DONEGAL TIMES

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October 11th 2006

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Anger grows in Killybegs as fishing industry is hit by another ‘Missile’ No Mackerel licences yet

Last week an edict was issued from the Department of the Marine that no licences to fish mackerel were being granted to boats that were alleged to have over-fished near Scotland during the year - indeed, to date, no licences have been issued to any of the boats in the fishing port. The alleged over-fishing vessels are now deemed to have no licence for the remainder of the year, the other boats are in limbo, not knowing if or when they will receive a licence. This decision has caused anguish among the entire fishing community in Killybegs. The licences would normally have been issued at the beginning of this month.
The Killybegs herring season kicks off each year with the horse mackerel at the end of August. This continues to October when the herring season begins and runs through to December. The fishing port would normally be a hub of activity at this time of year, with mackerel landing at the harbour being transferred to factories for processing, giving employment to the south-west of the county and a welcome income to many in the lead-up to Christmas.
Now, because of the alleged 6,000 tonne over-fishing off Scotland, the existing 19,000 tonne quota for the Irish fleet has been reduced to 13,000 - and even this is not going to be allocated until further notice. Fishermen are up in arms – one prominent boat owner told the Times “we are normally two weeks into the mackerel season and, as we sit and wait to hear from the department, the best prices and quality are passing us by. Meanwhile the rest of the EU continues to fish as normal.” Another skipper asks “why punish the entire industry for the alleged wrongdoing of a minority?”
Martin Howley, Chairman of the KFO, said that horse mackerel was a niche market and, because of the ban placed on landing mackerel, boats were unable to fish this species because of bi-mackerel landings. “We used to have 50/60 Japanese buyers in Killybegs each year for the horse-mackerel season. That meant business for the hotels, restaurants and other service industries. This year we had 20 Japanese who left the port disappointed because of the landing restrictions – and the question is - will they return?
“There are over twenty fishing boats tied up at the pier with ongoing costs, one of these is my own ‘Atlantic Challenge’ which has not fished since March, when it was out for two days. The costs of repayments, wages, maintenance and fuel is crippling. Insurance alone costs me €200,000. Unless there are changes introduced, the industry as a whole – fishing vessels and processors - are not going to survive” Martin claimed.
Indeed it is not just the fishermen and factories that have been affected – there have been a number of shop closures in the town - and restaurants and hotels are losing out. Lorries and transport firms are suffering as well as the companies that complement and service the fishing industry. Banks are scrutinising closely house and business borrowings - and jobs are being lost on a weekly basis.
Crews of the fishing boats, and Killybegs had some of the best in the country, are being forced north to seek work on the oil vessels. When the new pier was built, the fishing industry was on a slippery slope – now they have the pier, but no fish.
Howley says that government intervention is needed, and the KFO is lobbying local politicians. A new advisory body has been set up to try and resolve the contentious issues, with two immediate problems to be addressed. 1. Immediate quotas must be allocated to the fishing fleet. 2. Flexibility of quotas - one vessel must be able to amalgamate with another and have two quotas. At the moment this is not possible.

Killybegs is hurting, people are losing jobs, businesses closing. It is time our local minister, TD’s and councillors made their voices heard. With the general election due soon - a person involved in the marine sector told us that the government party will be lucky to get one vote in the fishing port and, have no doubt, the economy of Killybegs is of vital importance to the whole of south Donegal. When the fishing industry is hit, so are people and business within a wide radius. In the good days when skippers and crew earned big money, they spread it around and we all benefited, now, when things are bad, we all suffer. Christy Dunlevy of Inver Oil told the Times that his sales to the marine sector have dropped by 60% and this story is repeated in numerous businesses around the county.

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TOWNAWILLY COMMUNITY CENTRE OPENING

The official opening of Townawilly Community Centre took place on Friday 6th October after a refurbishment which was largely funded by the Donegal Peace II fund, under the EU Peace and Reconciliation initiatives. The monies helped to complete the work on the main building which had been started some years ago, and which had been funded through the committee’s own efforts and the use of voluntary labour offered willingly by several of the local community. They now have a Centre to be proud of thanks to efforts of present and previous committees, the first one of which started back in the sixties following a gathering over a wall in reaction to rumours that the school was to be sold by the parish. The local community owe that original committee a great debt, for without their far-sightedness they would have lost a valuable asset.
Several organisations are already using the centre for classes including civil defence, karate and salsa and the local youth club. The committee do not intend to stand still and are aiming to complete the work on the football field with new floodlights etc. They also need to complete the car park and have plans for an indoor play area.
At the opening Charlie McGinty thanked all the present committee members for the efforts they put into keeping the centre going, “there would be nothing here without the support of such volunteers and I can assure you what you do is deeply appreciated.” said Charlie


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