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Fishermen seek Brexit mitigation measures - KFO remains hopeful that UK can reach Brexit deal

As the UK meanders chaotically out of the EU, the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation has called for a suite of mitigation measures for fisheries to be spelled out clearly by the Irish Government in the event of a hard Brexit, something which hasn’t been presented in any detail anywhere heretofore. The producer organisation appealed to the Government to move might and main to ensure the best interests of a sector which sustains 14,500 jobs and is worth €1.15billion to the Irish economy, are vigorously protected.

KFO Chief Executive, Seán O’Donoghue stated: “It is high time that we had sight of a tangible plan which would chart the future direction of the Irish industry in the event of a hard Brexit. The importance of this is underlined by the fact that Ireland’s two biggest fisheries, mackerel (60%) and nephrops / prawns (40%) are massively dependent on access to UK waters with the overall percentage of stocks currently fished from UK waters by the Irish fleet standing at more than 30%. We cannot countenance a situation whereby this access might stop at 11pm on March 29th next due to a hard Brexit. The events of this week notwithstanding, we believe a deal can still be reached in London.

“Whereas fish are mobile and know no borders nor bear any nationality, our trawlers don’t have this luxury and must obey boundaries and exclusion zones. Our industry is standing on the edge of a precipice which is getting every closer with every passing day and everything that we have strived for and developed for generations is staring into the abyss.

“While we had been quite encouraged by the first tranche of documents delivered by the negotiating teams and subsequently approved by the UK cabinet in December, the lack of tangible progress since then, is most alarming. While the problem is very evident and has been since June 2016, we in fisheries, are now calling for real mitigation measures. The stakes are quite simply too high for this to be ignored any longer,” stated Mr O’Donoghue.

Concluding, Mr O’Donoghue said that there is still a majority in the UK Parliament against a no-deal situation and it is imperative that such a scenario is avoided. The European Fisheries alliance has this week, also called upon the European Commission and the Member States to prepare all necessary steps to mitigate the impact of such a situation on its fleets, communities and fisheries resources. It expressed hope that both sides are able and willing to turn their attention to developing and agreeing on a future and comprehensive bilateral fisheries and trade agreement on the basis of the agreement reached between EU and UK negotiators in November 2018.

The European Fisheries Alliance (EUFA) which was established less than two months after the British vote to protect the interests of fleets from national organisations in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden. The alliance accounts for over 18,000 fishermen and 3,500 vessels with an annual turnover €20.7 billion.