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Fishing Rights Under Threat As New Law Passes Through UK

UK Fisheries Bill confirms ‘worst fears’ of Irish fishermen - Trade linkage paramount to avoid chaos at sea

The Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) has expressed its bemusement at the UK Fisheries Bill published today. The bill, which proposes denying Irish fishermen automatic access to UK waters, would have catastrophic ramifications for the Irish fishing industry but in reality, is “a poor man’s Trojan horse” in the greater scheme of EU/UK negotiations according to the KFO CEO, Seán O’Donoghue.

However, the KFO remains optimistic that the linkage between trade and fisheries as set out in the EU’s Political Declaration will be not merely endorsed but strengthened.

Mr O’Donoghue said: “I cannot over-emphasise how important it is that the work invested in the political declaration by Michel Barnier, Phil Hogan and others is fully supported by the EU27. This UK bill is little more than posturing and its timing is hardly a surprise, but the real negotiations are entering an absolutely crucial phase.

“The UK bill will be null and void once the EU27 remain united and retain the linkage between fisheries and trade. The political declaration by the EU and UK on the next round of Brexit negotiations sets July 1st as the target date for agreeing a new fisheries deal between the EU and UK.

“We have done and will continue to do everything in our power to fight for the future viability of Irish fisheries and that means being a part of overall trade negotiations. The stakes have never been higher and we will not be found wanting in fighting our corner and not allowing Brexit be the death knell for our proud industry,” stated the KFO CEO.

He concluded his remarks by reiterating his assertion that the one industry which is completely and uniquely exposed to anything other than an orderly transition, is the Irish fisheries sector. Last year, our seafood industry was valued at €1.25billion employing more than 14,300 people with this economic footprint predominantly in rural, coastal locations. A no-deal Brexit would be the death knell for many coastal fishing communities, with projected job losses of between 30% and 40% in the Irish industry. Currently, almost a third of Irish catch is caught in UK waters and up to 60% of mackerel and 40% of nephrops (prawns) currently caught will suddenly and literally, be beyond our reach.

Independent general election candidate for Donegal, Thomas Pringle has today called for a strong Government response in the wake of new fishing legislation due to pass in the UK Parliament today.

Thomas says “the fishing legislation going through the UK Parliament seeks to end automatic EU access to UK fisheries which would greatly negatively affect Donegal fishermen. Once legislation passes it will be up to EU representatives to negotiate for Ireland’s access to UK fishing waters which will be done in Brussels.

“The Government must ensure that Donegal fishing rights are not sacrificed at EU negotiations. I am therefore calling on all parties who may be in Government and on Fine Gael as interim Government to make a strong statement that they will support fishing communities in Donegal and their access to fishing waters.

“I will commit to representing Donegal fishing communities throughout negotiations and if in the position to do so will negotiate strongly on their behalf. For now, anyone in the negotiating seat must confirm their commitment that fishing rights for Ireland’s fishermen will be fought for, tooth and nail” concludes Pringle.

Photo: Western Chieftain by Tommy Dirrane