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“Stop EU from Selling Our Fishing Resources to Iceland”

Fishing Industry Shocked to Discover EU Talks for Iceland to Fish Irish Waters at Advanced Stage - Just One Week after EU Fisheries Council Meeting

The Irish fishing industry is calling on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie MacConalogue to put an immediate halt to talks that will grant Iceland sizable access to Irish fishing waters. The Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO) say there is no plan for Iceland or the EU to adequately compensate Ireland for such access.

“In fact, this deal would enable other nations to prospect and plunder Irish waters to the tune of €22.5 Million,” says IFPO chief executive, Aodh O Donnell.

The Department of the Marine, led by Minister McConalogue, hastily arranged a virtual meeting on Monday 18 December to brief Irish fishing industry representatives on what they believed were EU exploratory talks. However, the talks were revealed to be an advanced stage, with major negative impacts for Irish fishing. Fishing representatives question why there was no mention of this progressed Icelandic arrangement at the EU Fisheries Council meeting in Brussels a week earlier.

Fishing representatives say they were taken aback that such talks are at a progressed stage.

Aodh O Donnell of the IFPO says the information outlined by the Department at the last-minute meeting was a bolt out of the blue. He insists that Ireland needs to lay down its red lines urgently to avoid a repeat of Norway’s access to arrangement to Irish waters that allows them catch three times Ireland’s quota.

“Apparently, the EU is at an advanced stage negotiating with Iceland to grant them access to our waters. Why was there no mention of this Icelandic arrangement at the EU Fisheries Council meeting in Brussels just last week?

“This proposal has all the hallmarks of the flawed EU-Norway access arrangement dating back to 2005. This enables an armada of Norwegian vessels to come to plunder our waters while Irish vessels remain tied up at port. In 2024, Norway will fish almost 200,000 tonnes of Blue Whiting valued at circa € 45 Million. Ireland’s fishing industry gets nothing of consequence out of this EU-Norway arrangement.

“A repetition of the Norway with Iceland is simply not acceptable. We have firmly rejected the poorly negotiated deal The Department of Marine has on offer. We aim to work in harmony with other member states, but we will not sanction further pilfering of our rich maritime resources by an outside country.

“We fail to understand why our Minister and his officials are hastening an agenda driven by the EU Commission and to the benefit of an Iceland as a non-EU member. Why have we not learned lessons from the past?”

O Donnell says there is a history of the EU Commission rushing through deals on the eve of holiday periods to minimise opportunities for pushback and objections.

“The Commission must not proceed with a quick Christmas fire sale of our resources without considering Ireland’s interests. Any move to grant additional foreign fishing rights will be resisted fiercely by the Irish fishing industry. Having Irish vessels remain at port, while foreign fleets are granted new huge fishing rights in our waters has serious consequences. We must learn from the past, stand firm, and not be part of this unfair and unreasonable resource.

“We call on the Minister and the Commission to call a halt to these rushed end- of- year talks and defer any commitment until such time as there is a balanced deal on the table, which reflects Irish Industry’s legitimate expectations.”

Brendan Byrne, CEO of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA) says that the proposal presented by the Minister “has only one winner and that is Iceland. The EU already concluded a deal with Norway on March 16th this year with huge access to Irish waters that has marginal benefits to Ireland. Instead, it allows other EU countries to fish for Atlanto Scandian Herring in Norwegian waters.

“The Irish Seafood sector has been drastically reduced in the last few years and the fleet has downsized as a result of the Brexit, where our fishing quotas were given away to the UK. Any additional access by foreign fleets such as Iceland will be fatal to the Irish fishing and seafood industry.”

The Irish industry says Iceland’s formidable fleet has a keen interest in getting access to Irish waters, as they do not have the species and quantity of stocks in their own waters. They say Iceland participates in non-sustainable fishing.

“Iceland itself has pursued questionable fishing practices on mackerel and blue whiting, for years which would never be accepted within the EU’s fisheries policy,” says O Donnell. “How has the Commission addressed that reality?”

“The deal would enable other nations to prospect and plunder Irish waters to the tune of € 22.5 Million. Another gold rush of an Irish resource – this is an inequitable and unreasonable demand of our members who are left with crumbs of the table.”