North County Fishermen Lose Out

AfrikaPictured is the Dutch factory trawler, Afrika, which continues to fish for herring in the Celtic Sea, despite a ban on fishing in the area

The sea fishing industry has a long tradition within communities in the North County, particularly those in Balbriggan, Skerries, Rush and Howth. However, this is now a local industry that is dying on its feet. The local economy in these areas had a boom time in the 70s and early 80s, particularly in the run up to Christmas, due in the main to the lucrative herring fishing industry in the Celtic Sea, off the south east coast. Monies earned by local crews were by and large spent locally in their North County towns, thus providing local employment.
This bonanza came to a halt in the past years, due to quotas being imposed and the scientific warnings that fish stocks needed to be preserved in the Celtic Sea. However, this situation does not seem to have deterred a 126 metre, 7,000 ton Dutch factory trawler, called the ‘Afrika’ from fishing in the Celtic Sea, just off Dunmore East, filling up with valuable stock of herring before heading back home to the Netherlands. Also seen in the region was a similar sized Spanish factory trawler and an Icelandic super trawler called ‘Jupiter’. This action is set to frustrate and anger many North County skippers and crews, who have been denied access to these rich fishing waters.
This has the roll on effect of denying local traders the spending power of well paid and cash rich local fishing crews. It is speculated that two or three high powered factory ships working in the spawning grounds of the Celtic Sea would do more damage to the herring stocks that the relatively low powered and much smaller trawlers from the East coast of Ireland combined.
The ‘Afrika’ and the other factory trawler appear to have taken advantage of the recent storm, Barney to continue fishing without fear of sanction.
What is particularly galling to many fishermen from the North County ports, is that huge foreign trawlers can fish in the herring rich waters of the Celtic Sea, while their boats are tied up as they obey the sanction of strict quotas in an effort to preserve stock.
The irony of the situation is that when the Celtic Sea was open to Irish fishermen, the main buyers of the herring were Dutch. Having bought the catches from the Irish skippers, many of the trawlers would land their catches directly into their factory ships that were moored in Dunmore East. Now it seems that those factory ships are catching the fish directly with no benefit to the Irish economy.
The County Leader spoke to Skerries fisherman, Noel Wilde, who is very familiar with the fishing scene in the Celtic Sea and, in particular, Dunmore East, where he fished for many years. He said, “Unfortunately there is no longer good fishing in the Irish Sea. There are no boats in the Irish Sea operating from Skerries or Howth fishing for herrings. They are confined to fishing for white fish and prawns,” he said.
Wilde spoke about the time when fishing was a really lucrative occupation. “We used to do well in the 70s and 80s around Dunmore East, the south east coast and Cork. We also went as far as the mouth of the Shannon, past Galway and up to Achill.” “West coast boats are fishing for mackerel from as far north as Shetland, down the west coast of Ireland and around to Cornwall. These are all big steel boats, up to 70 metres in length he said.
The County Leader contacted the Department of the Marine, but they were unavailable to make a comment.