Fishermen to march on Taoiseach’s Cork office over Brexit deal and fish quota

Brexit deal on fisheries will cost Irish fishing 4,000 jobs , fishermen warn

A flotilla of 50 trawlers will sail into Cork Harbour and their crews will march to the office of Taoiseach Micheál Martin calling for a fair share of quota for Irish fishermen.

The protest scheduled for Wednesday is organised by the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (ISWFPO) and aims to highlight the difficulties facing the Irish fishing industry since the Brexit deal, which has reduced access to UK waters.

ISWFPO CEO Patrick Murphy said that the fishing vessels will sail from Roches Point to the Cork city quays to launch a "campaign to raise awareness of the plundering of our greatest natural resource".

“After a short rally, fishermen and their families will walk in solidarity to Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s office on Evergreen Road in Turners Cross to hand deliver a letter outlining the plight of the industry,” he said.


Mr Murphy said that the Brexit deal agreed on December 24th last between the European Union and the UK will result in Irish fishermen losing millions of euro in earnings if they are not given a fair share of the fish that swim in Irish waters.

He contrasted the situation between the UK, which will be able to fish for 75 per cent of the fish in their waters as a result of the Brexit deal, with that of Irish fishermen who are limited to fishing just 15 per cent of the stocks in Irish waters.

“Moreover, it is estimated that job losses of 4,000 or more in both the catching sector at sea and the processing sector onshore will inevitably follow these savage cuts,” said Mr Murphy.

An administrative penalty points system for a boat and its fishing licence, and a penalty point system on a skipper’s personal licence are proposed.

He said this change allied to “the Christmas Eve theft by the Brexit Agreement” of a large proportion of Irish fish from a historically poor share of fish quotas in Irish waters will spell the end of fishing in many Irish ports and harbours.

Weighing fish

Mr Murphy said the final straw for those working in the fishing industry was the EU Commission’s decision to introduce its control plan which requires fishermen to weigh their fish on the pier.

Mr Murphy said Irish fishermen have invested heavily in refrigerated fish holds, ice-making machines and refrigerated salt-water plants to bring ashore a premium product that is recognised worldwide.

“Producers likewise have spent vast sums to have the very highest standards of hygiene while handling this product. We are now to ignore this best practice, and weigh on piers open to all the elements and wild life such as sea gulls.

“We know that capitulation by fishermen to these draconian measures [introduced in the wake of Brexit] will sound the death knell to our industry which will also lead to the wipe out of our coastal communities,” he said.

“We know this as State agency reports, such as those from BIM [Bord Iascaigh Mhara] show the importance of our fishing industry in maintaining the economic and cultural wellbeing of rural communities all along our rugged island coastline.

“The vast majority of our members share these worries but not because they cannot trade or continue the profession that was passed down to them from their fathers and mothers but because their rights have been stripped away.

"They now find themselves the pawn on the chess board of Europe to be sacrificed so larger countries may triumph," said Mr Murphy adding that the giving away of Ireland's renewable natural resource cannot continue.

“It is not a big ask to have equal opportunities to mirror that of our European fishermen and indeed the UK vessels fishing in our waters. It is long past time that we receive a fair share of the fish quota in our waters.

“It is neither reasonable nor just to expect the Irish fleet to stay in port while foreign fleets with multiples of our quota in our waters remain fishing unimpeded, thus denying our fishers the right to earn a living.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times