Problem solving in 2009

it is clear that being with the Departments (Department of Marine, Department of Agriculture and the Department of Transport) as a fisherman, it sometimes feels that instead of spending 90% of your time on fishing and 10% of your time looking after the administration of your business that the administration side takes a far greater degree of time than in any other business, administration work would take.

I believe that there are three reasons for this.

The first reason is the common fisheries policy itself. The system of checks and balances that have been put in place by Brussels in order to cease the common fisheries policy and to allow bureaucrats to measure through statistics what is going on, has meant that between log book, sales book, landing declarations, and a month to month quota administration, leaves someone feeling more like a dazed accountant than a fisherman!

The systems of authorizations, licenses and permits.

The Current trend in the Department is to move towards a system of authorizations, permits and licenses. This is everything from the annual license for the vessel to be fishing and the various permits that attach to different fleet segments such as tuna, scallops etc. Each one of these schemes has their own set of rules and application processes. It requires you to liaise with somebody (usually in Clonakilty) and it requires a deft hand to ensure that application forms and their terms and conditions are complied with.

Finally, the inevitable dispute will arise in relation to either of the first two points. These disputes can be extremely time consuming and it is an unfortunate reality of life that often these disputes are not resolved in short time, and often they continue for many many months. All of this before you have paid for the diesel and actually gone fishing!

It is also a real feature of todays Irish fishermen that there are sizeable mortgages involved. While interest rates are currently at a historic low and payments must be made regardless of the price of diesel and regardless of the price of fish.

It is clear that any dispute in amongst all of this mix has the makings of a disaster that could spell ruination. It is a sad feature of the role that I play that often times when I am dealing with people who have decided that the dispute has gone on for too long and become far too furious to simply deal with it themselves that either too much time has passed, the cost of resolving the dispute is too great, or lastly that the risks involved in attempting to resolve the dispute are too great.

In most disputes involving any of the departments, the disputes are effectively in relation to a decision the department has or has not made e.g. a decision that you have made an application too late, a decision that you do not qualify for a permit or a decision in relation to capacity. Often times when people are in the middle of this, it can be difficult to realize that in fact it is a simple decision that you disagree with rather than anything else.

While it is nice to believe that discussion can resolve such a dispute, it is a sad fact of life that the vast majority of these cases cannot be resolved in such a way. If someone were to seek the assistance of legal help, it is important to note that there is effectively as little as three months from the date that a decision has been made (depending on the type of solution that is being looked for). It is also important to remember that within those three or six months, detailed instructions will have to be taken, documents may have to be acquired from the various departments and of course proceedings will have to be issued.

Effectively, where a dispute is beginning and has the capacity to seriously affect your business, then it is critical to consult a Solicitor in time.

Dermot Conway
contact Dermot at 0214901000 or