Irish mackerel and prawn fisheries are heavily dependent on access to UK waters

As the UK “meanders chaotically” out of the EU, the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation has called on government to clearly spell out mitigation measures for fisheries in the event of a hard Brexit.

The producer organisation has appealed to government “to move might and main” to ensure the best interests are “vigorously protected” for a sector that sustains 14,500 jobs and is worth €1.5bn to the Irish economy.

“It is high time that we had sight of a tangible plan which would chart the future direction of the Irish industry,” remarked Seán O’Donoghue, KFO chief executive.

Ireland’s two largest fisheries, mackerel (60%) and nephrops/prawns (40%) are hugely dependent on access to UK waters. Overall percentage of stocks currently fished by Irish fishing vessels in UK waters is more than 30%.

“We cannot countenance a situation whereby this access might stop at 11pm on March 29.”

Notwithstanding recent events however, he believes a deal can still be reached in London:

“Whereas fish are mobile and know no borders nor bear any nationality, our trawlers don’t have this luxury and must obey boundaries and exclusion zones. Our industry is standing on the edge of a precipice which is getting ever closer with every passing day. Everything that we have strived for and developed for generations is staring into the abyss.”

While the first tranche of documents delivered by the negotiating teams and approved by the UK cabinet in December were “encouraging” he described the lack of tangible process since then as “most alarming”.

He added the stakes were “quite simply too high for this to be ignored any longer”. As the majority of the UK Parliament is against a no-deal situation, “it is imperative that such a scenario is avoided” he warned.

The European Fisheries Alliance has also called on the European Commission and Member States to ‘prepare all necessary steps’ to mitigate any impact on its fleets, communities and fisheries resources. It remains hopeful that both sides are ‘able and willing’ to turn their attention to developing and agreeing on a future and comprehensive bilateral fisheries and trade agreement on the basis of the agreement reached between the EU and UK negotiators in November 2018.