EU decision sheds light on Ireland’s fisheries problems
In 2005, thedescribes financial regulation in Ireland as ‘the Wild West’.
Today, it seems that Brussels has a similar opinion on this country in terms of regulation, or control, of fishing.
As stated in the fishing quotas.On Tuesday, the European Commission ruled that Ireland could not be trusted to control its
An exemption for weighing fish in factories, rather than at the wharf, has been withdrawn. A commission audit revealed major problems with the manipulation of weighing systems and, most importantly, an apparent failure of the state to enforce the law. âManipulationâ, if proven beyond a reasonable doubt, is a criminal offense.
Most other European countries weigh their catches at the quayside, mainly because factories and facilities are located there. In this country, mainly due to the size of the individual operations and the location of the ports, such facilities were never established.
Thus, after serious lobbying, the commission granted an exemption in 2012 to weigh fish in factories. By its nature, the system would require a certain degree of confidence that there would be no attempts to under-report the weight of the catch.
Now, following an audit that began with alleged malpractice complaints at Killybegs in 2018, the commission has ruled that the system leaves too much room for fraud, and the state, through its body police force, the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), appears. disinterested in detecting crime.
“Although aware of these shortcomings, Ireland has failed to take appropriate action to address this non-compliance,” says the government.
He adds: âConsequently, Ireland could not guarantee an effective control of the landed quantities of catches and minimize the risk of non-compliance with the rules of the common fisheries policy.
Translated, these are “zero points” for law enforcement.
Removing the waiver is a big blow to the industry. Already, Irish fishermen are facing a reduction in quotas compared to Brexit. Now those who make a living at sea will have to install expensive weighing systems in ports where pelagic fish – mainly herring and mackerel – are landed. The new rule will not affect other European trawlers who land catches in this country.
The industry vehemently disputes the idea that major players in the Irish fishery have overfished quotas and rig weighing systems. John Ward, CEO of the Irish Fish Producers Organization (IFPO), told the that during the period examined by Europe – which dates back to 2012 – there has been only one successful lawsuit against a producer operating weighing systems.
The EU investigation revealed that over a four-year period, 33 cases of suspected fishing quota fraud were referred to the DPP. None of the cases were referred for prosecution.
The DPP determined that there was insufficient evidence or that there was too much delay in bringing cases. The EU now wishes to examine each of these cases to determine why exactly none have been prosecuted.
Five years ago, a survey was also carried out on the tanks used to store fish on trawlers. These are calculated under what are called “valley tables”. It was found that a number of operators misreported tank size and, by inference, underreported catch size. thesaw documents in which trawler operators were informed by the SFPA that the files would not be sent to the DPP on this matter and that the value of the suspected fraud would not be calculated. Such apparent leniency, it seems, was not appreciated, as the problems persisted.
Reacting to the weekend’s new decision, SFPA President Susan Steele pointed out where the guilt lay.
âAccurate weighing of catches remains the responsibility of the industry,â she said.
That is true. Indeed, motorists are obliged to respect the highway code and bankers are required to respect the law. It is also true that without effective policing in any sector of society the law will not be obeyed.
Does the fault in the fishing industry therefore lie in the effectiveness of the police agency, the SFPA? The industry believes it.
John Ward of IFPO told thethat the allegations of professional misconduct and fraud originate in a dispute between the fishery officers in the field and management.
âSFPA is dysfunctional,â he says.
âThe whole EU investigation happened because the SFPA made a series of allegations and said senior management was not doing anything about it. As far as we’re concerned, there was no basis for the claims. We are the meat in the sandwich. ”
This would of course mean that there was no malpractice on the part of the industry, that it was all a smoke and that the EU was stupid enough to be drawn into an internal dispute. Few of you think this is the case.
But there is a problem with the protection authority that makes it ineffective. thehas reported on documents and protected disclosures which show that fishery officers have, over a period of years, been unhappy with the apparent lack of rigor applied by management in the application of the law.
SFPA management rejects this claim and attributes much of the division within the organization to industrial relations.
Wherever the blame lies, there’s no doubt the SFPA is in order. A report written last year by the PWC consultants concluded that âSFPA is not functioning effectively and requires urgent attention. Relationships and trust have been affected by a range of issues, including some long-standing industrial relations issues that have not been resolved … these issues are impacting performance and the organization is not functioning as a cohesive unit.
The EU seems to be of the same opinion. Now the cost will increase. The industry, which must bear the guilt of manipulation and misrepresentation, bears a great responsibility. The SFPA, unable to properly control the industry, supports more. The bill comes in the form of an end to the waiver, an expected exhaustion of quotas and most likely cuts in EU-backed subsidies. It is high time that the tide turned on this mess.