The puzzling figures that fuel the anger of fishermen

WHEN TALKING TO fishermen about why they were concerned about the proposed Brexit trade deal, why they don’t see a viable future for their industry, a slew of numbers are usually cited to explain the decline of their industry these last years.

Plenty of numbers are given as to why they are struggling to survive, and various species of fish can be mentioned which can be difficult to understand.

So here is a look at those numbers, the concerns of fishermen and the quotas of post-Brexit trade deals that have pushed them to step on the Taoiseach office in Cork and the Dáil in recent weeks, mostly on the basis of a Interim report of the seafood sector working group released last week.

1.22 billion euros

This is the estimated value of the Irish seafood economy. There are around 16,400 people employed by the industry, which includes ancillary services like production, people who maintain fishing vessels and producers. of fillets.

Bórd Iascaigh Mhara, the Irish seafood development agency, says € 400 million is generated from domestic consumption and € 263 from exports and imports.

There are 2,030 fishing vessels registered in Ireland in 2020. France (115 million euros), the United Kingdom (93 million euros) and Spain (53 million euros) are the main areas. export of Irish seafood products.

A 15% decrease in the value of the quota

Quotas are complicated, so let’s explain it all:

  • Fishing quotas are a maximum limit on the amount of fish that can be caught by fishermen. The national quota for fish catches is also subdivided into quotas for specific species, areas and seasons.
  • Ireland’s share of the EU quota in 2020 was as follows: Irish Sea herring (86%); whiting in the Irish Sea (58%); cod from the Celtic Sea (57%); 22% cod in the west of Scotland.

It’s about giving stocks a chance to rebuild and avoid overfishing. Some fishermen say it is easy to overfish now, because the quotas are so low and they are struggling to make a living as before.

Quotas are different, but are generally based on the ‘maximum sustainable yield’ (MSY) for a species of fish, which is an ecological estimate of the proportion of fish that can be caught to ensure stocks are not depleted to levels. unbearable.

Stocks caught above this level are classified as “overexploited”.

Source: / Flourish

It should be noted that the fishermen said that because the quotas keep increasing, and because they are so low for some species, it is easy to “cross the line” and overfish.

In the Brexit trade deal between the EU and the UK, the EU wanted to return 15-18% of the value of the quota of fish caught in UK waters, and the UK wanted 35% .

Instead, the two set themselves at 25% of the value of fishing quotas on a rolling five-year basis.

In practice, this meant that € 199 million of EU-wide allowances would be transferred to the UK, with Ireland contributing around € 43 million of that total – a decrease of 26,412 tonnes of fish, which represents 15% of Ireland’s national fishing quota. .

Source: Interim report of the seafood working group

Fish with an average annual value of € 650 million had been caught by EU fishing fleets in UK waters.

Who catches Ireland’s fishing quota?

As our sister publication Noteworthy reported, Ireland has a system of allocating quotas to those who catch the fish first, which gives an advantage to larger vessels with more resources.

A European Commission report 2019 compiled a database of the entire EU fleet register and found that most Irish vessels are owned by individual Irish fishermen, with only around 3.5% of the fleet registered on behalf of a foreign owner or a company registered abroad.

The top eight quota owners share 28% of the national quota between them, with the Atlantic Dawn Company in the lead, to more than 7% of the total quota.

There are many small fishing vessels in Ireland which are overfunded and disadvantaged by the Irish first come, first served quota allocation system, and which may be more likely to use manual practices which may be a means of fishing more sustainable.

The close-up

The fish quotas are distributed according to the species of fish and their place of life:

  • Coastal fish, like shellfish, eels and Jerusalem artichoke, live near the Irish coast;
  • Demersal fishlike monkfish, sole, plaice and cod, live near the seabed (whitefish is a subcategory); and
  • Pelagic fish, like blue whiting, herring and mackerel, live in the middle – the water column.

For sea ​​food, around 1,500 coastal vessels that primarily target out-of-quota shellfish will not be directly affected by quota transfers, as they only have minimal quota catches.

Two-thirds of the losses suffered by the fleet in 2021 will relate to the refrigerated seawater (RSW) segment of the fleet, which mainly fishes pelagic species.

These post-Brexit losses are as follows:

  • Mackerel: The impact of the Brexit trade deal on around 23 vessels due to the loss of mackerel quota is estimated at € 15 million in 2021 and € 25 million by 2026.
  • Whiting and herring: The quota shares for the other pelagic stocks – blue whiting, Irish Sea herring, Atlanto-Scandinavian herring and West of Scotland herring – impacted by the Brexit trade agreement are estimated to be a reduction in the quota value of 0.26 million euros in 2021, rising to 0.36 million euros by 2026.
  • No change: The quota shares for western horse mackerel, Celtic Sea herring and wild boar are not changed under the Brexit deal.
  • Total: The total impact on this pelagic segment of quota transfers under the Brexit agreement is estimated at € 15.3 million in 2021, passing to € 25.4 million by 2026.

Other fishing catches are also affected, but to a lesser extent than the above group:

  • Langoustines (Dublin Bay prawns): These vessels will experience a loss of lobster quota of around 3.9 million euros in 2021, rising to 6.6 million euros by 2026.
    Including ‘accidentally caught’ species (fish caught ‘by accident’ while fishing for another species), the estimated impact of the trade deal on Brexit is € 4.2 million in 2021, passing to 6.8 M € by 2026.
  • 1 Multipurpose vessels: Allowance losses are estimated at € 1.9 million in 2021, passing to 3.1 million euros by 2026.
  • Multipurpose whitefish trawlers (zone 7): The loss of quota is estimated at € 2.2 million in 2021, passing to € 3.1 million by 2026 (including transfers of incidental species such as langoustines, pelagic stocks, pollack, ling, plaice, rays and rays).
  • Multipurpose whitefish trawlers (zone 6): The estimated loss is 1.4 M € in 2021, passing to € 2.7 million by 2026 (including transfers of catches from mixed demersal and Norway lobster fisheries in Area 7 as well as a limited catch of pelagic stocks).
  • Purse seiners: Nine purse seiners, which fish year round mainly in the Celtic Sea and Irish Sea targeting haddock, hake and whiting with bycatch of monkfish and cardine, the estimated loss of quota for purse seiners would increase to € 0.26m in 2021, amounting to € 0.36 million by 2026.
  • Beam trawlers: There are eleven ‘pole’ vessels that fish primarily in the Irish Sea and Celtic Sea, targeting black cardin, burbot and plaice (and bycatch). The total loss of quota is estimated at € 0.29m in 2021, passing to € 0.34 million by 2026.
  • Hake gillnets: There are around 14 vessels over 12m with hake landings representing over 30% of the total value of their landings. These vessels will also be somewhat affected by the quota reductions for accessory species such as saithe, pollack, ling and burbot. Once taken into account, the estimated total losses would be of the order of € 0.11m in 2021, amounting to € 0.13 million by 2026.

The costly Rockall problem

These estimated losses for whitefish trawlers assume that access will be granted to the 12 mile limit around Rockall, over which the Irish government is currently in conflict with the British government.

If access was permanently lost, the report states that the total squid fishery valued at around € 6.6 million (based on 2019 landings) and up to 60% of the total Rockall haddock quota , valued at € 1 million (based on the Irish 2020 quota), could potentially be lost.

This would not only impact the 9 of those 12 vessels that fish at Rockall, but also 16 additional vessels, mostly Nephrops freezer vessels that target squid seasonally. Taking into account the catches of other species – monk, cardine, ling, saithe – caught within 12 miles of Rockall, the total impact of the loss of these fisheries is estimated at 7.7 million euros.

The fishermen have asked as part of their seven requests that Rockall’s traditional fishing areas be restored to something similar to the 2019 arrangement.

One of the main recommendations of the working group’s interim report is that a one-month temporary voluntary shutdown program be offered to 220 whitefish vessels affected by the quota reductions, during the period from September to December. .

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12% of EU waters

The Department of Agriculture and the Navy said that before Breixt, Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) was 10% of the EU’s EEZ and the UK’s EEZ, 17%.

Irish waters now represent 12% of EU waters after Brexit, the department said.

The Government’s Seafood Working Group has been set up to examine the implications for the Irish fishing industry and coastal communities following the Brexit trade deal.

Its members include representatives of fishermen’s production organizations, groups of small-scale fishermen, fishermen’s cooperatives and Údarás na Gaeltachta. The task force is led by lawyer and former CEO of Bord Bia, Aidan Cotter.

With reporting by Maria Delaney.

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