According to figures in the Irish fishing industry, the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) is not fit for purpose and needs to be reset as a matter of urgency, and they cite the catch weighing fiasco is a final straw for frustrated fishermen.
Speaking ahead of a Joint Oireachtas Committee hearing this week, industry representatives were scathingly critical of the SFPA, which was established as independent statutory body responsible for the regulation of the sea fisheries and the seafood production sectors but has failed miserably to do this in an effective manner.
They state that as a consequence, it has effectively wreaked havoc upon the industry.
The most recent example involves Irish fishermen, who were left completely stunned at changes in practices around weighing catch on piers which were foisted on the industry with zero consultation from 13th April last, based on a European Commission Decision.
‘We are simply flabbergasted that this bewildering move which has such a direct and draconian impact on all aspects of Irish fisheries, could be considered without any advance notice. Moreover, we have not been given access to any information to justify this crude action by the Commission. In fact, we have been explicitly denied access to any reports or correspondence between the Commission, DAFM and the SFPA on this issue,’ according to industry figures in a joint statement issued by the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO), Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO), Irish South and East Fish Producers Organisation (ISEFPO), the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (ISWFPO) and the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA).
‘This ‘bombshell’ has the potential to have a massive negative impact on the pelagic, demersal and shellfish sectors and will not be accepted by industry. We are calling on our line Minister and wider Government as well as the SFPA to immediately put right this ludicrous scenario which they should not have created in the first instance,’ the five organisations state.
The committee was also due to probe the findings of a PwC report into the organisational capability of the SFPA published last year, which found that: ‘the SFPA is not working effectively and requires urgent attention….. Relationships and trust have been impacted by a range of issues…. Relationships with various stakeholders, to lesser or greater degrees, are challenging. These issues are impacting performance and the organisation is not operating as a cohesive unit….. In the short term, this will require the SFPA to reset the dial, both in terms of the strategic plan for the organisation and its interactions with staff and stakeholders. This is critical.’