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The Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO) has moved to clarify its concerns about both the operation and oversight of the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).

IFPO chief executive Aodh O Donnell says his organisation’s primary interest is to ensure that Ireland has fit-for-purpose controls which are fair to everyone.

“Our current focus is on two main areas: inspections and accountability,” O Donnell says. “We are concerned that the information offered by the SFPA — in their annual report or on their website — does not offer sufficient transparency regarding the level of physical inspections, in particular.

These statistics provided by the SFPA appear to be based only on catches landed in Irish ports. They don’t appear to reflect the number or level of catches from Irish waters which are landed elsewhere.

“For example, the SFPA figures for 2022 show just 50 landings of catches from Norway vessels to Irish ports. Given the high level of Norwegian fishing opportunities in Irish waters, it’s likely that there are exponentially more Norwegian catches from Irish waters landed into other countries. This is the basis for our concern that the limited information from SFPA statistics may not reflect the full number of Norwegian or other foreign vessel catches in Irish waters.”

O Donnell adds that the IFPO also has ongoing concerns about the level of physical inspections carried out on Irish fishing vessels compared to foreign vessels.

“Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the SFPA to offer greater transparency on how controls and inspections are applied to all of those fishing in Irish waters. Otherwise, the Irish fishing industry has to question whether there is a level playing field in Irish fisheries controls,” he says.

O Donnell adds that in the interests of sustainability, there needs to be a more productive relationship between the SFPA and the fishing industry.