A YOUNG woman whose family-owned fishing boat sank two months ago told of her heartbreak over the state of the industry in Ireland as a flotilla of trawlers and boats sailed into Cork harbour this morning.
Dinah Busher, from Co Wexford, whose trawler the Ellie Adhlamh went down near Castletownbere, Co Cork, revealed she wondered if she would ever go back to working in the industry she loves because fishermen are unable to make a living under current laws and restrictions.
She said: “Fishing is a great passion of mine and I would love to be able to go back in to it. But it is near impossible at the moment.
“The trawler is a huge loss for our family. We had it for 17 years. I don’t know if we will be able to reinvest in the industry the way it is at the moment.
“The way things are in the industry I can’t see us being able to buy or build a boat again.
“We need more quotas. We are constantly targeted by the authorities. It needs to be stopped. We want the Taoiseach to revisit the Common Fisheries Policy and to renegotiate our quotas.
“The trawlers are finding it difficult to hold on to the crew at the moment. We are hoping that they (the Government) could help with that. The whole industry has to be re-looked at.”
‘HEART IS IN FISHING’
Although she has an MA in Translation and completed work experience in Brussels, Dinah said: “My heart is in fishing. That is what I want to do.
“It is frustrating as we see how well other trawlers in other countries are doing. But we have to struggle.”
After the boats landed at the Port of Cork, hundreds of fishermen took to the streets to walk to the offices of Taoiseach Micheal Martin to ask him to intervene with Brussels to save their livelihoods and their industry.
Scott Farrell, from Dingle in Co Kerry who fishes out of Ballycotton in Cork, said he had been fishing for 17 years, having entered the industry when he was 16.
He said working as a fisherman was always a life full of challenges but now it has become a bureaucratic nightmare.
‘RED TAPE ISN’T PRACTICAL’
He said: “It is not a case of going out and catching fish anymore. It is as much paperwork as anything. To do the job you have to love it. Some of the red tape isn’t practical.
“What fishermen want is politicians who will go to Europe and argue for us instead of just taking the laws Europe sets out.
“We are trying to navigate laws and rules and a lot of things are not always set out for us. Then we get pages of information to go through. I have seen fellas get done because the meshes have stretched on their nets and they haven’t noticed.
“The new weighing fish on the quay now is upsetting everybody. It affects the quality we are selling, it puts more hours into the work when we are landing, it affects the lorry drivers who are waiting on us to weigh it all.
“There is a cost of more ice to re-ice it and then the fish buyers have to sell fish that has been sitting on a quay for four or five hours while we weigh it.”
Paula Crowley, from Castletownbere, Co Cork whose partner Paul O’ Sullivan is a fisherman, told how they give up many things in life to work at sea.
‘ALL ABOUT FAIRNESS’
But she said: “We want what everybody else has and what we are entitled to. It is all about fairness.
“Fishermen miss out on important things such as family birthdays but it is all part of the life. My father is a fisherman so I do understand that.
“Paul loves his job. It was what he was born to do.”
Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation chairman Pat Murphy said fishermen and their families were now fighting for survival.
He said: “Fishermen operate in the most dangerous profession, in the most hazardous and challenging conditions. All we are asking is that our right to earn a livelihood be respected and protected.”
He warned that what is happening with Irish fish stocks ranks as the greatest plundering of a natural resource in history.
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He added: “As a consequence of a series of draconian measures introduced by Irish Government and the EU Commission targeted against those working in the Irish fishing industry, Irish fishermen will lose millions of Euro of earnings if we are not given a fair share of the fish that swim in our waters.
“The UK has 75 per cent of the fish in their waters. But Ireland has been reduced to 15 per cent in Irish waters. It is estimated that job losses of 4,000 or more in both the catching sector at sea and the processing sector onshore will inevitably follow these savage cuts.
Pat said that the introduction of an administrative penalty points system on a vessel and its fishing licence in tandem with the proposed introduction of penalty points on the skipper’s personal licence will inflict untold damage on an already decimated fleet.