Stark prediction that new rules could bring utter devastation to Donegal fishing communities

fishing net PIXABAY

The new system would be devastating for the Donegal fishing industry

“There is not going to be one boat landing in Killybegs or any other pier in this country"

“There is not going to be one boat landing in Killybegs or any other pier in this country should the weighing system go ahead.”

That was the stark prediction by Cllr Niamh Kennedy (IND) on the subject of the controversial new fishing weighing system.

Under Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) plans, all fish landed in Killybegs would have to be weighed on the pier.

Cllr Kennedy made the comment while voicing her support for a motion brought by Cathaoirleach of Donegal MD, Cllr Barry Sweeny (FG): “That this Municipal District writes to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine,  Charlie Mc Conalogue to take urgent action to reverse the EU decision made on April 13, 2021 to revoke the 2012 Ireland Landing Control Plan Derogation as it is causing  untold damage to the fishing and fish processing industry in Donegal and beyond.” 

Cllr Sweeny said he believed the new weighing system would cause a lot of damage to the fishing industry. He had visited fish processing plants in Killybegs to gain a better understanding of the issues.

He told fellow councillors that an existing weighing system had been put in place to deal with the volume of fish being landed, and that it was working.

He described the new system of weighing fish on the pier rather than in processing plants as a backward step.

“By draining the water from the fish it exposes them to the sun and all the elements and the gulls,” he said.

“It is a retrograde step after the amount of work that has been put into improving things.

If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.”

Cllr Sweeny said he believed Minister McConalogue was in a position to help bring about a reversal of the new system.

The motion was seconded by Cllr Niamh Kennedy who did not hold back in voicing her anger and discontent with the new system.

Cllr Kennedy is Chair of the Fisheries Committee in Donegal County Council and has many years of firsthand knowledge of the fishing industry in Killybegs.

She commended the Killybegs fishermen for seeking a judicial review on the new system, and welcomed a judgement that it was indeed unlawful.

“We have to ask ourselves, ‘Why are we so hard on our Irish fishermen?’” she said.

“The cost involved in the judicial review demonstrated the commitment of our fishermen to the industry. 

“All we are looking for is our fair share.”

The Killybegs councillor said there was a serious lack of trust between the fishing industry and the SFPA.

“That has to be sorted out,” she said. 

She expressed concern that there would be ‘absolute mayhem’ on the pier if five or six vessels were trying to land fish at the same time, and only one place to weigh the catch.

She also voiced concern that once drained of holding water, fish quality would deteriorate. The knock-on effect would be loss of product, loss of jobs and utter devastation for the fishing industry.

Cllr Noel Jordan (SF) is Vice-Chair of the Fisheries Committee of Donegal County Council. He too supported Cllr Sweeny’s motion, and echoed the grave concerns expressed by his fellow councillors.

Cllr Sweeny thanked councillors for their support, adding: “Meaningful dialogue is needed at the highest level.”

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