14 Dec 2017, 11.03

A single Minister / government department should be given overall responsibility for coordinating the oversight of the fishing industry, according to a new report by the Joint Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

The Committee has today published its ‘Report on the situation of non-EEA crew in the Irish Fishing Fleet under the Atypical Worker Permission Scheme.’

Some key recommendations include:

• That vessels under 15 metres be included in the atypical worker permission scheme.
• There should be a simplification of the permit process so that applications can be made directly to a central registry that is open to public inspection and that a PPS number is attached to each permit.
• A single Minister/Government Department should be given overall responsibility for the fishing industry. This would ensure direct ministerial responsibility for the coordination of Department and agency action in the industry. This Department would ensure the enforcement of the state’s employment, revenue, health and safety laws by prosecuting non-compliant skippers and boat owners.
• That a reconstituted Task Force meets on a regular basis and would include the ITF as an equal partner, so that its expertise and experience can be utilised to help make the scheme effective.

Committee Chair, Mary Butler TD, said today, “The Committee had concerns for some time about the situation of crew members from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) working in Irish fishing fleets under the Atypical Worker Permission Scheme. As such, we decided to conduct a series of hearings in order to discuss the matter due to the fact that there have been concerns that the permit scheme is being flouted by some trawler owners.”

“The Committee is recommending that vessels under 15 metres be included in the scheme in order to ensure that illegal migrants are not being transferred to smaller vessels. Crucially, we are calling for a single Minister / department to oversee the fishing industry as it is clear that the current situation where responsibility for the sector is spread over a number of departments and agencies is not satisfactory.”

“During the course of our hearings, the Committee heard harrowing stories about the conditions in which some migrant fishermen work. We cannot allow exploitation of workers in any industry and undocumented workers are particularly vulnerable. The Irish fishing industry is a proud one, respected internationally, and has many good and fair employers. The actions of some unscrupulous employers cannot be allowed to damage this vital industry and to flout safety, employment and immigration regulations. We are recommending that common-sense measures be put in place, such as interpreters and a simplification of the permit process. A review of the Marine Survey Office needs to be undertaken to ensure it has sufficient resources and legislative basis to fulfil its functions and allow it to cooperate fully with other State bodies.”

“We accept that trawler owners are under substantial pressure due to overfishing and competition over quotas. More must be done to support Irish fishing, but we cannot allow a situation where some people try to protect profits by cutting labour costs. We will be sending this report to the Ministers with responsibility for various areas of policy in relation to this issue, asking them to consider its recommendations as a matter of urgency. ”

Read the report here

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