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

Two legislative proposals by the European Commission to mitigate “the disastrous impact” that a ‘no-deal’ Brexit could have on Irish fisheries for 2019 at least, have been welcomed by Ireland’s pelagic fishing industry.

“While the reprieve is only temporary in nature, it is an important step to avoid catastrophe on the fishing grounds on March 30 next. Maintaining the status quo for 2019 in  terms of access and quota share is to be welcomed,” remarked Seán O’Donoghue.

Optimistic that a deal can still be reached, he cautioned it was “imperative” that mitigation measures are  developed in the event of no deal.

“While we have made good progress to safeguard our members’ livelihoods in a post-Brexit trade deal scenario, it is crucial we do not take our eye off the ball, and continue to press Britain to maintain the current levels of reciprocal access to waters and markets, as well as sound scientific-based fisheries management.”

During a Dáil debate in late January, marine minister Michael Creed however said the “only clarity” from the UK was that EU vessels would no longer have “automatic access” to their waters.

“Whether this means a complete shut out of EU vessels or not, remains uncertain at this stage.”

Proposals

The first proposal aims to allow fishermen and operators from EU member states to receive compensation under the European Maritime Fisheries Fund for temporary cessation of fishing activities.

The second proposal  covers fishing authorisations and amends the regulation on sustainable management of external fleets to ensure the EU can grant UK vessels access to EU waters until the end of 2019 – on condition that EU vessels are granted reciprocal access to UK waters. This proposal is based on agreement reached at the December meeting on fishing opportunities.

These contingency measures cannot mitigate the overall impact of a ‘no-deal’ scenario, nor in any way replicate the full benefits of EU membership of the terms of any transition period, provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement, the KFO has stressed.