EU fishery ministers set quotas for 2019 last week, some of which followed scientists’ advice.
Days later, our Government announced a ban on trawlers over 18m within six nautical miles of the coast. The restrictions come into effect in 2020 and will reduce the take-everything impact of industrial-scale trawlers and make smaller vessels sustainable.
Like many reform packages in Ireland, the six-mile exclusion zone is a consequence of EU obligations rather than a belated save-our-world change of heart at the cabinet.
The move is a key step for fisheries protection — introduction of Marine Protected Areas under the Marine Strategic Framework Directive which must be in place by 2020.
The move, however, may not avert a political rather than an ecological crisis in the sector.
Agriculture and Marine Minister Michael Creed, pointing out that around a third of Ireland’s catch is taken from British waters, has warned that thousands of fishery workers could lose their jobs if a hard Brexit excluded non-British vessels from waters they have fished for decades.
The Government is working on critical strands of this issue, including a focus on “pressure points that industry might encounter” and the “critical” issue of “reciprocal access to fisheries and resources” between the EU and UK.
There is hardly a sharper example of how dependent we are on EU solidarity and how very disruptive Brexit might be.