Irish fishing industry leaders want elevation of EU-Norway negotiations to political level

Irish Fish Producers Organisation CEO Aodh O’Donnell.

Irish fishing industry representatives want a fight with Norway over blue whiting quota to be moved out of the hands of European Union technocrats.

The fight stems from negotiations between the European Union and Norway regarding awards of fishing access to each other’s waters. Irish fishing officials have expressed concern the European Union will push ahead with a trade of blue whiting quota and access to Irish waters in exchange for cod quota that will then be awarded to other E.U. countries.

Irish Fish Producers Organisation CEO Aodh O’Donnell said Ireland’s blue whiting fish stocks are worth over EUR 160 million (USD 170 million) annually.

“Norway already has 18 percent of the European and coastal states quota for blue whiting, compared to Ireland’s share of just 3 percent. But [it is] now seeking further – and unilateral – access to Irish waters to catch much of [its] enormous blue whiting quota in 2023 of over 400,000 tonnes,” O’Donnell said. “In our view, the issues surrounding access to Irish waters to catch blue whiting are complex ones and are political in nature rather than technical. Meanwhile, Norway, a non-E.U. member, is offering no meaningful reciprocal arrangement to Ireland.”

O’Donnell and other Irish fishing officials recently sent a letter to the E.U. Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius, asking for the issue to be elevated from technical negotiations to a political level, to be discussed and decided upon by the fisheries ministers of E.U. member-states in the new year. Until then, the Irish fishing industry is calling for the E.U. to suspend talks with Norway.

Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Fisheries State Secretary Vidar Ulriksen said Norway is not specifically targeting Irish blue whiting stocks in the negotiations, but rather attempting to complete an annual fishing-rights trade that had previously been handled smoothly – prior to Brexit.

“Norway is not seeking any particular size of the transfer of blue whiting in the quota exchange for 2023. On the contrary, the E.U. proposed a substantial increase in the transfer of blue whiting for 2023 as a compensation to Norway for Northeast Arctic cod and other fishing opportunities in Norwegian waters,” Ulriksen told SeafoodSource. “The legally binding obligation to offer E.U. 4.14 percent of the TAC for Northeast Arctic cod is the main driver behind the annual quota exchange. Broadly speaking, the traditional structure of the quota exchange is as follows: the E.U. gets Northeast Arctic cod, some other Arctic species, as well as some quotas in the North Sea. Norway has traditionally been compensated with fishing opportunities in Greenlandic waters like shrimp, redfish, and Greenland halibut, as well as blue whiting. It is entirely up to the European Union how much of the cod offer they choose to accept, but the amount needs to be compensated one way or another with transfer of comparable fishing opportunities to Norway.”

Photo courtesy of Irish Fish Producers Organisation


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