Donegal Fish jobs boost but ‘discard’ battle continues

KFO chief Sean O’Donoghue has totally discounted the notion that Ireland’s diplomatic brinkmanship at the EU Fisheries meeting which ended in the early hours of yesterday morning was a victory for fishermen here. But he has welcomed the confirmation of recent additional jobs and increased sales of value added seafood products, set to create an additional 50-60 jobs in the county.

KFO chief Sean O’Donoghue has totally discounted the notion that Ireland’s diplomatic brinkmanship at the EU Fisheries meeting which ended in the early hours of yesterday morning was a victory for fishermen here. But he has welcomed the confirmation of recent additional jobs and increased sales of value added seafood products, set to create an additional 50-60 jobs in the county.

“Bringing in discarded catches to port is depriving fishermen of their future and makes no sense, no matter what way you want to dress it up in terms of timescales. However, I am still positive about the future of fishing in Donegal,” he told the Democrat from London yesterday. Discards are described as “unwanted catches of dead fish thrown back into the sea.”

The Seafood Processing Business Investment Scheme which will create the new Killybegs jobs is being implemented as part of the Irish Seafood Development Programme 2007-2013.

Mr O’Donoghue said: “There was 142 for the whole country. We can expect 50-60 of those jobs. There will be a new pelagic factory set up in Killybegs, which is well advanced and there are additional jobs coming to many of the seafood companies because of the added value and this year we got 80,000 extra tons of extra fish.

“We have a significant number of processing plants in Donegal and they may be spread over the plants, but they all add up to the bigger numbers.”

Meanwhile he said that a “common sense” approach by the European Parliament next year during Ireland’s Presidency could re-direct the energies needed in addressing the thorny issue of discards, “in a more realistic fashion.”

This will be the first time that Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reform process is subject to co-decision between the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. In simple terms he said that fishermen wanted to employ scientific and technical methods that ensured “discards” were kept to a minimum at sea, rather than requiring it to be brought ashore to be dumped.

The government coalition described the meeting as “the most significant EU Fisheries Council in over a decade,” adding that Fisheries Minister Simon Coveney’s “new compromise approach setting down a definitive timetable for the elimination of discards on a phased basis,” offered a practical and progressive solution accepted by fellow Ministers.

At the end of the meeting it was announced that it had been agreed that a landing obligation would be put in place for all quota species beginning with Pelagic fisheries from the 1st of January 2014, an approach which the Fishing Industry throughout Europe has consistently objected to on the grounds that it is impractical and unworkable.

The KFO CEO explained: “What was agreed is not what we as an Irish fishing industry or European industry want. We want to avoid discards in the first place. This thing is unworkable. You are going out there and you are going to end up bringing all this catch back to port. What is going to happen to it? It does nothing in terms of creating sustainable stocks. In our opinion, it is a populist view and to be perfectly honest, it won’t solve any problem. It is a flawed approach and we should start with avoidance and minimisation of discards, such as gear and closed areas, before embarking on the landing discards that make absolutely no sense.”