Fishing industry warns against EU negotiations ‘sell-out’

Leaders fear Irish access to 40 stocks shared with Britain could be reduced after Brexit

Sean O’Donoghue, CEO of the Killybegs Fishermens’ Organisation. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Sean O’Donoghue, CEO of the Killybegs Fishermens’ Organisation. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The Irish fishing fleet will not allow itself be “sold out” by the European Commission if Britain withdraws from the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), industry leaders have warned.

“We were out in 1973 when we joined the EU, in 1983 when the CFP came in place, so we will not allow it to happen a third time,” Killybegs Fishermens’ Organisation chief executive Sean O’Donoghue has said.

Ireland shares some 40 fish stocks with the neighbouring island, and has worked closely at EU fisheries council level with Britain in the past.

However, Ireland’s percentage of these stocks – the most valuable being mackerel and prawns – could be cut back to ensure access by EU member states to the North Sea, Mr O’Donoghue pointed out.

Ironically, a key conservation measure – the EU-wide ban on discarding fish at sea – was introduced following a British-led campaign spearheaded by food writer Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Consequences

“Fishermen support conservation, but the way this discard ban is being handled could have massive socio-economic consequences for coastal communities across Europe, and the orchestrators have now opted out,” Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation chief executive Francis O’Donnell said.

Mr O’ Donnell said Irish fishermen would be “sympathetic” to their British counterparts, as for the first time in 40 years they could regain control of their fisheries. Last month, Mr O’Donnell proposed an economic alliance of northern European coastal states – Ireland, Britain, Norway, Iceland, the Faroes and Greenland – if Britain voted to leave.

“The reality is that political decisions are rarely made in the interests of the coastal communities, and we will still be within the EU but relying on the European Commission to do deals with Britain which may not be in our favour,” he said.

Mr O’Donoghue said the Minister for the Marine, Michael Creed, must be “really tough” in quota negotiations, with bilaterals with Britain becoming even more important than the annual December talks.

Detriment

Key agreements such as the Hague Preferences and the voisinage deal with the Northern Ireland fleet could also be affected, the two men said. Mr O’Donnell added: “History has clearly shown that these negotiators often try to deal with countries outside the EU such as Iceland and Faroe by offering them sweeteners . . . to the detriment of the EU and good fisheries management.”