According to current EU regulations, 'by-catches' are supposed to be thrown back overboard and not used for commercial purposes. Most 'by-caught' fish is dead by the time it is discovered in the nets. If sold, it could do some good, feeding people and keeping fishermen alive. But throwing dead fish back into the water helps no-one and does no good at all.
Whoever came up with such a totally senseless and impractical rule should be shipped out on a vessel and thrown overboard himself!
The Captain of the L.É. Emer ordered the Emer Jane to proceed under escort to the fishing port of Dunmore East in Co. Waterford, just a few miles down river from where I am now. The skipper of the Irish-owned vessel refused to follow these orders and set instead course for his home port Kilmore Quay in Co. Wexford, telling the L.É. Emer over ship-to-ship radio that they "could arrest him there" if they so wished.
Not certain what the fisherman's intention were, and concerned for the safety of his men, the CO of the L.É. Emer ordered his boarding party off the Emer Jane and let her sail on to Kilmore Quay. So - the way it looked at the moment is: L.É. Emer 0 - Emer Jane 1.
The crew of the L.É. Emer denies that, and Lieutenant Commander Terry Ward, spokesman for the Naval Service, stated categorically that no order to open fire was given by the CO of L.É. Emer. (Please keep in mind that all this is still about nothing more than a couple of boxes of Scallop...)
But this minor and for the world, Europe and even Ireland unimportant incident highlights a much larger and really serious problem. Our own Naval Service, as small as it is, has the purpose to defend the country in case of any attack from the sea, and to protect Irish interests in all coastal waters and anywhere else at sea. And it does usually a very good and professional job.
It should never be the purpose of the Naval Service to threaten the livelihood of our fishermen and to harass them at sea with silly inspections and the narrow interpretation of senseless EU rules. Nevertheless, the ever and ever more bureaucratic and inhumane way EU laws and regulations are formulated, interpreted and enforced makes a mockery of the idea of a free Ireland as part of a Europe of the Fatherlands, with space for everyone, his culture, lifestyle and existence.
They handed out free fish to Dubliners on O'Connell Bridge, thus making themselves seen and heard to the usually indifferent general public of the capital and the political leaders of both Ireland and France.
The Federation of Irish Fishermen (FIF), which was not part of the protest, made instead a submission to Monsieur Sarkozy in which it called for "root and branch reform" of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy.
FIF chairman Gerard O'Flynn told the French President that despite the extensive benefits to the Irish economy from EU membership, these "did not extend to the fishing industry".
Recent significant increases in fuel costs had "brought the Irish fleet to the brink of ruin", he said.
Fishermen say that the constantly rising cost of fuel makes it ever harder for them to earn a living, and they also complain that the Irish Naval Service apparently controls and inspects their boats more often and more thoroughly than French, Spanish and other foreign vessels fishing in Irish waters. If this is indeed the case, it is very hard to understand and does not make sense. If the Naval Service is to control our waters and to police the fishing activities under EU rules, the same law and regulations should apply to everyone, and in equal measures.
Abolishing the long-established and traditional Department of the Marine after the last general election was a major mistake. Things became even worse by handing its portfolio over to the Department of Transport under the landlubber Noel Dempsey, who comes from the southwest of county Meath and has no sense for anything maritime.
And with regards to the Defence Forces (including the Naval Service) it would help if they were to have a decent minister in charge of their department.
One still wonders if it was a practical joke by Bertie Ahern or the former Taoiseach's plain incompetence in all matters military that led to the appointment of the political comedian and Fianna Fáil hyper-loyalist Willie O'Dea to the post of Minister for Defence.
When things are going wrong, a fish begins to smell from the head downwards. Not only the Irish fishermen know what this piece of wisdom means...
The Emerald Islander