WATCH: “EU fishing boats running amok” – Irish fishermen speak out amid Cork protest

Gript spoke to Irish fishermen during today’s Cork harbour protest against EU regulations which have been dubbed “unworkable.”

A flotilla of fishing vessels this morning sailed up the river via Cork port in an effort to draw attention to the industry’s plight.

“I’m 50 years old, and I’ve been a fisherman all my life,” one of the participants told Gript.

“I’ve been fishing since I was 14, since around 1987 or 1988…We’re in a very difficult position. I’m the Captain of the ship here now, and some of these lads are married men. And they find it so hard, so difficult to make ends-meet.”

When asked how the fishing industry in Ireland has changed since the early days of the EEC, he replied “Well, definitely not for the better. It’s been great for the French and the Spanish, and the Belgians. It’s been brilliant for them. But for the Irish fisherman it’s been a pure disaster.

“The fact is, Irish waters are the richest in Europe, and the EU want the French and Spanish to run amok. They want Irish waters, full stop. And the Irish government are selling it to the highest bidder. That’s exactly what’s going on,” adding that Irish fishermen are only entitled to 15% of quotas within their own waters.

Speaking about Ireland’s part in the Brexit deal, fishermen were critical of the Irish government’s lack of industry representation during the negotiations.

“There were five ministers for the farmers, and not one minister for the Irish fishing industry. Ireland has the richest waters in Europe at the moment, but it won’t be long like that because they’re pillaging our waters. No way would this happen in France, I’ll tell you that.

“If you look at the statistics over the past few years, probably 11, maybe 12 Spanish or French vessels were boarded [by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA)]. And yet you’re into the thousands for the Irish vessels. So we’re being heavily policed and targeted. You couldn’t make it up.

“Even the points system – if I go out fishing, and I go three boxes over my quota (and it’s such a small quota it’s very easy to go over it anyway) – I could go to court, and even if I win the case, the SFPA will still put points on my record, like penalty points for your driver’s license. It’s the same for fishing. Even if I win the case by judge or jury, they’ll give me the penalty points anyway. In other words, the SFPA are like the judge and jury themselves.”

Additionally, fishermen were highly critical of the recent EU ruling that Ireland could not be trusted to police its own fishing quotas, ordering fish to be weighed at the point of landing.

“Now they want us to weigh fish on the quay wall,” the fisherman said.

“No other country would allow this – it’s damaging our fish, the quality of the food is going downhill. Why would we allow that? If they want to weigh it, weigh it somewhere else. You have seagulls defecating on it, you have warm sun beating down on the fish. If you have fish sitting outside, no man in his right mind would eat it. It’s the same as chicken – if you put chicken out in the sun, what’s going to happen to it?”

What asked if there was anything politically standing up for them, participants said:

“Well, look – the opposition will always say “We’ll do this, we’ll do that.” But one thing we definitely need is to get Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens out of government. That is without a doubt.

“Let me put it this way – you couldn’t get a worse team. It couldn’t be any worse than what’s there. The Minister for Fisheries – we call him the minister for sandwiches. He just hasn’t a bull’s notion, only what he’s been told. And he will not listen to the fishermen. He’ll listen to the Fleets Authority, the SFPA, the civil servants. But he will not listen to fishermen. They need to go, the country is in serious trouble.

“They’ll tell you themselves, any politician will tell you. They don’t care about fishermen, because they’re only 16,000 votes. But I tell you one thing – this government has to go. This is a shambles. It’s been a shambles since they came out. Look at everything that’s after happening. Are we on our third minister for agriculture and marine? I think we are. And the government’s not even in a year yet.”

Asked what they expected to gain from the protest, they said:

“I know there’s nothing going to come of this [protest]. But wait until you see what’s ahead of us. We’re going to lock down Dublin. There’ll be 500 boats outside Dublin harbour if they don’t start acting properly. It worked for the farmers. We need them to stop and listen.”

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