Dunmore East set to host major fisheries conference

Dunmore East, which is set to hold a fisheries conference this September, according to Ireland South MEP Liadh Ní Riada.				| Photos: Joe Cashin

Dunmore East, which is set to hold a fisheries conference this September, according to Ireland South MEP Liadh Ní Riada. | Photos: Joe Cashin

MEP Ní Ríada: “Redeveloping Dunmore Harbour is essential.”

A conference addressing the future of the Irish fishing industry is set to be held in Dunmore East this September, with MEP Liadh Ní Riada hopeful that the gathering can address many of the industry’s long-standing problems.

Speaking to The Munster Express in Ferrybank on Wednesday last, Ms Ní Riada, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee, said the conference was a “necessary development” given the current state of the industry.

“Ireland has 16 per cent of the European Union’s entire fishing waters, yet as things stand, the Irish fishing fleet can only fish two per cent of that, so there’s a huge disparity there for a start,” she said.

“And the majority of the Irish (fish) quota goes to 21 boats, 21 major players at the expense of the smaller, more sustainable, traditional fishermen that we know, such as those operating out of Dunmore East, for example.”

The Sinn Féin MEP added: “The Irish fleet, as things stands, is in danger of being decimated, unless positive steps are taken to protect our fishermen. I had a fishing delegation out in Brussels not too long ago, and it was heartbreaking to listen to what they had to tell me.

“I’d one of the delegation telling me that he’s never suggested that his son should follow him into fishing given how tough it has been for so many years; the problems that the delegation highlighted to me were not particularly new.

“Some of these fishermen had bought additional boats during the good times, and now they’re back down to one, yet they remain ‘in hoc’ up to their ears to the banks, and there seems to be no relief in sight for them, so something has to be done for our industry in terms of the quota and quota management.

“We’re looking at other alternatives and we hope to hold a major conference in Dunmore East this September to look at the Common Fisheries Policy in terms of how we can adapt it and how we can find a better, fairer way forward for our fishermen.”

The future of Dunmore East, which has been a subject of major local discussion in recent months, has been discussed in the ‘Turning The Tide’ report, the brainchild of the village’s Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG) and WIT.

The EU-funded report will form the basis for a five-year plan for Dunmore East, which emphasises the importance of rejuvenating the harbour from a commercial perspective.

At a ‘Turning The Tide’ public meeting held in Dunmore in February, the benefit of developing a Regional Depuration Centre in the village (where shellfish subjected to low levels of bacterial contamination are purified for 48 hours in depuration tanks, ensuring the delivery of a clean product to restaurants and suppliers) was highlighted.

According to Mayo-based oyster farmer and marine biologist Fergal Guilfoyle, oysters, mussels and claims would be primarily handled at such a facility.

“At present,” said Mr Guilfoyle, “there is no depuration centre in the region,” and given the quality of shellfish between Dungarvan and Bannow Bay, there’s “a genuine opportunity” to create a new and sustainable industry in Dunmore East.

“Ninety per cent of Irish oysters are sent to France in one ton bulk bags; so France depurates them, then re-packs them and makes a lot of money that really ought to be getting made here, so there’s no doubt that we are losing out, we’re not adding enough value to what we’re producing here.”

Local product, right now, “is going right past your door to Rosslare Harbour,” Declan Guilfoyle added, given the absence of a depuration facility.

“Eighty to ninety per cent of the product is being transported by road, to the continent, for depuration, and if such a centre was created in Dunmore, then there’d be an immediate added value from a regional perspective.”

When put to her that there appears to be a disconnect between the Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) centre at Clonakilty and the needs of fishermen in Dunmore East, Liadh Ní Riada commented: “There is a problem alright and we need more joined-up thinking when it comes to improving matters for our fishermen…there are too many patches of the industry acting independently and yet they all, essentially, have the same issues to address.

“The development of Dunmore Harbour would be of huge benefit to the whole region, and the suggested redevelopment of the harbour is the chief reason behind staging the conference in Dunmore East. And it will also form part of a wider debating platform when it comes to our fishing industry and what, on a political level, we ought to be doing to sustain it.”

The fishing industry, Ms Ní Ríada stressed, is “not all about guys out in boats catching fish”. She added: “You’re talking about marine technology, marine energy, ‘blue growth’ in the fishing area; you’re also talking about tourism, so we intend to look at a wide range of issues in a holistic manner so that we can propose a connected approach that can create a viable and sustainable alternative to what we have currently.

“And I am busy beavering away at this at committee level in the parliament; that’s what voters sent me to Europe to do and it’s vital that I do what I can to give voice to our fishermen, who have been so disenfranchised for so long.”

Dermot Keyes

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