Ask a fisherman or woman what they think about Fine Gael’s track record on fisheries and they’ll probably tell you it’s not been great. Ask them about Fianna Fáil’s and you’ll likely get the same answer.
Though fisheries haven’t featured highly in the discussion thus far, with campaigns now in full swing for the General Election on February 8, fishermen and women are waiting with open ears (and a great deal of frustration) to hear something (anything?) on fisheries from the parties contesting this election.
So what do their manifestos have to say about fishing?
Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil launched theirs yesterday (January 24), after the February edition of The Skipper had gone to print. But we’ve downloaded them and gone through them to see what exactly they do have to say about fisheries. With ‘Just the Facts. Ma’am‘ we’ll let you decide for yourselves.
Fisheries-related Points from Fine Gael’s General Election Manifesto
In terms of ‘A future to look forward to’ regarding the seas around our coast two pages of Fine Gael’s 109 page General Election manifesto are dedicated to promises relating to ‘Protecting our Ocean Wealth’.
With respect fisheries specific promises Fine Gael say they are “committed to the sustainable development of the fisheries sector, ensuring that stocks are protected so the next generation have the opportunity to continue the family tradition of deriving an income from the sea.”
In terms of ‘A good Common Fisheries Policy deal’:
- They say they negotiated a doubling of support for the fisheries sector under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which provides an investment of €240 million and promise they are fully committed to drawing down all this funding and maintaining a well-resourced EMFF to support the fisheries sector in the context of the next CFP.
- They promise that in the context of future CFP negotiations, the Hague Preferences will continue to be of fundamental importance to Ireland, guaranteeing Irish fishermen a better share of stocks when levels diminish.
- And say they are committed to the environmental objectives of the CFP, which has introduced measures aimed at sustaining fish stocks, through the ending of discards, quotas based on science and the internationally recognised concept of Maximum Sustainable Yield.
In terms of “enabling future growth” they say:
- They will ensure that the seafood sector is a key focus of the successor strategy to Foodwise 2025, providing a blueprint for further growth and development of this sector.
- In this context, they will continue to develop the seafood processing sector, providing the necessary infrastructure to encourage increased landings, to further support job creation in coastal communities.
Regarding Brexit they say:
- They recognise the challenge that Brexit poses to the seafood sector with regard to access to fishing grounds, the threat to existing quota share and the potential consequences of the displacement of EU vessels into the Irish EEZ.
- Here they will work with like-minded EU Member States to ensure that the implications for fisheries are fully considered throughout negotiations for a future EU-UK relationship. More specifically, they say they will ensure that fisheries remain an integral part of trade negotiations in the context of Brexit.
In terms of Investment in harbour infrastructure, Fine Gael promise to:
- Deliver on Project Ireland 2040 commitments, invest strategically in harbour infrastructure and continue the roll-out of Brexit supports for our seafood processing sector, which they say “will provide the industry with the best possible competitive advantage in the coming years.”
Fine Gael also promise to:
- Expand the Clean Oceans initiative “with the help of fishermen” to combat marine pollution.
In terms of inshore fisheries, they state:
- They are committed to further developing the inshore fisheries sector, working within the National Inshore Fisheries Forum (NIFF) structure.
- And will implement the ban on large trawlers inside Ireland’s six-mile limit and other conservation measures aimed at sustaining the sector.
On aquaculture they say:
- They are committed to the future development of the sector.
- “Having cleared the backlog of shellfish licences, we will resolve outstanding issues around finfish licensing, with a sustainable and environmentally conscious approach.”
And in terms of investing in coastal communities:
- The party says they will continue to invest in coastline communities through the Fisheries Local Area Group (FLAG) programme, providing support for innovative projects to boost economic growth and job creation.
Also worth highlighting are they party’s more general manifesto promises regarding the seas around Ireland. Here, say Fine Gael, they will:
- Within the first year of returning to office, develop and publish a new, follow-up strategy to Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth, building even further on the ‘blue growth’ delivered to date.
- Bring forward Ireland’s marine planning framework, thus introducing a marine spatial plan for Ireland for the first time.
- Ensure the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill is passed into law as soon as possible, thus introducing a single-state consent system for the marine area ‘for certain project types’ (for more on this see the January issue of The Skipper).
- This suite of marine planning reforms, they say, will allow ‘us’ to fully exploit the renewable energy potential of offshore wind, in particular – essential, they say, for achieving 70% renewable generation by 2030.
- The party also promises to investigate the practicalities and merits of establishing ‘Ireland’s first maritime national park’ – an offshore maritime area, which they say, as Ireland’s seventh national park, would form part of the expanded Marine Protected Areas and “allow for a greater engagement and learning experience among Irish people for their maritime environment.”
Fisheries Promises from Fianna Fáil’s General Election Manifesto
So what then are Fianna Fáil offering coastal communities and fisheries in their 152 page ‘An Ireland for All’ manifesto?
In their manifesto, Fianna Fáil say they are “committed to protecting our coastal and fishery communities.” This, they say, “will be particularly important in the aftermath of Brexit.”
And so here are some of the promises the party are making:
- They will work to amend EU rules to provide greater supports for the Agri-Food and Fishing sectors.
Brexit, they highlight, presents a major threat to the Agri-Food and fishing industries given the deep economic trading links with the British Market. The sector is acutely vulnerable to sterling fluctuations that jeopardise profitability. In addition, the prospect of trade barriers or transportation impediments will directly hit the profit margin on agricultural goods. Thus, Fianna Fáil are promising to:
- Work with EU colleagues, to seek approval at European level for flexibility around state aid rules to allow schemes to help protect the most exposed sectors such as the Agri-Food sector.
- Seek that contingency supports and market disturbance funding is provided at EU level for farmers and fishermen in order to mitigate against the harmful impact of Brexit.
On fisheries more specifically and securing ‘a strong fisheries sector’ here Fianna Fáil are promising to:
- Safeguard Irish interests in future EU-UK discussions by fighting for reciprocal access to fishing waters and protect Ireland’s quota.
- Seek EU Commission Brexit Contingency funding to fishermen and a fully-funded European Maritime and Fisheries Fund post-2020.
- Protect Marine Biodiversity and Enhance Marine Tourism, which includes introducing an ‘Oceans Act’ to protect Ireland’s seas, while working at an EU level to achieve the establishment of ambitious 2030 targets.
- Increase Marine Institute funding by €3m to boost research.
- Review the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act.
- Introduce a fair penalty points system that meets EU obligations while safeguarding the rights of Irish fishermen.
- Prioritise traditional coastal fishing communities.
- Review the current implementation of the recommendations of the Report of the Independent Aquaculture Licensing Review Group.
- Simplify and consolidate all primary legislation regulating aquaculture.
- Protect Ireland’s interests in the future review of EU Common Fisheries Policy including paying particular attention to the inshore fleet.
- Explore a more flexible and proportionate approach to inspections.
Fianna Fáil also promise to “Drive forward the rapid development and deployment of offshore wind energy by prioritising necessary changes in planning law, licencing and regulations.”
So there you have it. Lots of (lofty?) promises from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. Whether those promises suggest a break with the status quo and a ‘new deal’ for fishing, or whether a ‘new deal’ for fishing is needed we’ll leave that up to you.
More manifestos to follow and as they come.
Image by Cormac Dunne taken off the coast of Gormanston on the razor boat, Our Rose DA 110