Ireland’s fishing communities fearing the worst from Brexit

The communities living along Ireland’s coastline that are sustained by the country’s EUR 1.1 billion (USD 1.3 billion) fishing industry are extremely concerned at the potentially devastating consequences of Brexit, according to the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO).

KFO Chief Executive Officer Seán O’Donoghue spoke at a conference organized by the European Fisheries Alliance in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, this week to debate the impact of Brexit on the fisheries sector and the local communities that depend on it. He said that fishing was a unique sector, as it is fundamentally intertwined with the United Kingdom in sharing a limited resource as well as fishing grounds and markets. 

O’Donoghue said that while the meeting in Spain had brought together local representatives, fishermen, and politicians from the nine countries of the European Fisheries Alliance and each was unique in terms of its structure and culture, they were “united by the common bond of the potentially appalling vista which Brexit represents.”

Some 18,000 fishermen, representing an annual turnover of EUR 20.7 billion (USD 24.3 billion), had been plunged into “the most grim uncertainty” since the United Kingdom voted to leave the E.U. on 23 June, 2016, he said. Ireland’s fishing industry alone supports around 11,000 jobs.

“Our industry is entwined with Britain like no other with our two biggest fisheries, mackerel and nephrops, being inextricably linked to the U.K. We are imploring our government to play its part in ensuring the E.U. explicitly includes fisheries in the negotiation mandate to guarantee mutual access to traditional fishing grounds, preservation of the current distribution of TAC, and quotas, as well as maintaining the existing trading arrangements post-Brexit." 

The KFO believes Brexit is potentially disastrous for the Irish fleet, particularly if fisheries negotiations are separated from the wider trade negotiations.

The conference saw the launch of the Santiago de Compostela Declaration, signed by E.U. coastal communities, which calls on vital regional interests, particularly fisheries negotiations, not to be separated from the wider Brexit trade discussions.

"There can be no long-term sustainable, viable and mutually beneficial post-Brexit agreement in which the issue of fisheries remains unresolved," O'Donoghue said. "It is therefore essential for the survival of our industry and our dependant coastal communities that fisheries is prioritized during all negotiations and fully linked with the trade negotiations. That is the unequivocal message which we are sending to our political leaders here in Santiago de Compostela today in launching this declaration by European coastal communities that they won't accept being left behind or sacrificed when Britain leaves the E.U."


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