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Press Release

Severe exploitation persists on Irish fishing boats, says new report

By 11 December 2017February 9th, 2020No Comments

“Why am I different? Why does the employer treat me differently? I am a man, I am the same as you.” – an Egyptian fisherman working in Ireland

New research conducted with migrant fishermen working on Irish boats has revealed that severe underpayment, discrimination and exploitation are still rife in the industry.

The research was carried out by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI). In-depth interviews conducted in two phases with thirty fishermen showed that:

  • A majority (65%) work more than 100 hours a week
  • Average pay is just €2.82 per hour
  • Discrimination, exploitation and verbal & physical abuse are common

“Ireland cannot be proud of the food we produce unless we respect the people who produce it,” stated Edel McGinley, MRCI Director. “Fishing is a tough job in a complex industry, and it’s even more difficult and dangerous for migrant fishers enduring chronic underpayment and shockingly long hours.”

A Government taskforce was set up in 2015 following revelations in the Guardian newspaper that exploitation and signs of trafficking were evident across the Irish fishing industry. This new report reveals that the Atypical Working Scheme developed by the taskforce has in fact compounded problems.

Edel McGinley continued, “As a result of this scheme, these skilled and experienced fishermen are being paid minimum wage for a 39-hour week – while, like all fishers, working much longer hours. This means their actual hourly pay is less than €3.”

“This must be an immediate priority for Minister Heather Humphreys; people need to be sure that the Irish fish they buy is exploitation-free,” concluded Ms McGinley.



The report will be launched at 10am on Monday 11th December in Buswells Hotel, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2.

Selected report findings:

  • A majority (65%) work more than 100 hours a week
  • Average pay is just €2.82 per hour
  • One in four have experienced verbal or physical abuse
  • One in five have experienced discrimination and racism
  • 40% do not feel safe at work

Report recommendations:

  • The Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation should promote specific regulation in the sector – with relevant parties – in the form of a sectoral employment order or Joint Labour Committee, which sets out terms and conditions, and pay to ensure a basic wage and commission based on shared catch.
  • One body – the Marine Survey Office –  should have responsibility for coordination of compliance in the sector
  • The Atypical Working Scheme should be replaced with an immigration permission that ensures non-EEA fishers are paid equally and can move freely between employers
  • The Government must ratify and enforce the International Labour Organisation’s C188 Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188).