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'It's the closure of coastal communities': One in four fishermen will lose their job under this Brexit deal, TDs told

Dublin Bay prawns – our second most valuable fishery – is set to hemorrhage €7 million post-Brexit.

Fishing trawlers at Killybegs Harbour Co. Donegal
Fishing trawlers at Killybegs Harbour Co. Donegal
Image: Shutterstock/Ballygally View Images

IRISH FISHERMEN ORGANISATIONS said today that they did not need the sympathies and kinds words of TDs and politicians, but action if the Irish fishing industry is to be saved. 

The EU is telling Irish fishermen they are being “put out to pasture and future generations too”, CEO John Ward of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation told the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee today.

Due to the Brexit deal, one in four fishermen are being pointed at and told their job is gone, “not because the fish is not in our waters but because we have to give them away for the benefit of others”, he said.  

The committee was told today that the government is to set up a task force involving seafood industry stakeholders to work out how to best support the sector and the local coastal communities.

While the groups welcomed the news, they said action is needed in the here and now due to the upfront cut to their stocks of around 60%.

The reductions across the different stocks will be felt immediately by Irish fishing industry when the full annual quotas for 2021 are determined in March.

“If it this goes ahead as we fear, this is going to lead to job losses,” said Ward. 

“We can’t have a fishing industry that doesn’t have enough fish to catch,” he added. 

In 2006, Ward said there were 280 Irish vessels registered, and there are just 164 registered now. How many of these will have to be sacrificed, he asked.

“These are real jobs, real people and real communities,” he said, stating that if no changes are made now, it will mean the closure of many Irish coastal communities. 

Decimation of coastal communities 

Seán O’Donoghue of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation said the Brexit deal saw a British windfall that essentially consists of a staggering €42 million of Irish fish. 

“This is a completely disproportionate hit when compared to the eight other EU coastal states. €26 million of this relates to our vital, highly-valued mackerel catch while Dublin Bay prawns – our second most valuable fishery – is set to hemorrhage €7 million,” he said.

“Alas, the injustice doesn’t stop there. We have taken a very heavy loss in our whitefish stocks (cod, haddock, whiting monkish and megrim), particularly in the waters off Donegal and in the Irish Sea as well as a massive cut of 96% of Irish Sea herring,” he added.

Ward said said future generations will not be able to enter the sector due the narrowing of the stock and capability for fishermen to make a living. 

‘Very bad deal’

O’Donohoe said the task force cannot be a “talking shop” as this”very bad fisheries deal is hitting us here and now”.

The fishing sector will not accept it is a decommissioning of vessels, “we are decommissioning communities”, he said. 

“Our first priority here is we need to to get our fish back that we unfairly lost in the trade deal – it has to come from the other member states as we cant get it from the UK,” he said. 

 

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Any financial package for fishermen, such as a fund for €100 million, “is just peanuts”, said O’Donohoe. 

“We are begging at this stage,” said Ward, who appealed to ministers and TDs at the committee to make progress urgently.

Agriculture, Food and the Marine Minister Charlie McConalgue told the committee today that analysis of reduction of fisheries quota shares document shows that Ireland contributed approximately 15% of the total value of our 2020 fisheries quotas to the Agreement.

“For other Member States this figure is considerably less,” he said.

“The quota transfers required of Ireland are clearly disproportionate and the outcome is inequitable, in terms of burden sharing,” added the minister. 

He said he met with Michel Barnier, the EU Fisheries Commissioner Sinkevičius and the Ministers of the Fisheries Group of eight Member States on fisheries related matters post-Brexit yesterday.

“At the meeting, I made it clear that Ireland considers that the transfer to the UK involves a very high share of some of our most important stocks.

“I pointed out that within the Common Fisheries Policy, Ireland contributes by providing rich fishing grounds for EU Member States and our Exclusive Economic Zone provides spawning and nursery grounds on many of the core stocks,” he said, adding that he made it clear that the inequitable relative contribution of quota share by Ireland is contributing “to a strong sense of grievance within our fishing industry and indeed more broadly”.

The minister said a mechanism must be found within the EU Commission and relevant Member States to find solutions.

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