2017 Issue Vol 29 No. 11
Marine Times Newspaper
On February 1st last as members of the Aquaculture Industry we attended
the recent Seafood Sectoral Civic Dialogue on Brexit
hosted by Minister Creed in Dublin.
great fear was expressed by the Minister and the various State and
Industry speakers for the Irish Fishing Industry post Brexit, the
potential loss of access to fishing grounds and a potential loss
of fishing quota. The scale of any such losses will depend on Brexit
negotiations and as such its a guessing game now as to what
the eventual impact of Brexit will be on the Fishing Industry. All
the speakers were of the same opinion that there could only be a
negative impact on the Irish Industry following Brexit. It has been
estimated that Brexit will cost the Irish fishing industry 500/600
attendance was informed that the EU fleet including Ireland was
far more dependent on UK Waters than the UK was on EU Waters. Therefore
the UK Industry would be hoping to reclaim the British EEZ for UK
fishing vessels. West of Scotland and the South Celtic Sea are the
areas of most concern where Irish vessels could lose access which
they currently have. The attendance was told that there would have
to be negotiations between the EU(not Ireland) and the UK as to
future access arrangements if any!
own fishing activity is carried out fishing for mussel seed within
the Irish 6 mile limit and relaying that mussel seed in various
bays around the country for ongrowing. The recent Supreme Court
decision regarding the Voisinage Arrangement was a shot in the arm
for the many Irish inshore vessels. However despite the Brexit threat
from the UK and concerns of our inshore fishermen the Minister is
hurriedly preparing legislation to allow Northern Ireland/UK vessels
access to the 0 to 6mile Irish Fishing limit. When questioned why
he should seek to make these amendments the Minister said he was
restoring what had been in place since the 1960s. Minister Creed
said the agreement was made between Sean Lemass and Capt. ONeill.
We have heard the State defend the Voisinage Arrangement in the
courts for a number of years but never have the State indicated
that it believed Sean Lemass had made the Arrangement or signed
any Agreement and none was ever presented.
situation in the 1960s was far different than in 2017. In the 1960s
there was far more fish in our inshore waters than in 2017 and the
fishing capacity in the 1960s was far less than in 2017. Small fishing
boats owned and fished by fishermen availed of shared access albeit
that there was never provision in law to do so. There was plenty
of fish to be caught and no quotas or allocation systems were in
place. Before the Supreme Court judgement, large vessels some which
are not owned by Northern Ireland interests avail of the Voisinage
Arrangement to access Irish inshore waters. In 2017 the volume of
some species fished in our inshore waters is subject to an allocation
system. UK vessels and shellfish farms receive allocations of shellfish
to fish in Irish Waters resulting in smaller allocations for Irish
fishermen and shellfish farmers.
we are all too well aware the Irish Fishing Fleet was under developed
in the 1960s. We know thats a big part of why Irelands
fish quotas are not as high when compared to our EU neighbours as
the industry would like. When the Voisinage arrangement was made
the UK vessels were limited to a certain size in line with Irish
vessels and only for bona fide fishermen permanently resident
in the six-counties. However as the Irish fleet modernised
the UK fleet could also increase the size of vessels availing of
the Voisinage Arrangement. As our fleet developed the pressure on
stocks from the UK fleet also increased.
fishermen we all know that the licencing authority must assess all
applications for Sea Fishing Boat licences. One aspect that must
be considered is the size of the particular resource and the fishing
capacity which will target that resource. The Authority must ensure
that the fisheries are sustainable and that the fleet matches the
resource. How can the Authority ensure this balance when it has
no role in the management of UK vessels which will be able to access
our inshore waters for all species of fish when the Minister amends
the law to allow Northern Ireland avail of the Voisinage Arrangement?
Why have we been decommissioning Irish vessels if the Irish Minister
is to replace them with UK vessels?
arrangement has no place in todays fisheries. There is no
species that Ireland has a surplus of and Irish Fishermen need and
are capable of catching what is available and sustainable to catch.
If the Minister introduces the planned legislation we will have
the bizarre situation where the 6 to 12 mile limit will have more
protection for Irish interests than the 0 to 6 mile limit. For example;
off the west coast a UK vessel will have no access for any species
in the 6 to 12 mile limit but will have access for all species in
the 0 to 6mile limit. This is contrary to all logical thinking.
have had a bad deal after bad deal over the years in fishing. There
is no gain for the Irish Fishing Industry if legislation is introduced
allowing UK vessels fish Irish resources so why do it?
has been suggested that the UK government are pushing to restore
the arrangement. The operation of this arrangement has been contrary
to the Irish Constitution since the 1960s. UK vessels have been
fishing illegally in Irish Waters for nearly 60 years. Our government
is now about to legitimise this fishing at the future expense of
Irish fishermen not to mention the accrued loss to the state over
the last 60 years.
note recently that Pat The Cope Gallagher raised the
issue of the new legislation in a parliamentary question. He was
concerned by the delay in introducing the legislation as a small
number of his constituents were effected. If these same fishermen
were driving around Donegal in Northern Ireland registered cars
Irish Revenue and Customs would take issue. Why is there an accepted
double standard? Mr. Gallagher is intending to ignore the 357 Irish
registered vessels in Donegal to benefit the a number of small
vessels in my constituency with their UK vessels hoping to
get fishing in the zone designated for Irish vessels. Pat the Cope
was the minister in 2005 that received the Attorney Generals
advice on Voisinage and its somewhat amusing now 12 years
later that he has discovered an agreement reached between
Sean Lemass and Captain O Neill in 1966, commonly known as the Voisinage
Agreement. Perhaps the previous Minister Gallagher will let
the Irish Vessel owners see a copy of this agreement and where it
was laid before the Oireachtas.
The concern at the moment from government seems to be about changing
Irish Law so UK vessels can for the first time legally fish in the
exclusive Irish Waters, however while the Voisinage Arrangement
was not compatible with Irish law we must also consider UK law if
Irish vessels are to avail of the reciprocal right to fish in UK
Waters. The British Fishery Limits Act appears to allow access in
the 6 to 12mile belt only for Irish vessels in Northern Ireland
Waters. We have not heard any mention of the UK changing its laws
to allow for the operation of the voisinage arrangement which would
allow access in the 0 to 6mile belt.
are strongly opposed to the introduction of any legislation or amendments
which will for the first time allow Northern Ireland/UK vessels
access inside the 0 to 6 mile Irish Fishery Limit. Ireland needs
its fishing resources protected now and for the future. Brexit is
a potential disaster which we have little control over.
the interests of equality and new legislation, will the Irish Minister
ensure that an Irish vessel will have access to all waters that
a NI vessel has. This would mean that an Irish vessel will have
access to all of the same coasts of the UK as a NI vessel has. There
is no old agreement so make any new agreement a great deal for Irish
Vessels. Time for an Irish Minister to do a great deal for Irish
vessels and offer them the same opportunities as offered to UK vessels.
currently has control of its inshore fishing limit, please keep
control now and into the future.
Dunmore East, Co Wexford;
Killinick, Co Wexford;
Greencastle, Co Donegal
Kildimo, Co Limerick.