Irish waters could be overrun with EU-registered fishing vessels which will be prevented from entering British seas in the event of a hard Brexit.
While Britain is gearing up to police its waters post-breakaway, fears have been raised the Naval Service is so understrength it won't be able to deal with the forthcoming “onslaught.”
Fisheries organisations have expressed grave concerns our navy is so depleted it won't be able to cope. It has been suggested the only way to protect our waters from illegal fishing is to ask other European navies to send over ships to check their own trawlers.
Britain has ordered five new naval vessels designed for fishery protection patrols – three of which are already operational.
By contrast, the Naval Service had to tie up two ships 14 months ago due to lack of crews and a further two look likely to follow suit before the end of the year.
Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the Irish South & West Fish Producers' Organisation, said the richest fishing grounds off the continent are in Britain and Ireland.
Mr Murphy expects “an onslaught” of EU vessels to enter our waters if the British closes her seas off to foreign trawlers next January.
“If you put all the players onto the pitch at the one time what's going to happen to the grass? You will destroy it.”
Mr Murphy pointed out that the waters off our coasts are some of the richest spawning grounds anywhere in the world and overfishing will not just kill their productivity for Irish boats but will ultimately “destroy the ecological system for everybody.”
“The Naval Service has been depleted because the Government is not giving it the resources it needs. I feel for them because they are doing a fantastic job. My biggest fear (in relation to fisheries protection) is the depletion of the navy.
"We don't see them as the bad guys, we see them as our friends and we need them out there in numbers."
He described it “as absolute madness” that as an island nation, with a sea mass 10-times our landmass, we have allowed the naval service to run down to such an extent.
Mr Murphy also pointed out the naval service has rescued many fishermen in distress over the years and helped to recover the bodies of people who weren't so lucky.
Cork South-West Independent TD Michael Collins said he was also very worried at the prospect of Irish seas being overfished by other nations as a result of Brexit, especially as the naval service is so understrength.
“We won't be able to adequately patrol these waters with the small number of vessels we'll have. I think maybe it's time that we asked our EU colleagues to send ships over here to police their own fishermen,” Mr Collins said.