Creed raises concerns about UK fisheries policy change with Gove

British plans to control access to its waters and set quotas a big worry for Irish fishing

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.

 

Minister for the Marine Michael Creed says he has expressed his concerns to British environment secretary Michael Gove over his government’s intention to withdraw from the 1964 London Fisheries Convention.

The two held a conference call on Brexit issues on Wednesday, which was focused on the relationship between the two islands from an “agri-food and fisheries perspective”, Mr Creed said.

The Minister said he reiterated Ireland’s ambition to see this relationship maintained, but also expressed his concerns about Britain’s declared intention to withdraw from the agreement.

The European Fisheries Convention, which became known as the London convention, was signed by six coastal states to allow for reciprocal fishing rights within six to 12 mile limit.

It sits alongside the 1983 EU Common Fisheries Policy, which governs fisheries management in the 12-200 mile exclusive economic zones.

A relatively small amount of fish is caught within the British six to 12 mile zone by Ireland, France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands – valued at about £17 million in 2015.

However, Mr Gove’s announcement, which will take two years at least to implement, signals a “hard Brexit” in relation to withdrawal from the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.

Mr Creed said he raised “the importance of long-established fishing patterns by the Irish fishing industry” and “the importance of these being acknowledged and protected in the context of Brexit” in his conversation with Mr Gove.

UK fisheries bill

At the weekend, Mr Gove described withdrawal from the 1964 convention as a “historic first step towards building a new domestic fishing policy as we leave the EU – one which leads to a more competitive, profitable and sustainable industry for the whole of Britain”.

The British government would introduce a fisheries bill to control access to its waters and set fishing quotas once it left the EU, as announced in the Queen’s speech, Mr Gove said.

Irish fishing industry organisations have said the move stresses the need to prioritise fisheries in Brexit negotiations, but are divided on how the Government should approach this.

Three organisations favour working in an alliance with EU coastal states focusing solely on Brexit, while the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation says Ireland’s interests and protection of stocks can only be best served by a revision of the Common Fisheries Policy.

Irish skippers fear a displacement of EU vessels from British to Irish waters after Brexit, but Mr Creed last week described this as a “worst-case scenario”.

Mr Creed has pointed out that Britain depends on access to EU markets for its seafood.