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Our Fish Stock is a Natural Resource, not a Commodity for Wealthy Super Trawlers – Conway-Walsh

6 April, 2017 - by Rose Conway-Walsh

Sinn Féin Senator Rose Conway-Walsh has called for thorough and regular inspections of super trawlers until they are banned outright from Irish territorial waters. 

Speaking last week at a conference on inequality in fisheries in Brussels organised by Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada, the Mayo Senator said:

“Massive super trawlers with factories on board for processing, contribute absolutely nothing to the local economy. Many of these vessels illegally dispose of unwanted edible fish for more expensive catches, dumping tonnes of fish back into the sea. There are many small fishermen, including all along the Mayo Coast, who could catch and process this fish. In one day, a super trawler can do immense damage to local fishermen and to the local economy and community. The largest can catch and process more fish in a week than 7,000 indigenous fishermen in a year.

“Sinn Féin strongly believes that our fish stock is a natural resource and a public good.  The injustice of the beneficial owners of these trawlers being given huge quotas and light regulation while indigenous fishermen have severely restricted quotas and are persecuted with inspections, fines, and penalties has to be stopped.

“It is down to our own Government representing us on the European Council to stand up for our fishing communities.  As an island nation, we need to get adequate quotas to sustain our fishing industry and then we need to distribute those quotas fairly to ensure all fishing families have an adequate income without taking unnecessary risks.  Our fish resources belong to Irish communities, not to large companies.

“Super trawlers damage protected fish stocks, hinder the recovery of existing stock, and are a threat to other marine life such as dolphins, whales, sharks, and turtles. Many of the EU regulations regarding the protection of sea life place the onus on the flag member state and not the member state in whose water the super trawler is operating. Therefore, no penalties can be imposed as their member states refuse to administer them to their vessels.  Part of the problem is there is a lack of transparency around the quotas owned by these vessels and the source of those quotas.

“I was happy to hear a Dutch MEP say she was ashamed of Dutch registered super trawlers engaging in this practice of high-grading in Irish waters under the Dutch flag. I believe that the conference was useful and necessary step.

“I am calling for the Sea Fisheries Protection Agency to immediately put a greater focus on inspecting super trawlers. Where they have breached the law or damaged local fishermen’s equipment, they should be impounded until compensation has been paid. Fines will not deter the owners of these vessels but impounding them will at least signal Ireland’s resolve not to tolerate this anymore. Ultimately, these vessels should be banned from Irish waters.” 

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