Leading Journal of the Irish & UK Fishing Industries

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has issued individual guidance notes for each of Ireland’s Fishery Harbour Centres setting out harbour-specific guidelines for vessels landing in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following months of concern, reports from Castletownbere last week indicated relatively robust measures in place on the pier for landings. Since then, however, reports have emerged alleging incidences of vessels being serviced outside of designated landing spaces, as required under earlier guidance.

According to the Department, the notes issued yesterday, May 11th set out “to both clarify matters and assist in the implementation of the procedures at each of the six Fishery Harbour Centres” and aim to “assist in the safe management of all fish landings, Irish and non-Irish, during the crisis.”

So as to account for the differing facilities on the ground in each Harbour, the guidelines are harbour-specific in terms of guidance on access. Laying out landings guidance on a more general level, the notes reiterate that all vessels, Irish or non-Irish, whose voyage commenced outside of Ireland will be accommodated in designated, demarcated areas as directed by the Harbour Master.

All landings and associated servicing activities of the vessels must be carried out within the demarked area provided. Crew must remain in the landing area “unless for essential travel or for the purposes of travelling home.”

The notes build on the Information Note issued by the Department on March 27th setting out procedures for handling fish landings by vessels at the six Fishery Harbour Centres, following a blockade of the pier in Dingle by local fishermen concerning the potential spread of COVID-19.

In a comment to The Skipper concerning the latest guidelines the Department said, “It is vital in these unprecedented times to keep critical food supply lines, such as fishing activity, open and functioning through this period.

“It is in that context that the Department are making every effort to keep the Fishery Harbour Centres open for all fish landings, and in doing so is taking the necessary steps to manage these operations in the most practical and safest way possible.

“The procedures put in place in March had regard to the primacy of the need to protect public health, guided by the advice of medical professionals in our public health authorities. In the interim, the Department has continued to monitor operations at the six Fishery Harbour Centres and has taken measures to more clearly define designated landing zones where appropriate.”

The Department concluded by stating, “Nothing in these guidelines or in the original Information Note detracts from our responsibilities as citizens to observe social distancing and where appropriate comply with the requirements of Marine Notice 6 of 2020”.

Originally published on March 13th, Marine Notice No. 06 of 2020 requires that all vessels arriving from a port outside of the island of Ireland submit a Maritime Declaration of Health and updated crew list in advance of arriving into an Irish Port.

Marine Notice No. 06 of 2020 was most recently amended on May 8th, to include updated guidance on who to contact when seeking medical support for events in port. The full notice can be found here 


Image: Vessels landing in Castletownbere last week (Credit: Niall Duffy)