A new fishing plan must be submitted to the EU “as soon as possible”
The fisheries regulator has confirmed that a new fish landings control plan is being developed for submission to the European Commission “as soon as possible”.
Representatives from the Marine Fisheries Protection Agency (SFPA) appeared today before an Oireachtas committee to answer questions about the recent revocation of Ireland’s fish control plan and how fish landings are managed.
The committee learned that trust between the regulator and the industry is broken and needs to be ‘reset’ in order to deal with the contested and unpublished EU findings which suggest some Irish catches were underreported.
In recent weeks, fishermen have staged protests in Dublin and Cork over various issues, including a new EU requirement that all fish landings must be weighed at quayside after the fish control plan is revoked. from Ireland in April.
Independent TD for South West Cork, Michael Collins, said the EU’s perception that Irish fishermen were “pure pirates” was damaging the industry, which could end up without a control plan for the coming year.
Sinn Féin TD for Donegal Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said Ireland was the ‘most regulated’ member state in the EU and the leaked audit findings had raised ‘criminal’ allegations against the industry without possibility to defend themselves.
The committee heard that a successful lawsuit had been brought against a fish processor for tampering with weighing equipment.
Fianna Fáil TD for Cork South-West Christopher O’Sullivan said SFPA’s relationship with the industry is “toxic” and the regulator has failed to recognize that the “overwhelming majority” of the industry is compliant.
The fisheries regulator, however, said the audit and investigation raised concerns about the landing of pelagic stocks, such as mackerel and herring, but was unable to share the EU documents.
SFPA President Dr Susan Steele has refuted claims the agency disclosed the results of the audit or investigation, and said she asked the commission to release all reports audit for all Member States.
“There was no sharing of the audit or breach of SFPA confidentiality,” she said, adding that she disagreed that the agency was the regulator on. most powerful in Europe, saying it was “not a regulator with sufficient resources”.
Dr Steele said the agency was working with the advisory committee to improve relations and “open a dialogue” with the sector.
The SFPA could not impose “transitional arrangements” because it was beyond its purview, she said.
Dr Steele said work was progressing to develop a revised monitoring plan for all landings of bulk fish and pelagics only (greater than 10 tonnes), to be submitted to the commission “as soon as possible”.
“The commission’s point of view is that we have to do better and there is an opportunity in the control plan to do it,” said Dr Steele.