Fishermen plan to peacefully disrupt Russian drills

Southwest group aims to ‘make a point’ about livelihoods and protecting biodiversity

Irish fishing boats are planning to peacefully disrupt plans by the Russian navy to conduct military exercises off the coast of Cork next month.

Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation said that the area was very important for fishing and that they wanted to protect biodiversity and marine life.

The Irish Aviation Authority on Sunday said it had been made aware that a Russian military drill would take place in international waters 240km off Ireland's southwest coast.

On Monday, Russia's ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov said that the military exercises planned for next month in the Porcupine Seabight southwest of Co Cork were not a threat to Ireland.


The ambassador said that he told Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney when they spoke that there were "no grounds for concern for the Irish side" over these exercises.

Mr Coveney had said that the naval exercises were “not welcome”. Mr Filatov said that he had relayed the Minister’s concerns to Moscow.

The ambassador said that it would be “a small exercise – maybe three or four ships, not more”.

Mr Filatov said he was unaware if any missiles would be fired during the exercise or whether the Russian navy would be using submarines.

On Tuesday, Mr Murphy told RTÉ radio's Morning Ireland that there were half a billion tonnes of blue whiting in the area that move up along the coastline. Mr Murphy said his members felt this was a very serious issue. He referred to the Green Party leader Eamon Ryan who had spoken about the importance of fuel, ahead of the provision of a €100 credit to help households with energy bills.

Mr Ryan told RTÉ the crisis on the Ukrainian border was connected to rising fuel costs. "It's a real issue ... the high prices are because Russia is holding back gas from Europe. People are starting to see it coming through in their bills."

Mr Murphy said: “This is the same for us. This isn’t about €100 per person, this is the livelihoods of fishermen and fishing families all around the coastline here. We’ve already seen 25 per cent of what we were allowed to catch taken from us in the Brexit negotiations, and the cure to that is to wipe out one third of the fleet again? Another 60 boats are looking to be decommissioned by this Government.

“We’re entitled to go fishing here. It’s our waters. Can you imagine if the Russians were applying to go onto the mainland of Ireland to go launching rockets, how far would they get with that? It’s no different to fishermen, this is our ground, this is our farm, this is where we earn our living.

“Why should somebody be able to come in and do that in our waters? This is going to affect our livelihoods and the marine life. There’s seismic activity out there for years and it actually changed the migratory pattern of tuna at one stage.

“This is a very important ground where fish come to spawn and we don’t know what’s going on out here.

“We in our industry feel nothing’s being done here, like everything else, and we want to act. We’re not going to face down boats, we’re not going to take them on that way, but we are definitely making a point here and we want our Government to do something for us.

“Getting rid of us is not the cure, trust me.”

When Mr Filatov was asked on Monday about possible disruption to marine life or potential damage to underwater communications cables in the area where the exercise is taking place, he said: “No harm whatsoever is intended to infrastructure, marine life, air traffic, maritime traffic.”