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Freeze Iceland Bid for Irish Blue Whiting
Ireland Must Show Teeth at EU-Iceland Talks and Demand Reciprocal Deal

The Government must seriously ‘up its game’ at EU talks on Iceland’s bid to access Irish fishing waters, say fishing leaders. They must fight for our fishing industry the way other EU Member States do, says Aodh O Donnell of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO).

“The Irish Blue Whiting quota is worth around €15 million for 2024,” says O Donnell. “If this new deal goes ahead, Iceland can catch almost the same amount of blue whiting in Irish waters as we do. They have a population of less than 380,000 compared to our population of over 5.2m. They are not an EU member. How is this a fair deal?”

“Are we getting to catch around €15m of extra fish in Iceland or EU waters for this deal? No. Instead, we believe a small fraction of this is on the table for Ireland. However, countries like Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden will each gain more than Ireland from this deal.”

“The heart of the matter is that the EU is effectively using our EU waters to get better deals for other EU and non-EU States at Ireland’s expense. It’s both unbelievable and outrageous. Can anyone imagine the Spanish or Dutch Governments accepting a flawed deal like this?”

O Donnell says fishing representative bodies here are extremely concerned about ‘secretive’ EU talks with Iceland. “There’s a genuine fear that the negotiations may be close to a deal granting Iceland valuable access to our rich waters - without our input or adequate consultation.”

“Why would the Minister agree to give Iceland access to our waters when there is almost nothing in the deal for Ireland’s fishing industry. This is a colossal and embarrassing failure of negotiating skills. The sector is already suffering from the loss of 26% of our mackerel quota to the UK in the disastrous Brexit deal. So, why not use access deals - like this one - to seek a rebalancing of Ireland’s quota to address these losses fully?’’

The IFPO say the Minister is describing the EU-Iceland talks as ‘informal’ but has failed to confirm if agreement has been reached already. “The fishing industry struggles to understand Ireland’s weak negotiating stance at EU level. We need a Government that fights for our industry in the national interest, the way other EU Member States do” says O Donnell. “The EU Common Fisheries Policy has failed Irish fishing communities and deals like this are simply adding insult to injury.”

The IFPO says they have serious concerns about sustainability too. “Iceland has been a main driver in unsustainable fisheries for mackerel and blue whiting in the Northeast Atlantic. They have a record of fixing inflated quotas and building new vessels to expand their catches. At the same time, Ireland is forced to decommission our whitefish fleet and downsize because of reductions in our allowable catch.”

“Our small fleet and onshore factories are struggling with reduced fishing quotas.  Iceland’s access would be at the further expense of the livelihoods of Irish fishers, coastal communities, and the sustainability of stock in our waters.”

Brendan Byrne of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA) shares the IFPO concerns. “We fail to understand why our Minister and his officials are negotiating an agenda driven by the EU Commission. This agenda is not in Ireland’s interest but benefits Iceland as a non-EU member. Have we not learnt any lessons from the past?” 

Byrne says the effects of this EU agenda have wider economic consequences for Ireland too. He says the volume of Ireland’s pelagic fish exports dropped by 45% last year, according to the latest Bord Bia report. “That represents a fall of an estimated 31% in the value of these exports – a loss of €56m to the Irish economy in one year alone.”

Byrne accuses the Minister of being “out of touch with his industry both at grassroots level and those representing the overall industry. The views of the majority of industry are not being reflected, a point which is become even more self-evident in the past week.”  

The IFPO and IFPEA are calling on the Minister and his Department to come clean now about what proposals are on the table before a damaging deal is struck. Both organisations challenge the Minister to demand a better deal for Ireland from these negotiations. “There must be an open consultation and a fully transparent dialogue with the beleaguered Irish fishing industry,” says Aodh O Donnell. He called on the Minister to initiate this dialogue before approving any EU-Iceland deal.

Patrick Murphy, CEO of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation has today come out before the January Council of Ministers meeting to be held tomorrow the 23rd of January calling on Minister McConalogue to give a public assurance that the informal talks between the EU Commission and Iceland on access into our Waters is not up for discussion at that Council Meeting. Following a lengthy two hour online meeting called by the Minister which was held on Wednesday 17th January, 2024 at 6 pm, Mr Murphy was told that recent media articles and letters sent by Industry to the Commission were unhelpful to him during his talks with the Commission on Ireland’s position relating to Icelandic vessels entering into and fishing our waters.

The media article detailing an offer of 6,000 tons of Mackerel to Ireland was confirmed by the Minister during the meeting but he advised that this was an offer that could not be followed through on by the Danish Ministry - begging the question: why therefore did they make such a ‘without prejudice’ offer.

In his engagement with the Minister, Mr. Murphy clearly expressed his views on this issue to the Minister and voiced his astonishment as to why, during the many recent meetings with the Minister, the existence of this letter was not disclosed.

Quite extraordinarily, we were instead told that the Irish had “no friends”, that we were on our own and while the deal being put forward by the Spanish Presidency was not ideal, holding out for more could leave Irish Fishermen with nothing - and all this despite Mr. Murphy reminding the Minister of the content of the Legal Opinion the Minister had sought on the issue that confirmed the strength of Ireland’s claim to this extremely valuable Mackerel.