A representative voice for Irish fishermen using boats of less than 12m in overall length, has raised concerns over the reintroduction of a ‘voisinage’ agreement between the Republic and Northern Ireland.
The Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill 2017, which would have given legal recognition to a longstanding neighbourly agreement between small boats fishing inside 6nm in reciprocal jurisdictions was withdrawn, but is before the Dáil again on Thursday (28/3) for debate.
‘While we understand the reasons why the government wants to put a lawful arrangement in place, it’s the fine print or the lack thereof that we have major concerns about,’ says the National Inshore Fisheries Forum.
‘Our main concern is sustainability which is essential to the future of our inshore fisheries and that of the sector as outlined in our inshore strategy.
The NIFF is also concerned that the reintroduction could potentially devalue future fishing licences and could also increase fishing effort in inshore waters.
‘Some of these licences can be purchased at a much lower cost than those within the Republic,’ they contend.
Labour Party leader, Brendan Howlin, said during the Dáil Order of Business today it was “entirely unacceptable” that legislation would be scheduled before it had concluded in the Upper House [tonight] “particularly when that legislation is contentious.
“The idea of fast-tracking it was to have it completed in advance of the exit of Britain from the EU, which was expected this Friday, but that’s not going to happen now. We have some time to deal with this legislation and my party is seeking clarification on a number of points,”he said.
Michael Creed, Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, held discussions with the leaders of fish producer, processor and inshore organisations, following which he said the talks were “detailed and considered”.
He said there was “no question” of preferential treatment for Northern Ireland vessels while fishing inside 6nm:
“Access will only be granted on the same terms as are applicable to Irish vessels. I also intend [to address] concerns regarding the limiting of access to Northern Irish vessels only, and the assurances received from the UK government in terms of the legal reciprocity of the arrangement.”