Work on scrapping a number of Irish fishing vessels is under way in an effort to rebalance fish quotas following post-Brexit agreements.

In the aftermath of Brexit trade agreements, Ireland's share of fish quotas was reduced.

To improve the viability of the Irish fishing sector, up to 60 vessels were targeted to be removed from the sector in a €75m -The Brexit Permanent Cessation Scheme to improve the viability of the remaining vessels.

Under the terms of the scheme, the boats will have to be scrapped and any monies paid to operators under a previous temporary tie-up scheme will have to be repaid.

The scheme has proven controversial, with the Irish South and West Fish Producer's Organisation calling it "sinful" that vessels would have to be scrapped and not repurposed.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara is administering the scheme and a spokesperson said that 64 applications were received of which 57 were found to be eligible. To date 20 vessels have accepted the scheme.

Cutting the stern on the Catherine R

The Catherine R is among the first vessels to be decommissioned. She was a steel trawler built in 2005 and fishing from the port of Greencastle in Co Donegal.

Her owner Cara Rawdon has been fishing for 46 years. He said that he chose to accept to decommission his fishing boat for a number of reasons but added: "The main reason is that I felt that there is so much bureaucracy now attached to the fishing industry and how we fish, I feel that it's way over the top."

On seeing his ship being ripped apart for the scrap heap, he said: "It’s like seeing your home being torn apart. I saved the money to buy her and make her safe for the crew. It was a very difficult decision because not only had I to decide my own future I also had to think of my crew. It’s a very hard decision to make to end a lifetime of fishing."

CEO of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation Aodh O Donnell said that he estimates that only about 30 vessel owners will accept the scheme and that it will be hard to achieve 60.

"It appears that the offer is not enough for some of the fishermen. The criteria attached to the scheme is not attractive and the State are making it complicated. If 60 vessels don’t exit the sector the rebalancing of quotas will be more difficult as the remaining fleet will be left chasing a reduced quota of fish to catch."

The Catherine R before being scrapped

Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue said that there will be no changes to the scheme despite the low take-up so far.

He added that it is totally voluntary for any fisherman to apply for decommissioning and that there is a period of time if they are deemed eligible to way up the consequences for themselves before accepting or declining the offer.

The industry estimates that the value of the vessels eligible for decommissioning ranges from €200,000 to €1.4m.

So far three trawlers have been scrapped with a further 17 now awaiting their final berthing at the scrap yard docks.