Minister ‘reflecting’ on fishing legislation in light of British move

UK withdrawal from London Fisheries Convention has ‘raised temperature’, committee told

The North-South “voisinage” agreement on reciprocal fishing rights within the zero to six-mile limits dates back to the 1960s. Photograph: Alan Betson

The North-South “voisinage” agreement on reciprocal fishing rights within the zero to six-mile limits dates back to the 1960s. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Minister for the Marine Michael Creed has said he was “reflecting” on legislation allowing reciprocal coastal fishing rights on both sides of the Border, following Britain’s decision to withdraw from the London Fisheries Convention.

Mr Creed told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine on Tuesday that the “voisinage” legislation still had “merit”.

The North-South voisinage agreement on reciprocal fishing rights within the zero to six-mile limits dates back to the 1960s, and was the subject of a recent challenge by a group of mussel fishermen, who said it was being abused by vessels using the Northern Ireland register.

The Government has angered fishing industry organisations by introducing amending legislation to underpin the agreement, and this is now before the Seanad at committee stage.

Labour TD Willie Penrose said it would be “foolhardy” to proceed with the legislation now, and called for a cross-party forum and greater consultation on the subject.

He said the registration element “did not appear to be airtight” and there was a “fear that people can come from anywhere” to fish within zero to six miles if it was implemented.

‘Shocking’

Sinn Féin Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said it was “shocking” that none of the industry organisations had been consulted. “If Britain has asserted its national interests, we have to assert ours.”

Mr Mac Lochlainn also said he believed the Government should take a “more forthright position” and seek to renegotiate the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) within Brexit.

Mr Creed was unable to provide figures for the percentage of catch taken by other EU vessels out of Irish waters, compared to that of Irish vessels, but said Ireland had 10 per cent of EU waters overall – while Britain had 17 per cent.

Mr Creed acknowledged that Britain’s stated withdrawal from the London Fisheries Convention, covering reciprocal access by six coastal EU member states to six- to 12-mile limits, had “raised the temperature” on Brexit.

British environment secretary Michael Gove said last week his government was “committed to protecting our strong, historic ties with Ireland” , in spite of its Brexit strategy to pull out of key coastal and offshore fishery management agreements.

Mr Gove also said his government was keen to “work collaboratively” with Ireland to “help resolve any legal issues around the voisinage agreement”.