Fishing Industry Looks For Major Capital Investment

Alliance MLA Highlights Capital Investment Needed For Fishing Industry During Assembly Debate

Alliance MLA Patrick Brown highlighted the capital investment need in the fishing industry to bring it into the 21st century during a discussion on the topic in the Assembly chamber.

The motion, brought by the DUP, focused on the need for capital investment in harbours at Ardglass, Kilkeel and Portavogie addressing various challenges faced by the fishing industry.

There was also attention drawn to the management of the Quoile River during a recent discussion on capital investment in the fishing industry in the Assembly chamber.

Currently, Ardglass Harbour Developments Ltd (AHD) is cooperating with the Northern Ireland Fisheries and Harbour Authority (NIFHA) to have the harbour deepened to accommodate more modern fishing vessels. And also AHD wish to instal a 20-berth pontoon for the small boat fleet as exists in the other two ports to improve safety and accessibility.

However, Ardglass lagging behind infrastructurally, is still in the running for possible future development but has to get through a full Environment Impact Assessement (EIA) and a satisfactory business case for development yet before funding is secured.

South Down MLA Patrick Brown with Cllr Cadogan Enright pictured at Ardglass Harbour.

Kilkeel is seeking to build a new harbour pier to accommodate large pelagic vessels, and has a number of commercial developments planned, while Portavogie has just seen a UK Levelling Up grant for £3+ million fund a second slipway for the use of decommissioning trawlers in an environmentally safe way.

Ardglass still lags behind in port development behind the other two ports and has poor service delivery facilities that AHD would like too improve upon.

The key issue is that the harbour is currently causing issues with some vessels with deeper draughts who hit the seabed, and in rough weather, they slam on the seabed which can damage hulls and sensors etc.

However, Ardglass has a very hard working fleet of prawn trawlers and a brown crab fleet, with occasional landings of pelagic (herring and mackerel vessels from the ROI fleet) to service the two factories in Ardglass. The NI pelagic vessels currently dock on Belfast Harbour.

South Down MLA Patrick Brown said: “We are blessed in Northern Ireland with some of the most beautiful coastline in the world, and in South Down, we are doubly blessed to be in close proximity to some of the most productive fishing grounds in Europe.

“With this comes a great responsibility, as these grounds are also some of the most biologically sensitive in Europe, and at all times we must balance the demands of the economy and food security, with the sustainability and safeguarding of the marine environment.

“All the people involved in the fishing industry I know are proud custodians of the sea and I have great respect for the highly skilled and hard work they do. Their knowledge and values are often passed down through generations.

“We must do all we can to ensure the culture and heritage of fishing is protected for future generations.

“”The fishing fleets in Ardglass and Kilkeel are an important part of our local economy and they must get the right support to continue to thrive into the future.”


Quoile Issues Need Addressed Says Brown

While much of the debate centred on sea fisheries, Patrick Brown raised the issues facing inland fisheries, particularly the Quoile River in Downpatrick.

He said: “It would be remiss of me not to reflect on the challenges facing inland fisheries, both commercial and recreational.

“We are all well aware of the threats facing fishing businesses operating on Lough Neagh, and in my own area rivers once internationally popular for coarse fishing, such as the river Quoile, are shadows of what they used to be, as a result of decades of ecological neglect and harm.”

Following the debate the motion passed with an amendment, and Patrick Brown added: “I was delighted to get the opportunity to raise the issues facing fisheries in South Down.

“I also raised the issues surrounding coarse fishing, particularly at the River Quoile.

“Years of decline of the coarse fishery has seen the once very prolific rudd stock, the backbone of the recreational fishery, dwindle.

“I will continue to raise the issues regarding the Quoile River and press the Minister on the need to restock the river and dredge the toxic sludge on the banks of the river.”