Brexit fishing: Expert reveals 'key issues' in EU trade deal
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The European Commission withdrew Ireland’s plan for weighing fishing catches at the end of April because of a lack of confidence in the country’s monitoring system. All fish landed by small Irish inshore vessels and supertrawlers with substantial mackerel catches must now be weighed at the point of landing, on or close to piers in line with the bloc’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) rather than Ireland’s own rules.
The EU initially issued Ireland a derogation in 2012 from EU rules under the CFP allowing fishermen to weigh catches away from the place of landing, such as in fish factories.
This is because many of the country’s fish-processing factories are located inland, rather than on the harbour.
But the decision was reversed following an audit by the EU in 2018 which examined the state of Ireland’s pelagic fisheries for mackerel, herring and blue whiting.
EU officials found irregularities and breaches of CFP rules, including the manipulation of weighing systems in some instances.
Irish fishing chiefs have now said the EU ruling which changed the landing arrangements for fishermen was “an absolute disaster”.
In a submission to the Irish Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, the Irish Fish Producers Organisation said the new arrangements were “totally unworkable.”
The organisation says they have been aiming to have talks with officials and see the move as another setback for fishermen across the country because of Brussels.
CEO John Ward said: “It’s problematic to say the least, we have to go back to the EU for an alternative proposal.”
Fishing bosses also expressed concern about a new penalty points system that Brussels has asked Irish ministers to introduce.
Irish Government ministers are currently debating plans to put forward legislation that would introduce the new points system for fishermen.
Under the proposals, the penalty points for masters of fishing vessels would see penalties issued for serious infringements of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.
But fishing chiefs from the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, most of Ireland’s busiest fishing ports, warned the penalty points system would deliver a “catastrophic blow” to the Irish fishing industry “from which it may not be able to recover”.
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In response, the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), who is responsible for the enforcement of EU’s CFP regulations said the point system is in line with the obligations of member states.
On the weighing decision, they said the commission’s decision is a “clear marker of better standards of compliance with fisheries controls across the EU”.
It comes after £6 million in EU funding for the Irish fishing sector was suspended by the European Commission because of the failure to establish a penalty points system for the sector last year.
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