they want to be doing, but they are left with no choice; things are so bad. This the fact. This is what we want to show and tell to the public. Fishermen are putting themselves before the public, to show them the boats they have, the huge investment, creating jobs, the families with long traditions who face being forced out of fishing.’
He commented that fishing is a vital part of the coastal economy and it needs community support.
‘Despite all their promises, the government has not achieved any improvement in the situation. The EU has continued to support the bigger fishing nations in exploiting Irish waters. There should be a renegotiation of the Common Fisheries Policy so that Ireland is allocated a fair share of fish quotas that reflect the contribution of our fishing grounds to the EU,’ he said.
When asked about the protest, Minister for Agriculture and the Marine Charlie McConalogue acknowledged that the Brexit trade deal will see quotas reduced to 15% on fishing quotas between now and 2026, which is the ‘challenge and pain’ of what fishermen face.
‘Obviously Brexit posed a massive threat to fisheries, a third of all the fish we catch was caught in British waters, so a no-deal would have been quite disastrous for the sector. But that’s not to take away at all from the outcome that has impacted fisheries in a way that it hasn’t impacted other parts of the economy,’ Charlie McConalogue said.
‘And that’s why I’ve established a taskforce to bring together all of the voices in the sector to advise the government how we can invest in the sector in the time ahead, how we can mitigate the impact that’s there and also maximise what is a tremendous marine resource we have,’ he said.
‘We’re being annihilated here,’ Patrick Murphy said in response to the Minister’s comments. ‘What he’s saying is ‘suck it up’. I don’t want to be disrespectful to a minister, but he’s being disrespectful to us.’