New fishing committee formed

New fishing committee formed

15 September 2021

THE creation of a new committee to oversee proposals outlined in a major fishing and seafood development programme has been welcomed by two local politicians.

Approval to set up the new group came at Monday’s meeting of Newry, Mourne and Down Council’s Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism Committee.

The programme focuses on the needs of local ports — including Ardglass — where there are plans to deepening the outer harbour to a depth of nine metres below the waterline to accommodate larger vessels, and deepening the Saw Pit area at the inner harbour to a depth of two metres.

In addition, there are proposals for the development of a breakwater at the Churn Rock to significantly reduce backwash in the outer harbour, which makes life particularly dangerous for boats, a number of which have been damaged as a result.

Other proposals include improving facilities for crab boats by creating finger jetties which are in place at Kilkeel and Portavogie harbours and straightening the pier in front of the ice house which would also allow the creation of an additional berth.

With the estimated cost of implementing all potential developments at the harbour in the region of £45m, it is unclear at this stage what the final bill will be.

South Down MLA Colin McGrath and local councillor Dermot Curran say the creation of the new committee “must deliver for fishing ports”.

Mr McGrath said the fisheries and seafood development programme outlines the needs of local fishing ports which require investment, with both Ardglass and Kilkeel positioned in the South Down constituency.

“This is how important this industry is to local people,” he continued. “However, it is not just the fishing industry that is important as our fish processing factories contribute so much to the local economy.

“And many of our fishermen add to the wider national economy and we need to support them as much as we can and the new programme offers us a unique opportunity to do this.”

Mr McGrath said the South Down fishing industry has delivered “world class quality fish” for many generations and it must now be supported as much as possible to ensure it continues to thrive for future generations.

While welcoming the report, Cllr Curran said he hopes that work to deepen the harbour in Ardglass can get underway as soon as possible.

He said it is great news that a committee will be established to deliver on the programme. 

But he also warned that the group’s membership must include representation from the various fishing associations who play key roles across the industry.

Cllr Curran added: “We need to ensure that the voices of those in fish processing are heard as well. This will ensure that this new committee delivers on the needs of all our fishing ports. It is important that we have equality across our district.”