Irish fishermen are facing a “deadly serious threat” to their livelihoods if a Brexit deal on trade cannot be reached this year, new Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary has said.
A map of the potential loss of fishing areas to fishermen, currently shared with the UK should a no-deal scenario emerge, shows the scale of the threat.
Mr Calleary says the map is “stark” and says it highlights the critical need for a deal to be reached in time.
“The map is quite stark, and I met the fishing organisations and the processor organisations, it was actually my first meeting. It is a very deadly serious threat to their livelihoods and to their future,” Mr Calleary said.
And so, we've got to be very cognisant of that threat and Simon Coveney is as well. It's really important for Ireland as an island that we get a deal.
“The UK is our biggest market, and obviously fishing waters we share currently with them come right on to the island. So it's very significant here, if we can't get a deal.”
At present, more than two-thirds of the EU’s fishing waters belong to Ireland and the UK and about 50% of Ireland’s fishing catch takes place in UK waters.
Should the UK leave, Ireland’s fishermen and fishing industry will be “locked out” of waters that had been frequented by Irish boats and trawlers long before either country joined the EEC in 1973.
Pending the outcome of the talks, the UK is still abiding by the EU fishing rules of the Common Fisheries Policy. This dictates that EU fishing fleets have access to the 6-12 nautical mile limit around each country’s coast, and neighbouring countries have access to the 0-6 mile zone.
The Irish Fish Producers Organisation, the body which represents owners of trawlers and other commercial fishing vessels has said that if Ireland loses access to UK waters, it would have “a tremendous negative effect on the Irish fishing fleet”.
Particularly for the two main species that we fish – being mackerel and prawns.
At present, 64% of Ireland’s largest fishery, mackerel, and 43% of our second biggest fishery, prawns, is caught in UK waters.
Mr Calleary, a Mayo TD, noted the “downbeat” prognosis of the talks process between the EU and the UK from Michel Barnier, the Brexit negotiator for the bloc of 27 countries.
Echoing recent comments from Simon Coveney, Mr Barnier said the UK has not shown enough engagement in recent weeks for progress to be made.
“We have continued to engage sincerely and constructively, in line with the mandate given to us by the Member States, with the support of the European Parliament,” Mr Barnier said.
"However, over the past few weeks, the UK has not shown the same level of engagement and readiness to find solutions respecting the EU's fundamental principles and interests. This week, we have had useful discussions on some issues in goods and services.
"But these negotiations are complex and require us to make progress across all areas. And we are still far away."
Meanwhile, Mr Calleary announced the award of grants worth €1.2 million to 93 local community groups and micro-enterprises by six of the seven Fisheries Local Action Groups.