Fishermen fear UK limits will push EU boats into Irish waters

Skippers in Howth worry about prospect of further restrictions by British government

The UK’s withdrawal from the London Fisheries Convention will push more EU trawlers into Irish waters and poses a worrying spectacle for the Irish fleet, according to Howth fishermen.

 

The UK’s withdrawal from the London Fisheries Convention will push more EU trawlers into Irish waters and is a major concern for the Irish fleet, according to fishermen.

Skippers of fishing vessels in Howth, Co Dublin, expressed concern on Tuesday about the decision to expel foreign ships from a 12 nautical mile (22km) limit around UK shores in two years’ time.

Most were primarily occupied by what the decision may portend, with the possibility of a 200 nautical mile (370km) exclusion zone covering all British waters a concern for the Irish fleet, according to Howth-based skipper Richard Branagan.

“It’s very worrying the way they’re after changing it like that all of a sudden with no real warning. It’s not going to work out well, I don’t think, for us,” he said.

His ship, Nauticaa, fishes for prawns, and up to 90 per cent of its catch is found within 100km of the UK coast. He said if he cannot fish in the Irish Sea, he would be forced to go to the Porcupine Bank in the Atlantic, which would involve a round trip of 800km. “That boat is just not suitable for going out there. But that’s where you’d be pushed,” he said.

Threat

Seán Doran, a ship owner and proprietor of Doran’s fish shop on Howth’s west pier, said the would be a threat to livelihoods and could lead to the decimation of the east coast fleet.

“It worries us in the sense that [the 12 mile limit] is only a very small step in what the UK are doing. It’s a very small part of their fisheries but it’s something that’s tangible,” he said.

Prawns and other varieties of catch abundant in the Smalls fishing ground off Wales attract boats from as far afield as Donegal, Galway and Waterford according to Mr Doran.

If a 200 nautical mile exclusion zone comes into force in future, he says this could prove disastrous. “There’ll be huge pressure, there won’t be enough to go around, boats will go to the wall and skippers will lose their jobs and boats.”

Such a scenario would also hit Irish exporters hard, he says, and may give the UK an effective monopoly over some species indigenous to its waters which could force prices up for consumers here.

Concerns

Standing aboard the Lia Jan, his trawler that operates out of Kilmore Quay in Wexford, Denis O’Flaherty’s concerns about the 12 mile limit are more immediate.

“The Belgians have a lot of access in the channel, as do the French and the Dutch, so where now will they be displaced to? Do they come into the Irish 12-mile limit? A lot of them already have access,” he said.

Further aggressive measures by the UK may bring about a “drastic” reduction of the Irish fleet, according to Mr O’Flaherty, but he does not have high hopes for Irish negotiators.

“Our negotiators need to be strong, but unfortunately it’s probably out of their hands in terms of European negotiations, and that’s actually worrying because it’s Ireland that has the biggest effect. How can we influence 27 other nations, that’s the problem.”