• ‘Dozens of protesters by local fishermen concerned about possible transmission of Covid-19 on pier’.

By Andrew Atkinson

A Spanish owned trawler was forced to abandon plans to land a catch in Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland – due to dozens of protesters by local fishermen – concerned about the possible transmission of Covid-19 on the pier.

Protesters mounted a blockade at the Co. Kerry port, preventing a Spanish registered truck from entering the pier to collect fish from the vessel.

A significant Garda presence, including local Gardaí and Tralee-based Gardaí, were tasked to clear access to the pier.

In line with Covid-19 restrictions announced by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed, the trawler tied up – in an area specifically designated for foreign vessels – and crew were not allowed to leave the area.

Gardaí attempted to negotiate, but the fishermen refused to lift their blockade.

An agent, acting on behalf of the Spanish company, who attempted to drive onto the pier, were thwarted by local fishermen – laying on the ground denying access.

The Spanish registered truck did not attempt to enter the pier -and the trawler later left Dingle Harbour.

The agent for the Spanish company Ricardo Ferriera said a decision was made to land the catch in Castletownbere: “We have a ferry booked for the truck and we could not risk being delayed in Dingle, so we decided to go to Castletownbere instead.

“It is disappointing. We have done everything that the Irish authorities have asked us to ensure that we are in compliance with Covid-19.

“We have completed all the relevant HSE Covid-19 paperwork and the designated zones were ready on the pier.

“It is four weeks since this crew left Spain to go fishing. There is absolutely no risk of virus.”

Sit down protest

Spokesperson for the Dingle fishermen Mickey Hennessey said: “We achieved our objective, which is to protect our town from coronavirus.

“We have no issue with foreign boats coming in here, they’ve been coming in here for years, we just don’t want them coming in here now – while this crisis is happening.

“We don’t know where these Spanish crews and these Spanish truck drivers have been.

“This isn’t a fishing issue, this is a health issue and we will continue to block foreign vessels to protect the town.”

The move was condemned by seven Irish fishing organisations who described the action as unnecessary, alarmist and without any reasonable nor rational foundation.

Minister Creed announced a number of measures to address the concerns raised by fishermen which included designated landing zones in Irish ports for foreign-registered vessels – and a requirement foreign crew must remain within the landing zone.