'We are holding three million prawns for which there is no market'; Cork fishermen facing nightmare situation 

'We are holding three million prawns for which there is no market'; Cork fishermen facing nightmare situation 
Manager of the Castletownbere Fisherman's Co Op, John Nolan at Castletownbere, Co Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

“They like to declare European waters when they have 50 per cent of the monkfish quota in Irish waters, while Ireland gets just 5 per cent of the monkfish quota in our own waters. But they don’t like to accept that there is a European market to which we have equal access.” 

John Nolan, Managing Director of Castletownbere Fishermen’s Co-op, was blunt and direct in the past week when he said that sectors of the French fishing industry were trying to impose a boycott on the sale there of any fish caught by non/French fishermen.

“They have been taking television crews to wholesale and processing operations which they accused of buying fish from non-French boats and not supporting their own industry.

“People are afraid actually in France to take fish off us,” he said. 

“Even big supermarkets like Leclerc, even their government is saying only buy French fish. It does get annoying when you see the way the French are acting. 

"You get this parochialism coming in and the French fishermen going around, they don’t want a European market, but they do want our waters to be European for them. I’m disappointed with that attitude.” 

The Scottish White Fish Producers Association said that French fisheries association and fishing boat owners were approaching retail outlets in France to stop buying what they alleged to be “cheap imported fish” from Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland.” 

Elspeth Macdonald, Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said: “This is deeply regrettable when markets have been devastated due to the Covid-19 pandemic and we need to be encouraging rather than restricting their operation. 

"We are pressing the case with the UK and Scottish governments and have been in touch with the French Embassy. Hopefully this discriminatory practice can be brought to an end.” 

John Nolan Manager of Castletownbere's Fishermans Co Op Society . Picture: Anne Marie Cronin Photography
John Nolan Manager of Castletownbere's Fishermans Co Op Society . Picture: Anne Marie Cronin Photography

There were no indications of any protest by the Irish government, nor EU intervention in the situation. 

There was a meeting between the four Irish fish producer organisations and the Marine Minister, Michael Creed, about supporting the industry, but apart from the Department suggesting storage assistance, nothing positive has so far been announced.

Mr Nolan said some assistance was needed because of the collapse in the market and prices. 

“We appreciate what has been done by the government providing individual supports through Covid 19 payments which will help crews. 

"But for boat owners and fishing organisations what is happening in the industry is a nightmare situation. 

"We are holding over 3 million of stock of prawns for which there is no market at present. 

"The shelf life is over two years so we’d hope that if there is an opening of restaurants, for example the catering trade which is a big one, that the market will start to recover, but at the moment there is nothing that will enable a living to be made from fishing, to keep a boat and crew going, it is just not possible.

"It is that serious. There must be support given to the industry which is a vital food source.” 

It is not the first time that French fishermen have contravened EU regulations when they don’t suit them. 

There have been clashes over scallops with UK fishermen in the English Channel during which petrol bombs were thrown and boats rammed.

French fishermen have also previously stopped lorries carrying imported fish into France.

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