Fishermen lack trust in national and European fishery authorities - Liadh Ní Riada MEP
Sinn Féin MEP for Ireland South and member of the European Parliament´s fisheries committee, Liadh Ní Riada MEP, outlined a number of issues affecting Irish fishermen in a public hearing last week in Brussels regarding the harmonisation of fisheries control. The SFPA were also in attendance.
Ní Riada said;
"The claim by the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA), that there is a strong level of trust between fishermen and European and member-state fisheries monitoring and enforcement agencies, is incredible.
"From my engagement with fishermen and fishing communities it is very clear that they have very little trust or confidence in either the EFCA, or in agencies such as the Irish Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).
"Irish fishermen report that they are disproportionately targeted by the SFPA for boardings at sea and inspections, as opposed to fishing vessels of other countries operating in Irish waters.
"Small-scale fishermen, trying hard to make a living against the adversity of bad weather and worse regulations, have their boats boarded and searched, while nearby, much larger foreign-registered vessels are allowed to fish unimpeded.
"Its’ no wonder that trust and confidence is so low.
"The reality is that amongst the significant number of foreign vessels fishing in Irish waters, quota swapping takes place, especially after vessels are found to be in breach of regulation. This has happened on numerous occasions, and yet while their national authorities are notified, little to no sanctioning is implemented.
"Irish fishermen have little faith in the EFCA either. Its also becoming more common for fishing vessels to 'reflag' to another member state having committed serious and repeated violations of fisheries regulations. This in effect gives them a clean sheet with which to continue over-fishing, often in Irish waters. The SFPA are unable to access information on past violations of foreign vessels, and cannot identify which boats have a track record of violating regulations.
"I also raised the need to have observers aboard all factory freezer ships to record and deter violations. Given the huge potential by catch of these ships, and the sheer scale of the nets they use, they are a major factor in causing damage to fish stocks and impeding stock recovery. This is especially true in the case of mackerel.
"Pre-fishing inspections and post-fishing inspections need to be considered for these type of vessels, and they also must be called to land when authorities cannot board and inspect at sea.
"We need to ensure that any tax liabilities to Ireland that these frozen produce aboard these factory vessels fall under, is paid."