Belfast Telegraph

Maritime charity warns time is running out to save Northern Ireland small fishing fleets

Fishing boats stuck in port at Kilkeel harbour
Fishing boats stuck in port at Kilkeel harbour

By Eimear McGovern

A maritime charity has said time is running out to protect local small boat fishing fleets, including those in Northern Ireland.

The report by Seafarers UK identified high priority areas of the 41 ports analysed within the UK - those included Ardglass, Kilkeel and Portavogie.

They say those ports are suffering disproportionately from economic deprivation compared to the national average.

It's led them to call for a change in fishing quotas to protect the industry.

Alan McCulla is from the Anglo North Irish Fish Producers Organisation. He said he recognises some of the challenges contained in the report, however it has its failings.

"I think where the report falls down is that it doesn't recognise what the fishermen themselves are trying to do to address those challenges," he said.

"The report talks about Brexit. The fishing industry is unique in terms of Brexit, because it offers fishermen a tremendous opportunity as we move forward. That will help address the problems with quotas," said McCulla. 

Seafarers UK said in their report that the fishing industry in the UK is characterised by a high proportion of larger vessels and a significant element of migrant labour.

"There's a clear need to look to the long term, to recruit more domestic fishermen. We're working on that," said McCulla.

He said it's disappointing that some of the initiatives currently being taken up by fisherman in Northern Ireland weren't highlighted.

"Look at Sea Source, which owned by local fisherman to promote consumption in Northern Ireland and throughout the UK of local, fresh seafood. There are challenges, but there are opportunities.

"Fishing is no different to other industries we're familiar with, for example the farming sector. Like so many other sectors in Northern Ireland, young people now look for nine to five jobs, their school holidays are taken up a lot with playing on play stations. We need to get away from that.

"It is a hard sell in 2019. Until we achieve that objective, there is a clear need for the specialist skills we need in this industry to be sought from overseas."

Robert Goodwill, the UK fisheries minister, visited Kilkeel and Ardglass on Monday.

He said the fishing industry it would not be "sold out" as part of a wider negotiation with the EU during the Brexit process, according to the Down Recorder.

"He understands the problem. One of the challenges is getting government to press the button to address the issue," said McCulla.

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