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Fishermen call on MEPs: improved ports, better marine planning and fair quota

Grace O’Sullivan MEP led a delegation from the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee to the Southeast to meet with coastal communities still reeling from Brexit. 

Ireland’s fishing industry is heading towards the ‘end of the line’ according to coastal community groups who met with a delegation of MEPs from the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee in Waterford, Dunmore East and Kilmore Quay this week.

For three days this week, a delegation from the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries travelled Ireland’s Southeast to look into the continued impact of Brexit on trade and fisheries. This comes as the Committee negotiates a report on the implementation of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. They found port facilities at their limit, frustrated fishers and a distant glimmer of hope.

Fisheries organisations, small-scale fishers, local businesses and civil society groups turned out in large numbers for public meetings held by the Parliamentary delegation in the Waterford Harbour Sailing Club in Dunmore East and the Stella Maris Community Centre in Kilmore Quay on Tuesday May 16th. The issue of quota loss continues to be the most significant issue for fishing communities following a shock 15% cut when the UK left the EU and the Common Fisheries Policy. 

MEP for Ireland South Grace O’Sullivan, who proposed and led the mission, said; “The Common Fisheries Policy is supposed to be based on fairness and sustainability. It is failing at both the way it is implemented. The EU so far has provided some funding to stem the bleeding caused by Brexit, but a one-off cheque won’t save fishing communities. We need a rebalancing of quota in the aftermath of Brexit. I will be bringing this message both to Commissioner for Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius as well as Minister McConalogue.”

Those in attendance raised the need for better coordination and consultation with the fishing industry regarding future offshore wind development and Marine Protected Area legislation currently passing through the Oireachtas. They also noted the lack of recognised qualifications and apprenticeships available to encourage young people to join the industry. 

O’Sullivan added; “A constant theme we heard is that young people are not getting into fishing as a way of life anymore. We desperately need apprenticeships and qualifications for young fishers. Currently, there is essentially no recognition of the time and experience fishers gain on the boats so there is no concept of career progression or transferable skills.”

On Wednesday the Delegation continued to Rosslare Europort where they met with Port Director Glenn Carr. Carr is leading one of the largest port development projects in the history of the State. Rosslare, which has seen weekly sailings to the continent increase from 6 to 36 since Brexit, is preparing for the construction of a massive offshore wind hub as well as improved sail-rail links. 

Grace O’Sullivan commented after the meeting: “The growth of Rosslare as a European success story has been perhaps the one silver lining of the Brexit experience. When supply chains were severed overnight after Brexit, Rosslare kept us moving. I’m looking forward to plans to develop rail connections and I fully support calls from the ‘South East on Track’ group for Irish Ferries to offer Sail and Rail tickets from Rosslare the same way they do from Dublin.”

O’Sullivan was joined by Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, Billy Kelleher, Colm Markey as well as MEPs Ana Miranda from Galicia and Pietro Bartolo from the Italian island of Lampedusa. The delegation will present its findings to the Parliament and Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius later on its return to Brussels. 

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