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Department Warns of Brexit Damage to the Fishing Industry and Possible Trouble At Sea

If the British Government forces the EU to concede to its declared fisheries policy for a Brexit Agreement, there will be huge negative consequences for the Irish fishing industry, with 16,000 jobs in danger, severe damage to coastal communities, the possible loss of nearly €600m in exports and the potential of conflict at sea according to the Department of the Marine in its annual review of the fishing industry published this week.

“The UK demand is that quota shares are established on the basis of ‘zonal attachment’ and each year access to the UK fishing grounds are ‘purchased’ using the transfer of EU quota to the UK as recompense for this access. If the UK zonal attachment demand was applied, it would have huge negative consequences on Irish fisheries because the UK could claim a much higher proportion of the available fishing quotas for each stock each year. The UK ‘zonal attachment’ claim is based on the level of catches taken from UK waters. If this criterion was used, it would result in Irish fish quotas being cut by 35% in value. The displacement of the EU fleet from the Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and/or the reduction in EU quota shares, if remedial measures are not taken, is likely to lead to serious over-exploitation of stocks in our own EEZ; deliver substantial cuts to many of our quotas; cause a substantial control challenge for the Irish navy, and potentially conflict at sea,” according to the Departmental review, which is similar in tone to the already expressed warnings from industry organisations.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney told the Dáil this week that “In the absence of an agreement on fisheries, I think we will have a very, very complex problem on our hands at sea in terms of tensions between fleets.” There would be “tensions between fleets” in the event of a ‘no trade deal’ being between Britain and the EU he said.

16,150 Employed in the Irish Seafood Sector

16,150 people are directly and indirectly employed in the Irish seafood sector, many of them based in Ireland’s remote coastal communities where alternative employment options are limited, according to the Department of the Marine’s annual review of the fishing industry. The figures are based on 2019 returns. “The success of the Irish seafood industry is vital to the economies of these regions, where it provides employment on fishing vessels, fish farms, in processing operations and in the distribution of seafood,” the review says.

The value of Irish seafood exports in 2019 was in the region of €577 million, a slight increase on the value attained in 2018. he value of exports of salmon and mackerel, Ireland’s most valuable seafood exports, both increased in 2019 after challenging conditions in 2018. Salmon increased by 28% in value with a volume increase of 22%, while mackerel exports increased in value by 7% despite an 8% drop in volume. The main EU markets, France, Spain, Italy, Poland and Germany account for approximately 55% (€315m) of total exports by value. Approximately 36% (€206 million) of total exports went to three Asian markets -China, Republic of Korea and Japan and were stable in value terms compared to 2018, according to the review.