An Irish fishing industry representative says north Atlantic coastal states, including Ireland, Iceland and Norway, should form their own economic union with Britain if it votes to leave the EU this month.
Irish Fish Producers Organisation chief executive Francis O'Donnell told The Irish Times that there was "much sympathy" around this coastline for the "Leave" camp.
The impact of the EU common fisheries policy had been very severe on coastal communities on both islands, Mr O’Donnell said.
He said Ireland has one of the largest and biologically fish-rich sea areas, but has been allocated quotas for 18 per cent of the total catch. For this reason he believes there is tacit support here for the grassroots Fishing for Leave campaign initiated by a British skipper, which says it has been endorsed this side of the Irish Sea in Northern Irish ports like Kilkeel, Co Down.
The Fishing for Leave campaign aims to highlight the benefits of a restoration of 200 nautical mile boundaries. Its case has been boosted by a Greenpeace investigation which found three multinational companies own two-thirds of English and Welsh fishing quotas.
The British department of environment, food and rural affairs has sought to fight back with a “facts sheet” outlining why British fishermen are better off within the EU. It says the EU is the biggest export market for fish and seafood.
Access to the EU market is also critical for the Irish fleet, but Mr O'Donnell said Ireland should play on its strengths as a potential supplier of seafood to meet growing global demand in markets from South America to the Middle East to Asia.
Mackerel and prawns
“Ireland could become a global player if we had full access to the 72 per cent of fish taken from our waters by other EU member states,” he said.
“If Britain votes to leave, the Irish Government will have to negotiate bilateral agreements anyway to ensure continued access to mackerel and to prawns off the British south coast. So why not take it a step further and form an economic unit with coastal states sharing migratory stocks like mackerel – as in Iceland, Norway and Britain? Currently the Dutch, French and Spanish are entitled to a quota of this mackerel even thought it is a stock that doesn’t come near those states.”