Communities along Ireland’s coastline sustained by a €1.1bn fishing industry and 11,000 jobs it supports, are ‘extremely concerned at the potentially devastating ramifications of Brexit,’ believes the Killybeg’s Fishermen’s Organisation.

Coastal Communities Brexit
Seán O’Donoghue along with Francis O’Donnell (Irish Fish Producer’s Organisation); Hugo Boyle (Irish South & East Fish Producer’s Organisation); Jim O’Toole and Kieran Calnan (Bord Iascaigh Mhara) and Matthew Clarke (Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine) in the company of industry figures from across the EU at the signing of the Santiago de Compostela declaration

Speaking at a conference in La Coruña, Spain, organised by the European Fisheries Alliance to debate the impact of Brexit on the fisheries sector and local communities, KFO chief executive Sean O’Donoghue said that fisheries was unique as it was a limited resource shared with the UK in terms of quota, fishing grounds and markets.

The event brought together local representatives, fishermen and politicians from the nine countries of the EFA. While each has its own unique structure and culture, “we are united by the common bond of the potentially appalling vista which Brexit represents,” he said.

“Eighteen thousand fishermen representing an annual turnover of €20.7bn…have been plunged into the most grim uncertainty since the UK voted to leave the EU on June 23 last year. Our industry is entwined with Britain like no other with our two biggest fisheries, mackerel and nephrops, being inextricably linked to the UK.

“We are imploring our government to play its part in ensuring the EU explicitly includes fisheries in the negotiation mandate to guarantee mutual access to traditional fishing grounds, preservation of the current distribution of TAC and quotas, as well as maintaining the existing trading arrangements post Brexit,” he added.

Roughly 100 shared fish stocks swim throughout the waters of the European Union. The uniqueness of the fishing industry where the resource is shared with the UK and where stocks are jointly managed across a seamless national jurisdiction in a “sustainable manner requires very special consideration in all negotiations,” O’Donoghue stressed.

Brexit will be “potentially disastrous” for the Irish fleet, particularly if fisheries negotiations are separate from the wider trade negotiations, he added.

“There can be no long-term sustainable, viable and mutually-beneficial post-Brexit agreement in which the issue of fisheries remains unresolved. It is therefore essential for the survival of our industry and our dependent coastal communities that fisheries is prioritised during all negotiations and [is] fully linked with the trade negotiations,” O’Donoghue stressed.

This was the unequivocal message delivered at the conference when the nine coastal states signed a declaration that they would not accept being “left behind or sacrificed” when Britain leaves the EU.

Ireland’s fish producer and exporter associations, along with the State’s department of fisheries, and the fisheries development agency, were acknowledged for their input to the declaration.