22nd September

UK to ban Irish fishing vessels from its coastal waters

Ireland's marine minister Michael Creed has described the UK's decision to withdraw from the 1964 London Fisheries Convention as "unwelcome and unhelpful".

Under the Convention, contracting parties (Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands and the UK) agreed to allow fishing activity between 6-12 nm of each other's coastline, based on historical track record during 1953-1962.

Inshore boats at Fraserbugh Harbour Photo Niall Duffy

Fraserburgh Harbour where 6000 boxes of fish are handled daily

UK environment secretary Michael Gove said the UK will become an independent political state "and that means we can extend control of our waters up to 200 miles or the median line between Britain and France and Britain and Ireland." 

He described the Common Fisheries Policy as an "environmental disaster" and said it was important to recognise that leaving the European Union would help the environment.

Barrie Deas, chief executive of the UK's National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations has described the decision as an "important part of establishing the UK as an independent coastal state with sovereignty over its own exclusive economic zone".

The Scottish Fishermen's Federation has insisted that sustainable fishing will remain a "key priority" after the UK leaves the Common Fisheries Policy.

"The idea that our exist initially from the London Convention and then the CFP will instantly herald a return to the old days of overfishing is preposterous and, frankly, insulting."

"The industry has brought itself back from the edge of the precipice through its commitment to sustainable fishing, and most major stocks are now caught at or near maximum sustainable yield (MSY) levels. Why on earth would we want to dangle our feet over the edge again?" said Bernie Armstrong, SFF chief executive. 

Everyone needs to understand that Brexit will lead to quota redistribution, not an increase, he added. 

Ireland responds

Addressing delegates at a Brexit briefing ahead of 'Winning in a Changing Environment' seafood conference (Galway, 29/6) organised by BIM, Minister Creed said maintaining quota shares and existing rights of access where "key objectives.

"Any attempts to restrict our existing rights and entitlements will be strenuously resisted and that is why I will be insisting that fisheries must form part of the wider trade negotiations. Brexit poses very serious challenges to the seafood sector and this announcement will form part of the negotiations," he said.

Creed also emphasised the importance of a united front at national and European level so that heads of State, government and Barnier's team "understand and prioritise fisheries". 

Liadh Ní Riada, Sinn Fein MEP and member of the EU Fisheries Committee described the announcement as "rash and reckless" and would only serve to harden attitudes in Europe.

If nothing else it is "wildly premature as quotas and fishing rights will all form part of the Brexit negotiations," she said. 

Sean O'Donoghue, Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation said Ireland stands to lose "catastrophically" from an EU without Britain. Two of Ireland's main fisheries, mackerel and nephrops (prawns) require 40%-60% access to British fishing grounds.

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