The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney T.D. today hosted the first meeting of the National Inshore Fisheries Forum (NIFF), bringing together for the first time a network of representatives from the six recently established Regional Inshore Fisheries Forums. The inshore sector (comprising fishing boats of less than 12 metres in overall length) make up more than 80% of the fishing fleet and are predominately active within six nautical miles of the Irish shore.
Pictured at the first ever National Inshore Fisheries Forum are the Chair and Vice Chair of the South-West Regional Inshore Fisheries Forum; Eddie Moore (full time commercial fisherman, West Kerry) and Alex Crowley (full time commercial fisherman South Kerry) with BIM’s Chair Kieran Calnan and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Mr. Simon Coveney, T.D.
Speaking ahead of the first NIFF meeting the Minister said: “In May last year I announced a package of measures to support the sustainability and viability of the inshore fisheries sector. I have long been concerned that Ireland’s inshore fishermen have been poorly represented in national policy making structures and to address that deficit, and as part of the package of measures, I took the innovative step of setting up of the forum initiative. I am delighted that inshore fishermen are buying into this opportunity to focus the priorities on what is needed to ensure the long term future in their sector. I look forward to appointing the first Chair and Vice-Chair at today’s meeting.”
The NIFF has been set up to facilitate the development of a coherent inshore sector “voice” by encouraging inshore fishermen to discuss their fishing issues and generate commonly-supported initiatives. A network of Regional Inshore Fisheries Forums (RIFFs), based on and linked to the community-led Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs) around the Irish coast, have nominated delegates to bring forward regional proposals to the NIFF for wider industry discussion. The RIFF members include inshore fishermen, environmental interests, marine leisure, marine tourism and other marine stakeholders. The structures also provide a new opportunity for collaboration between the inshore fishing sector and their communities on sustainable strategies to optimise the income opportunities afforded by the coastal resource.
Michael Keatinge, BIM’s Interim CEO and Fisheries Development Director stressed the value of the NIFF to the sector; ‘This is a unique opportunity to develop our valuable inshore fishery not just in terms of short term improvements but to ensure the long term sustainability of our stocks which in turn will protect revenue and employment in our fishing reliant coastal communities. Today’s meeting is a positive step forward in this regard and the issues discussed including conservation, enforcement and the collation of landings data will enable this industry to be best placed to secure a viable future. I am pleased to say that our industry’s commitment to conservation is clear with a phenomenal response to the BIM Lobster V-notching Scheme last year with over 33,000 lobsters v-notched compensating fishermen to the tune of more than €250,000 and we are expecting an even greater response this year. BIM are looking forward to assisting the Minister, the Department and industry to ensure this initiative plays a key role in the development of our inshore fishing sector’
Challenges facing the inshore sector including the reformed CFP and protecting Natura 2000 sites as well as feedback from the recent consultation on a proposed management plan for razor clam fishing in the North Irish Sea were discussed at today’s meeting. Other important fisheries for the inshore sector for discussion included lobster, crab and opportunities for diversification to maintain a viable inshore sector.