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Dublin: 14°C Thursday 19 May 2022

Irish govt rejects Scottish threat of 'enforcement action' against Irish fishing vessels near Rockall

The jurisdiction over the 12 mile area around Rockall have long been disputed.

The Irish Naval Service vessel, LÉ Róisín, on routine patrol at Rockall.
The Irish Naval Service vessel, LÉ Róisín, on routine patrol at Rockall.
Image: Flickr/Irish Defence Forces

TÁNAISTE SIMON COVENEY and Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed have rejected the Scottish government’s unilateral threat of “enforcement action” against Irish fishing vessels fishing within 12 miles of Rockall.

Coveney and Creed received a formal letter of notice from the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs Fiona Hyslop stating that it will deploy vessels in the Rockall area to take “enforcement action” against Irish vessels found fishing within 12 miles of Rockall from this weekend onwards.  

The jurisdiction over the 12 mile area around Rockall has long been disputed.

The position of the Irish government remains that the waters around Rockall form part of European Union waters under the Common Fisheries Policy, to which the principle of equal access for the vessels of all EU Member States applies.

Irish vessels have operated unhindered in the Rockall zone for many decades fishing haddock, squid and other species.

The Scottish government first raised the issue of access to the 12 mile area around Rockall in 2017, following the Brexit referendum. Over the past two years, there have been discussions and exchanges between Coveney and Creed and their Scottish counterparts. 

Ireland’s position, the Department of Foreign Affairs said, has been strongly made – that there is no basis for excluding Irish fishing vessels from the Rockall waters as they are legitimately pursuing EU fishing opportunities in these waters and have done so unhindered for decades.

“The Tánaiste and I have worked very closely to avoid a situation whereby Irish fishing vessels who have been and continue to fish for haddock, squid and other species in the 12 mile area around Rockall, are under the unwarranted threat of ‘enforcement action’ by the Scottish government,” Creed said.

However, following this sustained unilateral action by them, I have no option but to put our fishing industry on notice of the stated intention of the Scottish government.

Coveney said the government intends to “do everything possible to achieve a satisfactory resolution” to the issue. 

Minister Creed today met the fishing industry representatives to explain the situation and to advise them of the threat of enforcement action against Ireland’s fishing vessels by the Scottish authorities. 

“I held a difficult but necessary meeting today with our fishing industry representatives,” Creed said.

I am very disappointed to have had to make them aware of the risk of enforcement action against them for fishing legitimately in the waters around Rockall.

“The industry representatives understood the situation facing Irish vessels but are justifiably concerned at this action being taken by a fellow Member States where our industries are closely connected.”

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