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Kilmore Quay Fisherman Leads the Way

14/10/12

Jimmy ByrneThe exploitation of the Ireland’s seas by foreign fishing boats is nothing new. As far back as the turn of the 16th century and before, English overlords leased out Irish fishing grounds and banks to Flemish, Dutch and Spanish boats. This reportedly led to the congestion of Irish fishing grounds by over six thousand boats. Fast forward five centuries and today Irish vessels take just 15 percent of all fish caught in Irish waters, while 85 percent is taken by boats from other European countries.

Last week, the Irish fishing industry hit the headlines once again when the skipper of the Saltees Quest, a beam trawler, landed 110 boxes of Monkfish at Kilmore Quay, County Wexford and proceeded to give it away for free. Dozens of people availed of the ‘catch of the day’ when the skipper decided to fight back against EU imposed anti-fishing regulations that force crews to discard perfectly good fish caught above their boat’s quota.

Jimmy Byrne, the skipper of the Saltees Quest, now faces the wrath of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), which has the power to bring both the skipper and owner of the boat to court for landing the over–quota catch. Media reports suggest that the SFPA are preparing a file for the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to the Saltees Quest’s landing of above-quota monkfish.

Jimmy Byrne has defiantly stated that his stand was aimed at highlighting the immorality of the ‘discard’ system of dumping dead fish back into the water at a time when thousands of people are going hungry in Ireland.

Byrne said, “400,000 people are unemployed and people are ashamed to admit they don’t have enough money to feed themselves. Children are going to school without breakfast or coming home to no dinner while we are encouraged by the Government to throw these fish back into the sea. I personally know people who are going hungry – this is why I had to take a stand.” He further said, “I can’t tell the monkfish not to go into the net. Plaice and cod land in the net too but we have to throw them back.”

And it isn’t just Jimmy Byrne that has identified a fundamental problem with the policy of discards. On September 18th three of Europe’s biggest fishing organisations, the European Association of Fish Producers Organisations, Europêche and Cogeca said, “The fishing industry is fully in agreement that discarding fish is an unacceptable waste of natural resources that must be addressed...We are however convinced that the simplistic and populist approach of a total ban on discards will not work and that a rational approach to the discards issue is required that puts discards measures in an operational and managerial context of fisheries and fisheries management. The unworkable proposals on discards adopted both by the Commission and Council has led the industry to develop an alternative approach that addresses in a meaningful and effective fashion the complex and multi-faceted issue of discards.”

Sickeningly over one million tonnes of perfectly edible fish are discarded in EU waters annually. Common sense dictates that the discards policy needs to be tackled now and not in three years time as the Twenty-Six County Minister for the Marine, Simon Coveney, has suggested. His government, like all the governments before them, are guilty of an act of treason for their complicity in the selling out of an Irish fisheries industry that is potentially worth billions of Euros.

Speaking in relation to the Galtees Quest landing of ‘discard’ monkfish, New Ross éirígí Councillor John Dwyer said, “The stand taken by the Kilmore fishermen is a very brave one and must be supported by any person who has even the slightest interest in the issue of Ireland’s resources being plundered by other nations.

“The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority was established by a previous government to enforce the EU rules regarding quota’s allowed for each vessel. The fishermen who landed their full catch in protest at this crazy policy of ‘discards’ are now facing the full rigours of the law.

“Dublin government spokespeople have been far too quick to defend the current system. Further proof of their failure to defend Irish fishermen will be evident in their willingness to haul these hard working men before the courts. éirígí will stand shoulder to shoulder with Irish fishermen in highlighting this shameful policy.”

 

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