Irish producer group opposes potential EU concessions in Brexit talks

Suggestions of E.U. compromise on fisheries to get a Brexit deal with the United Kingdom have drawn the ire of key Irish producer group the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO).

The E.U. is preparing to reallocate U.K. rights to the E.U.’s waters rather than insist on a continuation of the current system (and E.U. trawlers’ continued access to British waters), as had been European Commission’s position up to now, according to a Financial Times report. Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation CFO Seán O’Donoghue – in a meeting of four Irish organizations, the country’s minister for foreign affairs and minister for agriculture, food, and the marine – said it would be hypocritical for the U.K. to expect to cut off access to E.U. vessels while retaining access to E.U. waters for its own ships.

The U.K. should'nt be able to keep the quotas it got while an E.U. member if it seeks to lock E.U. members out of its waters, O’Donoghue told SeafoodSource.

O’Donoghue wants Britain to be stripped of quota benefits in such a scenario – and he points to compensation the U.K. got with the extension of exclusive economic zones (EEZ) in 1976 to 200 miles. The extension amounted to a 26 percent increase in fishing opportunities for seven species, which was added to the U.K. historical catches.

“The U.K. got a 26 percent increase for seven stocks and was further compensated under the Hague Preferences.” The Hague Preferences was an E.U. deal on quotas for certain fish, and through both deals the U.K. got an extra 90,000 metric tons worth of fish, according to O’Donoghue.

“Hence the starting point has to be the U.K. leaving, but it can’t take the advantages of membership with it," he said.

O’Donoghue said Britain is bound by international law limiting its access to so-called straddling stocks, which move through international boundaries.

“The UK is duty bound to work with coastal states to ensure that widely distributed stocks are managed in a sustainable way,” O’Donoghue said. “I can make the case that 80 to 90 percent of E.U. mackerel stocks [caught in U.K. waters] are born and bred off the coast of Ireland. Therefore, should we claim 90 percent of the stocks?”

Likewise, O’Donoghue takes issue with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suggestion that he wants to double the country’s catch post-Brexit. He said E.U. chief negotiator Michel Barnier was last week told “to stick to the [E.U.’s original negotiating] mandate” after talking to eight fisheries ministers last week.

The KFO added that its position is fully supported by the European Fisheries Alliance (EUFA), which is also calling for the United Kingdom not to enjoy both independent coastal state status and the benefits of E.U. membership.

Photo courtesy of Seán O’Donoghue/Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation


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