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St Patrick's week fish massacre

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

One third of Ireland's fishing fleet slashed as banned supertrawlers raid fish stocks



The Super-trawler FV Margiris arrived on Tuesday 14th March, St. Patrick’s Week, off the west coast of Ireland., fishing in Donegal, Cork and Mayo. Officers from the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority were reportedly "monitoring" the vessel.


Supertrawlers for St. Patrick’s week


The trawlers were subsequently joined by two more equivalent sized vessels, the 475 foot Annelies Ilena. All three engaged fishing in Irish waters off the west coast over St. Patrick’s week. They were joined by another super trawler, the 383 foot Helen Mary. The Lithuanian-registered and Dutch-owned and operated 9,500 tonne super trawler and factory ship, is 470 feet in length. The Margiris drags vast kilometre-long nets stretching to an approximate distance of six football pitches. The ship uses 'mid-water' nets to fish horse mackerel and pilchards, leaving many tonnes of unwanted and dead fish in its wake, the 'bycatch' not commercially valuable - dolphins, in particular.


Ireland’s fleet is a fresh fish fleet (landed and weighed in the harbour) but these factory ships freeze the catch. The ship’s enormous nets are dragged at mid-depth level and fish are pumped aboard using an automatic vacuum system. All three vessels are owned by the multinational Dutch corporation, Parlevliet & van der Plas. Michael Collins, Independent TD for Cork South-West, who called for a ban on the ship operating in Irish waters, said,“It hoovered up thousands of tonnes of fish in Donegal in 2020 and now it is here off the Cork coast to engage in similar levels of catching that Irish fishermen haven’t a hope of competing with.”


According to Sinn Féin TD for Donegal Pádraig MacLochlainn, “It is the second largest trawler in the world, and is undoubtedly causing untold damage to precious fish stocks off Ireland’s coast. Last year, this vessel shed 100,000 dead fish into the Bay of Biscay off the coast of France. It is highly destructive and it must be stopped. I am reiterating my previous calls that super trawlers be banned from fishing in all European waters as is the case in the waters around Australia."


Expelled from Australia


In Australia, protests by environmental and fishing industry groups, led the government to temporarily prohibit the trawler from fishing in its waters. The owners were subsequently forced to sell its stake in the vessel to the current Dutch owners. FV Margiris is now owned by the Atlantic High Sea Fishing Company.


Petition


Deputy Mac Lochlainn has launched a petition against supertrawlers in Irish waters. The petition, openly calls for super trawlers to be banned from fishing in Irish waters (and all European waters) under the jurisdiction of the Common Fisheries Policy. “The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group are concerned about the bycatch of dolphins by large vessels, and independent observers recording the incidental catch of non-target species is essential. It has to be an EU decision.”


Ireland’s Fish Stock Now Depleted


Perhaps a significant portion of Ireland’s western fish stocks have been erased thanks to these unregulated supertrawlers. Speaking of any Government response, he cabinet was almost entirely absent abroad during the St. Patrick’s Week holiday, and there has been little comment since, but there were, nevertheless., some decisive actions. During St. Patrick’s week, one of the Irish Navy’s only operational Naval vessels was approved for departure for Libya.



Naval patrol vessel at harbour
The LÉ Aisling at Haulbowline, Cork Harbour, in 2007. Picture by Brian Clayton (http://www.flickr.com/people/bcie)


Ireland’s Depleted Navy


The Irish Navy is tasked with fisheries protection, among other duties such as prevention of drug smuggling and pollution control. From 2013 to 2016, three Irish Naval Service (Emer-class offshore patrol vessels were decommissioned as the then-Government opted to sell two vessels to the lowest bidders and gifted one to another EU state, Malta. The remaining two vessels were sold cheaply through brokers to the petro-state of Nigeria, and Libya. In 207, the decommissioned offshore patrol vessel LE Aisling - whose primary function was fisheries patrol - was sold to a Dutch broker. In 2018, a united Arab Emirates company sold her to the internationally unrecognised Libyan National Army as its flagship. This was in violation of a UN arms embargo.


Last year, the current Government continued its policy of mothballed operational naval vessels whose remit was fisheries protection among other duties. This leaves Ireland’s coasts almost unprotected.


Ireland’s territorial waters and compensation for Brexiteers


The FV Margiris fished within Ireland’s 200 miles exclusive economic zone, In fact, Irish authorities police only in the 12-mile nautical limit. Brexit Quota cuts, due to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, 2021, have left European countries to progressively transfer to the United Kingdom part of their quota shares for fish stocks in the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea. For Ireland this means a 15% cut to its quotas by 2025, with an annual loss of €43 million. In fact, Ireland is one of the worst affected countries by this ‘deal.’


Norway has now gained a greatly increased quota, Norwegian boats can now catch 224,000 metric tonnes of blue whiting in Irish waters this year — an increase of 110,000 metric tonnes in 2022. Irish boats are only allowed to catch 52,000 metric tonnes of blue whiting, up from the 28,000 tonnes in Irish waters. 42 fishing vessels are to be destroyed as part of the Irish government’s “decommissioning” scheme, the closure being one fruit of the Brexit trade agreement. The cuts amount to a total capacity of over 6,700 tonnes, 8,000 tonnes were sought by the government. It is not a total cull, nonetheless it is regarded by the government as a success. British and Norwegian fleets should in future face scant competition.


The scheme was underwritten by an implicit threat that forced fishermen to state that they were not supplying munitions to Russia in the current Russian - Ukrainian War. It is unknown where this lie originated, but it seems to have had the desired effect., the fact that most fishermen have complied has indicated that the Government’s manoeuvre had the desired effect.


The Government is forcing closure of one third of Ireland’s fleet in favour of Britain’s and Norway’s fishing industries, while facilitating the whole-scale plunder of existing Irish fishing stocks by multinational corporations.

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