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Adrian McClenaghan is deeply proud of the fact four generations of his family have fished off the Irish coast.
ut his gnawing fear now is that his son Shaun – the fourth fishing skipper in the family – may prove to be the last given the scale of the crisis now facing the Irish industry.
“My grandfather, my father, myself and now Shaun have fished,” he said.
“We all love the sea and the way fishing offers a livelihood for people in coastal communities.
“But none of us faced the crisis that Shaun now faces in the industry. Fishing in Ireland was sold out during the Brexit talks. If this continues without the Government taking firm action to save our industry, there won’t be a future in the sector for the next generation of young fishermen.”
Trawler operators who have endured stormy seas and monster waves fear bureaucracy and red-tape now pose a far more industry-threatening challenge.
The Donegal skipper and father-of-four will be one of the keynote speakers at a rally in Dublin on Wednesday aimed at highlighting the fact the industry is now engaged in a desperate fight for survival.
The protest will include boats from Dublin, Louth, Donegal, Wexford, Waterford, Kerry, Cork and other counties.
It follows a major equality protest by fishermen in Cork last month.
Boats will gather from 3am and then travel from 5am upriver through the East Link Bridge to John Rogerson’s Quay where a special ‘show and tell’ event will be staged to explain the plight of fishing families. It will conclude with a noon rally at Guild Street Park at Spencer Dock.
After the rally, representatives will hand-deliver a letter outlining the plight of the industry to Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
Irish fishing groups warned their livelihoods are now at stake because of quota cutbacks and the impact of the Brexit deal.
Adrian warned the scale of the current challenges are unprecedented for the sector and range from swinging quota cuts and a draconian penalty points system to fishermen being barred from traditional fishing zones such as Rockall that have for decades provided their catch.
“I think the only way to describe it is as a sell-out – a sell-out of an entire industry. Just to get a Brexit deal done,” he said.
Adrian pointed out that his son studied business and law at university but decided he wanted to fish just like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
He got his new boat, Northern Celt, in 2000 but realised that if Shaun was going to secure a long-term future in the industry he would need a newer, more modern boat.
To secure a new boat, a skipper must have a special licence – and no Irish skippers were selling them in 2017.
Adrian eventually paid €1.2m for a licence from a Spanish company and was in the process of planning to order a brand new boat when the full impact of Brexit became known.
He is now caught between having a licence that has no market to be sold on and industry returns which do not justify investing in an expensive new boat.
To make matters worse, he was one of the fishermen warned by the Scottish maritime authorities last January not to fish within 12 nautical miles of Rockall – despite the fact he held a valid UK fishing licence.
“This is a political issue for Minister Simon Coveney and his counterpart in the Scottish Government. But it is yet another headache for Irish fishermen and a blow to incomes.
“The Government has to make a decision on whether they want a thriving fishing industry? Because at the moment, things simply can’t go on the way they are.”
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