----- The Voice of Ireland's Fishing Industry and Maritime Community - Published Monthly, Established 1989 -----

Brexit

April 2017 Issue Vol 29 No. 11

Editor,
Marine Times Newspaper

Dear Editor,
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.

A 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 it’s 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 Irish vessels.

The 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!

Our 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. O’Neill. 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.

The 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.

As we are all too well aware the Irish Fishing Fleet was under developed in the 1960s. We know that’s a big part of why Ireland’s 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.

AS 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?

This arrangement has no place in today’s 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.

We 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?

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.

We 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 General’s advice on Voisinage and it’s 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.

We 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.

In 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.

Ireland currently has control of its inshore fishing limit, please keep control now and into the future.

Yours sincerely,
Paul Barlow,
Dunmore East, Co Wexford;
Michael Crowley,
Killinick, Co Wexford;
Gerard Kelly,
Greencastle, Co Donegal
Alex McCarthy,
Kildimo, Co Limerick.

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April 2017 Issue - Vol 29 No.11

April 2017 issue in all good stockists

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Marine Times Newspaper
Editor: Mark Mc Carthy
Assitant Editor: Tom MacSweeney

Features Editor / Advertising: Anne Murray

The Marine Times Newspaper is published by Marine Media Ltd.
Cranny Road, Inver, Co. Donegal
T: 074 9736899 / 9732635
E: marinetimes@eircom.net



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Brexit
March 2017 Issue (Vol 29 No 10)

Raids on Irish Fishing Fleet
November 2016 Issue (Vol 29 No 6)