The struggle of fishing to stay afloat
Damien Turner, who is the skipper and owner of MFV Roise Catriona, has been fishing for over 30 years.
The 51-year-old from Douglas, Co Cork, whose boat is named after his daughter, started in the industry the day after his 18th birthday.
“I’ve always loved the sea,” said the father of two, who helped organize Wednesday’s protest flotilla.
“My own father was a merchant sailor, and I fell into fishing. I used to go down on vacation to Castletownbere, and I see the boats and that’s where I started. “
The first boat he went on was the Sea Sparkle trawler, then he progressed to the 72ft Fiona Patricia.
It was what is known as a seine net, which operates by raising fish in a net rather than trawling a net along the seabed to catch fish.
He progressed to become a relief skipper before eventually purchasing the ship, which sank in September 2001.
“It’s amazing how quickly a fire can spread in a boat,” he recalled of the incident south of Baltimore.
“It was an exhaust fire. The fire was rampant. There was no control.
“There were five crew members and we all got off unharmed. We all got off the life raft.
“She finally fell because of the fire.
“Another ship picked us up and we were then flown back to Castletownbere.
He added: “It’s amazing how the training starts. It is only afterwards, you say, it is a frightening experience.
“But when you’re doing it, you know you have to do x, y, and zed. You bring the crew down. It is essential. ”
He then traveled to Scotland in October 2001, “in search of another ship”, and returned with The Argyle, which he later renamed in honor of his then five-month-old daughter.
He has the ship to date, but it could be his last.
Discouraged by the state of the fishing industry, he believes he may well become the last generation of Irish fishermen and women.
“I’m 51,” he explained from his seat on his deck, as he made his way to Cork Harbor in the dark and into the wee hours of Wednesday morning.
“The vast majority of the skippers you will see in the fleet are the same age.
“As a skipper recently told me on the Castletownbere wharf,“ I think we are the last generation ”. And I sincerely believe that we are the last generation.
“There is a huge skill set that will be lost. Who is going to teach the next generation how to skip a boat, let alone become a fisherman?
“Who is going to teach the skills required for mending nets?”
Dinah Busher should be part of the generations of fishermen and women after Damien.
At 29, she should have many years in the industry.
However, since the boat she owned, the MFV Ellie Adhamh, sank off the southwest coast in March, she is no longer confident about her future in the industry.
“Our fishing industry is really struggling,” she said during Wednesday’s protest, in which she delivered a letter to Micheál Martin’s constituency office, calling for its support.
“Our fishermen are in difficulty, our boats are in difficulty. They are not making enough money to pay their bills and we need more quotas from the government.
“We need them to return to the EU and renegotiate the Common Fisheries Policy.
“We just need their help and support.”
When asked what she thought of the task she faced in returning to work in the fishing industry on her own, she replied wearily: “It will be an uphill struggle, to be honest.
“I can’t really imagine going to the bank and asking them for a loan to build or buy a new boat, not like it is now.
“My passion to get back to fishing is definitely there, despite all the difficulties and difficulties. I know my heart is still in the fishing industry, but it’s just a matter of how to get back to it. ”
About two years ago, Brendan O’Driscoll – who started fishing at the age of 16 – realized his heart was no longer at work.
The history of the 57-year-old family is rooted in the fishing industry.
His father Donal, who was one of the founders of the Irish South & West Fish Producers Organization, and his grandfather Dan William were fishing.
In addition to his brother Liam, Brendan’s four uncles also fished.
“I loved the hunt, as we would call it,” he said, speaking hours after Wednesday’s protest, which he helped organize.
“But the minute I got back to shore, I’d just have a knot in my stomach until I landed my catch and all the paperwork was done.”
“I just decided life wasn’t worth it. I loved fishing, but I just couldn’t stick to the bureaucracy.
“The rules and regulations were constantly changing and our quotas for how much fish Europe said we could catch – it has to be said – our own waters were constantly being cut off.
“I didn’t see any younger generation wanting to take my place either, so when the opportunity arose, I grabbed it and so did Liam.
“It’s so destructive to see what’s going on right now. It will take a lot of action before the government notices us.
“We are like a forgotten race.”
Like many of his colleagues, mackerel fisherman Larry Murphy – who is the skipper and owner of the 50m Menhaden – has seen his earnings reduced by around 28% since Brexit.
The 73-year-old, who has been fishing since the age of 17, is discouraged by the industry.
“It’s very difficult. You wouldn’t want to start today. You just wouldn’t survive today.
“It was lovely work and a great way to live.
“But that changed when we joined the EU and it has deteriorated for us and the Irish fishing industry since then.
“It is being mined little by little every year, and our politicians are just not doing anything to stop it.”
It is said that if Wednesday’s protest does not give a serious response from the government, followed by action, it could lead to the blockade of Irish ports.
Having participated in blockades in the past, he is not a fan.
“Preventing someone else from earning a living is not a good idea,” he said.
“You are not affecting the people who are directly involved in this way.”
So what should the industry do?
“I don’t know,” he said, pausing a moment and then adding, “We have to knock on the door of Leinster House or something because it’s not the layman who is the problem.”