State under fire for Kilmore Quay catch sell-off
The State has been accused of selling off fish confiscated from a Kilmore Quay fisherman who fears he may be forced out of business by the 'ludicrous quota system'.
Fifty-year veteran Johnny Keating, who reports all fish he catches above his quota, says recent seized hauls of black sole, cod and ray were taken to market in Dublin on behalf of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) with the sole and ray sold on to Belgium.
'We had two catches seized in October and one last week,' Mr Keating told this newspaper. He said the catches realised between €28,000 and €30,000 for the State. 'What's happening now is just a complete mess. This has been coming down the line for some time and if somebody doesn't stand up, we will end up with nothing,' he said.
'We need conservation that's for sure, but why not copy the Norwegians, they have a discard system but it's totally different. If they find they are catching too many small fish, they close down an area for a period to allow it to recover.. the system we have is like letting a fox run through the hen run,' he said.
Mr Keating, who is facing suspension because of his breaking of the sules, said that given his his official quota of around €25,000, he already can't afford to pay his bills and may end up being put out of business.
'I have to bring in around €60,000 worth of fish a month. I'm no longer able to fish legally,' said Mr Keating.
He says that if he didn't report the excess fish, he could sell them without repercussion, but that he believes in telling the truth in order to point out the flaws of the system.
The SFPA says that the money raised through the sale of fish will be held as a bond while the Director of Public Prosecutions investigates the breaches of the quota.
'To date this year, the total value of over quota fishing by this vessel is approaching €250,000 and relates to specific high risk species, that is, Cod, Skates and Rays among others. In each case, a file is in preparation for the DPP and will be forwarded by the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority on completion but in the interim and on two occasions in October fish has been confiscated and sold using valuations on the catches based on the current market values of the species concerned.
As is required, and would happen with similar catches from a detained vessel, the monies from these sales will be held as a bond pending the court hearing and decision. Following the outcome.. the value of the bond is given over to the State in the case of a guilty verdict or returned to the defendant in the event that they are found not guilty,' the SFPA said.