New ‘dockside weighing’ rules are an ‘absolute disaster’ for fishermen
New rules requiring all fish catches to be weighed by the jetty side have left fishermen tottering as they scramble to access scales that are in short supply.
The new requirement follows an EU decision last month to revoke a previous waiver, allowing catch weighing at factories and processors, based on audits suggesting the catches were manipulated and misreported.
Fishing industry groups have refuted the audit findings and say the problem lies with the regulatory process, the Marine Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) and the European Commission.
Results were not made available, there was no prior warning of the April decision and the infrastructure required to weigh directly from the boats was not in place, they said.
The Managing Director of the Irish Southern and Western Fish Producers Organization (ISWFPO) Patrick Murphy said the situation was “an absolute disaster” which had led to a waiting list for scales which must be calibrated by a state agency.
Fishermen with refrigerated boats, Mr Murphy said, now had to unload the already frozen and wrapped catch on the side of the dock for weighing, then repackage the fish in fresh ice.
Pelagic species landed, such as mackerel and herring, which are kept in water, must now “dehydrate” their catch before weighing the fish.
The new requirements, fishery officials said, present risks of contamination and spoilage, which the SFPA did not consider, despite having product health and safety responsibilities.
Mr Murphy, who is based in Skibbereen, said it was like asking a dairy farmer to pump milk from a refrigerated tank into a barrel for weighing and then transfer the product to a new tank.
“This applies to every jetty and jetty, to every part of the country where a box of fish is landed and to every type of fish. Each fish must now be weighed on the pier, ”he told the.
“This is absolutely crazy,” he said, adding that the SFPA must return to Brussels and “the madness must stop”.
SFPA said it had recently held meetings with producer organizations and industry representatives on the changes required and that it “would continue to engage with industry on this issue.”
“The immediacy of the EU decision means that fishermen may now need to access additional weighing facilities on piers that may not yet have been approved by the SFPA,” said one spokesperson.
“Therefore, provisionally until June 1, weighing systems can be used once they have a calibration certificate issued within the last six months by an authorized verifier,” they added.