Róisín Pinfield from the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences in University College Cork is studying the killer whales that forage around the pelagic trawlers during the Northeast Atlantic mackerel fishing season as part of her PhD. The three-year project is a joint Enterprise funded project from the Irish Research Council and the Marine Institute. Killer whales, or Orcas, are the largest of the dolphin species and one of the world's most powerful predators.
While known to skippers for a number of years, Róisín first noticed killer whale behaviour around fishing vessels for herself while out on the vessels as part of a BIM project in 2010/2011. During this time, there were numerous sightings of killer whales foraging around the Irish mackerel pelagic vessels, footage of which has been documented recently on TG4 Cogar series: Snámh in Aghaidh Easa. It is likely that this interaction between killer whales and mackerel pelagic trawlers is relatively recent in this region. The first reports date back to the early 1990s with killer whales foraging around mackerel freezer trawlers northeast of the Shetlands. Prior to this, killer whales were known to interact with mackerel purse seiners and, as such, the killer whales may still be in the process of adapting their foraging strategy around the pelagic trawlers. A study in 2006, reported observations of killer whale foraging around Scottish trawlers north and east of the Shetlands. However, there were no observations to the west and so it was not obvious if the killer whales followed the mackerel migration and the fishery westward. However, recent sightings show killer whales are also foraging around the fleet to the west of the Hebrides and south along the continental shelf into Irish waters. Whether this is a separate group of killer whales or the same as those seen around the Shetlands remains unknown. Killer whales are top marine predators in our oceans and as such, they are useful indicators of the health of marine ecosystems. Understanding population structure and more about their feeding ecology will improve the conservation needs of these top predators.
The planned research involves two researchers boarding the trawlers during the mackerel fishery to take photographs of each individual (for identification) along with obtaining skin samples using biopsy darting. The key questions we are aiming to answer are; Is there a single population of killer whale specialising year round on mackerel or are there several killer whale populations in the Northeast Atlantic coming together to use the mackerel as a seasonal food supply? Are they just feeding on mackerel or do they forage around horse mackerel hauls too? Is a certain gender or age class benefitting more from this feeding strategy? Where do they go at other times of the year? Are they related to any of the other killer whale groups known in the Northeast Atlantic? The research will involve comparing identification photographs and DNA from the skin samples with those obtained by researchers from other countries in the Northeast Atlantic in an attempt to reveal more about this particular group of killer whales.
The success of the project is heavily reliant on the good will of the skippers to allow Róisín and her research assistant to board their vessel. So, Róisín would like to put a call out to any of the fishermen involved in the mackerel fishery for a berth on their vessel for a trip this winter. She would also like to thank the skippers who have already allowed her to do so. Róisín would also be really keen for fishermen to get involved themselves in the research. If anyone would be willing to record time, date and positions of any killer whale sightings throughout the pelagic fishing season she would be very grateful. Any photographs of the animals would also be extremely useful for her research. In particular, it would be great if the pictures could include the dorsal fin and saddle patch like that shown in the insert in the above photograph. Any information regarding the killer whales, questions or queries are welcomed and can be directed to R.Pinfield@ucc.ie or 087 1210121.
Please note that all research activities are covered by University insurance and a biopsy permit will be obtained from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Health Products Regulatory Authority before the research recommences.
EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE Grand Chamber REJECTS COMMISSION’S APPEAL ON KFO MEMBERS SAFETY TONNAGE APPLICATIONS
The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Justice ruled today the 14th June to reject an appeal by the Commission to annul the General Court’s decision of 2014. The General Court had annulled the Commission’s decision of 2010 rejecting some KFO members Irish safety tonnage applications. This is the third time the safety tonnage applicants have been successful in the EU Court of Justice, the first time 2006, second time 2014 and now today a ruling for a third time by the ECJ Grand Chamber. This is a long running saga that has been ongoing for almost fifteen years. The Court’s decision was to reject the Commission’s appeal and order the Commission to pay costs. The Court ruling also notes that the applicants had the right to bring an action for damages against the European Union relying on the illegality of the Commission’s initial decision.
Safety tonnage which relates to the volume of the vessel not to tonnes of fish covers enhanced safety measures on aboard the fishing vessel such as shelter decks, raised wheelhouses, increasing the freeboard and improvements to crew accommodation.
The Chief Executive of the KFO Sean O’Donoghue said on hearing the ruling:-
“I am delighted but not surprised in light of the Advocate General’s opinion given in January 2016 that the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Justice has ruled to reject the Commission appeal to General Court’s decision of 2014. I wish to congratulate the owners on the outcome and for the courage to appeal the Commission’s flawed decisions in the first instance and to continue this long and very arduous battle relating to their safety tonnage applications. I also wish to thank the excellent legal team of Eileen Barrington SC and Noel Travers SC and DP Barry & Company Solicitors for a job well done.” He added” this has gone on far too long almost fifteen years with the Commission continually trying to find ways to thwart and delay the very necessary and legitimate safety tonnage applications. I am now calling on the Commission in light of this third ruling by the Grand Chamber against them to immediately rectify the situation to satisfaction of the applicants.”
KFO Satisfied with Outcome of Fisheries Council Overall a Positive Result with Significant Increase for Whitefish and Prawns
KFO was pleased at the final outcome of the Fisheries Council concluded in the small hours of this morning in Brussels after intensive negotiations over two days. In advance of the meeting KFO voiced fears that the proposed TAC & Quota cuts would have disastrous consequences for the Irish fishing industry, with knock-on effects on employment, seafood processing and ancillary industries. However, the Council concluded with many proposed cuts either eliminated or reversed leaving Ireland with a net gain of around 10% above 2015 quotas.
Speaking after the Council, Sean O’Donoghue, CEO, said:
“The outcome of the Fisheries Council was very positive especially for the whitefish sector where many proposed cuts were averted. Not only will this have a positive impact on the fishing sector but it will safeguard employment and investment in the processing industry. I must congratulate Minister Coveney and his team, including BIM and the Marine Institute, for the huge effort made over the last few days.
In recent years our pelagic stocks have been decided over a series of meetings earlier in the year and we have known where we stood with stocks such as mackerel, Ireland’s most valuable fishery, and Boarfish, for several months but we had work to do to finalise the quota for blue whiting. Herring in the northwest has also been a problem for the past year with a closure in the area. We appreciate the effort Minister Coveney has put into making sure that by the end of February we will have a TAC of 2000 to 3000 tonnes to facilitate a rebuilding programme for this stock.
We are pleased with the increased quota of 24550 tonnes for 2016 but feel our position has been completely undermined by the actions of the EU Commission which concluded a separate agreement with Norway unbeknown to the Council of Ministers and, in addition, transferred a further 25,000 tonnes of blue whiting to Norway. This has resulted in a two-tier blue whiting TAC with one for Norway and another lower one at the MSY level for the EU. This is not acceptable and should not have been done by the Commission even though they have the power to do so.”
Sean O’Donoghue, CEO Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation 087 – 4196535 or 074 97 31089
KFO calls on Minister Coveney to ensure that the Commission’s proposed cuts for key Irish stocks are reversed at the Fisheries Council next week
Up to 325 Jobs could be lost if Commission’s proposals are agreed
Next Monday 14th and Tuesday 15th of December the Council of Fisheries Ministers meets in Brussels to decide on the TACs and Quotas for 2016. The KFO is calling on Minister Coveney to ensure that the Commission’s proposed cuts for certain key stocks are reversed or phased in over a period time up to 2020 as provided for in the new Common Fisheries Policy. These cuts if adopted next week by the Council of Fisheries Ministers could result in up to 325 fulltime and part-time jobs losses in the fisheries sector and ancillaries services. The resulting direct and indirect financial losses are approximately €23.5 million and this does not include the 15% reduction in the TAC for mackerel already agreed with Norway and Faros.
Sean O Donoghue CEO said:
“I very concerned about the outcome of this year’s Fisheries Council particularly for certain pelagic (blue whiting and herring) and demersal (nephrops, cod, haddock and whiting) stocks of interest to Ireland. As the blue whiting negotiations that have taken place since October have yielded no result I am calling on Minister Coveney to ensure that the EU percentage share of blue whiting is significantly increased to reflect the reality that the blue whiting fishery is mainly caught in the waters off the west coasts of Ireland and Scotland. The zero TAC for herring in the North West that was in place this year which does not reflect the large shoals of herring that our fishermen are experiencing cannot be accepted to continue for next year.”
He added: “There is a large amount of uncertainty about the Commission’s proposals this year with 25 stocks (45%) of interest to Ireland where the Commission has not yet made its proposals and the quota uplifts that are to apply to species coming under the landing obligation from the 1st January 2015 have not have been included. The quota uplifts are extremely important for nephrops and whiting. Furthermore the Commission’s proposals fail to recognise that the new CFP allows for the phasing in of maximum sustainable yield (MSY) up to 2020. If this had been done the proposed cuts in some our key stocks would almost be eliminated or significantly reduced and I expect Minister Coveney to take full account of this phasing. I recognise that when the state of the stock requires it there must be reductions in the fishing opportunities for particular stocks. However it is my contention in relation to a number of the reductions proposed on our key stocks are both unjustifiable and unacceptable.”
The KFO expects as in previous years after the usual battles with other Member States that the Hague Preferences which sees Ireland and the UK getting elevated quotas for a number of key species when reductions are proposed, will be delivered.
The KFO with other Producer Organisations will be meeting Minister Coveney and his advisers in Brussels on Sunday night next and on a regular basis during the Fisheries Council next week to support his endeavours to deliver for Ireland the best deal possible in terms of fishing Opportunities for 2016.
Sean O’Donoghue, CEO Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation 087 – 4196535 or 074 97 31089
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, today announced that the European Commission has agreed and adopted Ireland’s new €241 million development programme for the seafood sector for the period up to 2020 co-funded by the Exchequer and European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.
In announcing the adoption of the Programme the Minister said “I am delighted to announce that our comprehensive €241 million investment package for the seafood sector has been adopted in law by the Commission and the Programme can now be implemented in full. My Department has been working on this for some time with stakeholders and the State agencies that will deliver the Programme. I expect now that Schemes will be rolled out from the beginning of 2016 to assist seafood enterprises to sustainably grow their production, add value to our seafood exports and create much needed employment in our coastal communities. Our Seafood sector is worth in the region of €850 million annually to our economy and I am aiming to achieve €1 billion sales by 2020.”
Funds under the Programme will be distributed as follows:
The KFO has welcomed the announcement last Thursday evening by Minister Coveney of a planned new scheme for non EEA workers in the Irish Fishing Fleet following agreement reached at the Departmental Task Force meeting on the same day for a new system for migrant workers in the fishing industry.
Sean O Donoghue CEO of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation commented:
“The fishing industry has been lobbying for a long time to introduce a permit system for non EEA workers in the industry particularly in the whitefish and shellfish sectors to address the labour shortage. It is very welcome news that the Departmental Task Force Chaired by Minister Coveney has worked rapidly over the last three weeks to examine potential solutions which will bring about a significantly improved situation for non EEA workers in the Irish fishing industry and have for the most part taken on board our recommendations to the Task Force. This new scheme will enable the regularisation of those currently working on vessels in Ireland over a period of three months starting in January 2016 to enter into a new employment relationship. The new scheme will allow the Irish fishing industry meet its necessary labour needs while simultaneously allowing a structured transparent scheme whereby non EU workers can be recruited. These workers under the new scheme will be guaranteed all appropriate employment rights and protections during the period of their employment”
He added: “The Task Force arose out of a report on the 2nd of November 2015 in the Guardian newspaper on alleged widespread abuse of undocumented migrant workers in the Irish Fishing industry. I am pleased that the Task Force unlike the Guardian article recognised the difference between these alleged serious abuses and that of undocumented workers by providing a new scheme for these workers. The KFO and the other Producer Organisations were unambiguous in our response to those allegations and that the full rigours of the law should be applied if any of these alleged abuses are confirmed. We do not however believe this is a widespread phenomenon and it is our view that a very small number of operators may be responsible for such activity should same be proven to have occurred. ”
23rd November 2015
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney welcomed agreement reached at today’s Task Force meeting on a new system for migrant workers in the fishing industry.
The Minister, who also chaired the Task Force, provided details of the new arrangements which have been agreed. The Government Task Force was set up to address the situation of non EEA workers in the Irish Fishing Fleet.
Welcoming the Inter Departmental agreement, Minister Coveney said ‘these new arrangements which have come about as a result of the cross Departmental Task Force, which I have chaired over the past 3 weeks. The Task Force has worked rapidly to examine potential solutions which will bring about a significantly improved situation for non EEA workers in the Irish fishing industry. It will see Ireland addressing what is essentially a global phenomenon. The new scheme will, I believe, greatly reduce the possibilities for the abuse of migrant works by unscrupulous employers. It will also provide a mechanism to assist those currently in Ireland, who are in difficult situations, to enter a new employment relationship. It will also help to improve the situation for Ireland’s operators in the fishing industry whose reputation may have been damaged by these allegations, due to the widespread coverage of the matter’.
The Minister said ‘the new scheme will allow this valuable Irish industry meet its necessary labour needs while simultaneously allowing a structured transparent scheme whereby non EU workers can be recruited. These workers will be guaranteed all appropriate employment rights and protections during the period of their employment’.
Minister of State for Business and Employment, Ged Nash, who also participated in the Task Force, commented ‘I want to commend everyone on the Taskforce who have responded with great alacrity to the widespread concerns relating to exploitation of vulnerable migrant workers in a section of the fishing industry. What we have now is a new scheme to assist non EEA workers who are already operating on Irish vessels and a process to fill vacancies on licensed trawlers that is robust and fair. The new system introduces clear contracts and minimum pay, terms and conditions which are enforceable in Irish and EU law. In other words these fishermen will now enjoy the same protections as apply to every other worker in Ireland."
Among the main provisions of the new scheme are:
Minister Coveney concluded that ‘ The agreement reached today represents a major step forward for the Irish fishing industry and for non EEA workers being employed in the industry. Appropriate flexibility will exist under the scheme for these employees to be recruited, but this can only be done in a clear regulated manner which ensures all relevant standards and protections for the employees’.
Details of the new scheme are set out in the attached appendix.
Among those who have made presentations to the Task Force were:
Appendix 1: Planned scheme for employment of non-EEA crewmen in parts of the Irish commercial Sea Fishing Fleet
The following Scheme will provide, in a structured and transparent manner, for the granting of up to 500 atypical worker permissions to non-EEA crewmen to work under a contract of employment with the vessel owner so as to guarantee the worker certain minimum terms and conditions of employment.
Principles of scheme
Certification is required from a Solicitor, acting on behalf of the licence holder (employee) to the Central Depository as part of the pre-approval application process that the terms of the scheme have been met and specifically that:-
In the event that a crew member (employee) changes licence holder (employer) during the period of the contract, the solicitor acting on behalf of that employer, must submit a statement to the Central Depository specifying the termination of the original contract. A solicitor acting on behalf of the new licence holder (employer) must submit a new certification (with documents at A and B above) in respect of a new contract with a new licence holder.
Contract template (minimum conditions)
Atypical workers in common with other persons who have immigration permissions in excess of 3 months duration are required to register with the Garda National Immigration Bureau, if based in the Dublin metropolitan region, or their local registration office (i.e. Garda District Station). Annual registration costs €300. This is in addition to the Atypical worker permission cost of €250.
Monitoring and Enforcement
The task force is also recommending that the role of the relevant key enforcement bodies such as the Naval Service (NS), Marine Survey Office (MSO), Health and Safety Authority (HSA). Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and the Revenue Commissioners will be underpinned by an inter agency Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) specifically for this purpose.
The MOU will be in place in advance of this scheme being implemented.
 The National Minimum Wage is currently €8.65 per hour and will be €9.15 per hour from the 1st January, 2016.
 The hours of work and rest are set down in accordance with the European Communities (Workers on Board Sea-Going Fishing Vessels) (Organisation of Working Time) Regulations 2003 (S.I. No. 709 of 2003)
Depending on time worked, employees' holiday entitlements should be calculated by one of the following methods:-
Four working weeks in a leave year in which the employee works at least 1,365 hours (unless it is a leave year in which he or she changes employment);
One third of a working week per calendar month that the employee works at least 117 hours
Eight per cent of the hours an employee works in a leave year (but subject to a maximum of 4 working weeks).
 This equates to €17,542 per annum currently and €18,556 from the 1st January 2016. Maximum deductions for full board and lodging is €54.13 per week, or €7.73 per day.
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Coveney Meets EU Commissioner Vella to Highlight Issues of Importance for Irish Fishermen in Advance of the December Fisheries Council
The Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney met Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries during a visit to Malta today (Monday 9th November). The meeting covered the setting of fishing quotas for 2016, the introduction of the first phase of the discards ban for the whitefish fleet in 2016.
The Minister said “During my visit to Malta to meet the officers and crew of the LE Samuel Beckett, I held an informal and constructive meeting with Commissioner Vella. I set out some of the challenges facing our fishing industry in 2016, particularly for the whitefish and prawn fleets with introduction of the discards ban for some fisheries. The discards ban will directly apply next year to our important prawn fleet and our Celtic Sea whiting fleet. I made clear that I will be working at the December Council to achieve quotas that take account of this new situation where all catches in these fisheries must be landed. While I fully support the introduction of quotas that respect scientific advice, I pointed out that in line with the new Common Fisheries Policy, I will be looking for a phasing in of the new limits recommended by the scientific advice for some key economic stocks, which will be fished by the fleets which are becoming subject to the discards ban.”
Minister Coveney took the opportunity to brief Commissioner Vella on the issues highlighted by a recent report in the Guardian newspaper on illegal migrant workers on Irish fishing vessels. The Minister advised that the Irish Government has established a Task Force to examine the issues fully and to make recommendations on appropriate actions as a priority before the end of the year. Minister Coveney undertook to advise the Commissioner on the work of the Task Force and the Irish Government’s planned response.
The meeting also focused on the ongoing mackerel sharing arrangements involving the EU, Norway, Faroe Islands and the possible inclusion of Iceland and Russia under a new agreement. The mackerel fishery is economically the most important to Ireland and there are ongoing discussions under a Coastal States process to reach a long term agreement on the management of the stock.
Concluding the Minister said “Commissioner Vella undertook to work closely with us over the coming weeks in order to secure a balanced range of quotas for the Irish fleet”.
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