Irish fishers seek Brexit mitigation measures

Published on
January 21, 2019

While the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) remains hopeful that the United Kingdom can reach a deal on its departure from the European Union, it has called for a suite of mitigation measures for fisheries to be spelled out clearly by the Irish government in the event of a hard Brexit.

The producer organisation appealed to the government to “move might and main” to ensure the best interests of the sector – which sustains 14,500 jobs and is worth EUR 1.15 billion (USD 1.3 billion) to the Irish economy – are “vigorously protected.”

KFO Chief Executive Seán O’Donoghue said it was high time that the fishing industry had sight of a tangible plan that would chart its future direction in the event of a hard Brexit. 

“The importance of this is underlined by the fact that Ireland’s two biggest fisheries, mackerel and nephrops/prawns are massively dependent on access to U.K. waters with the overall percentage of stocks currently fished from U.K. waters by the Irish fleet standing at more than 30 percent. We cannot countenance a situation whereby this access might stop at 11 p.m. on 29 March due to a hard Brexit,” O’Donoghue said. “Whereas fish are mobile and know no borders nor bear any nationality, our trawlers don’t have this luxury and must obey boundaries and exclusion zones. Our industry is standing on the edge of a precipice which is getting every closer with every passing day and everything that we have strived for and developed for generations is staring into the abyss.”

O’Donoghue added that while the KFO had been quite encouraged by the first set of documents delivered by the negotiating teams and subsequently approved by the U.K. cabinet in December, the lack of tangible progress since then is most alarming. 

“While the problem is very evident and has been since June 2016, we in fisheries are now calling for real mitigation measures,” he said. “The stakes are quite simply too high for this to be ignored any longer.” 

Concluding, O’Donoghue said that there is still a majority in the UK Parliament against a no-deal situation and it is imperative that such a scenario is avoided.

Meanwhile, the European Fisheries Alliance (EUFA) has also called upon the European Commission (EC) and E.U. member states to prepare all necessary steps to mitigate the impact of such a situation on its fleets, communities and fisheries resources. 

EUFA expressed hope that both sides are able and willing to turn their attention to developing and agreeing on a future and comprehensive bilateral fisheries and trade agreement on the basis of the agreement reached between E.U. and U.K. negotiators in November 2018.

Image courtesy of Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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