Post-Brexit negotiations on fishing quotas stall

Post-Brexit negotiations on fishing quotas stall

A flotilla of trawlers and fishing boats in Cork Harbour in May to raise awareness of the difficulties facing the fishing industry. The current talks are designed to make sure Irish fishers can fish for more catch. Picture: David Creedon/Anzenberger

Post-Brexit negotiations between the EU and the UK on fishing quotas for shared fish stock have stalled.

It is understood the French and British governments have further issues to discuss, while there are also difficulties between Ireland and Denmark.

The talks, which began last month, are designed to make sure Irish fishers can fish for more catch, and should have concluded by December 10.

Their quotas were slashed by 26,412 tonnes so that the post-Brexit deal, the Trade and Cooperation Agreement agreed in December 2020 between the EU and the UK, could get over the line.

While Britain can fish for 75% of fish in its own waters, Ireland is only allowed by the EU to fish for about 38% of the available fish in Irish waters.

The issue with Denmark is around the amount of mackerel Danish fishers think they are entitled to catch in Norwegian waters.

“Denmark says it has full rights to fish in Norwegian waters for mackerel, and we say that it doesn’t,” said Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation CEO Seán O’Donoghue.

“We are saying that Denmark cannot claim as its own fish that we know originated in waters off the northwest coast of Ireland and western Scotland.

“We are confident that when all the facts are fully examined rather than the rhetoric, it will be shown that the incorrect methodology had been used by the EU Commission in setting the Danish mackerel quota in Norwegians waters.” 

Lost quota

Fishers believe quota — the amount of fish the EU says Irish operators can catch — that they lost was a sacrifice they were forced to take to make that agreement stick.

As a result, individual fishermen and fisherwomen say they have lost between €5,000 and €20,000 in income.

A proportion of the fleet is decommissioning, while others have agreed to be paid not to fish under the €10m Brexit temporary fleet tie-up scheme announced in September.

Because of the deadlocked quota talks, EU fisheries ministers have decided to set provisional quotas for EU fishers for the first quarter of 2022, in case a deal is not struck by the last deadline of December 20.

“It is regrettable negotiations with the UK on fish quotas for shared stocks could not be concluded," said Agriculture, Food, and the Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue.

“These negotiations have proved to be very difficult and it is in Ireland’s interest that the EU is not rushed into an unacceptable deal.” 

Mr McConalogue also welcomed a commitment to examine and produce proposals, by March 31 next year, on the allocation and distribution of an EU mackerel quota historically linked to an agreement with Norway.

“I was satisfied that the mackerel quota in question has been suspended, pending the outcome of a thorough assessment," he said.

“I will continue to engage actively on the issue and look forward to examining the commission proposals.” 

'Not optimistic'

John Ward, of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation, said: "We are not very optimistic that talks will be finalised by December 20. Our minister is making a serious effort to get a bigger share of mackerel in the North Sea, despite opposition to this by our EU partners."

Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation CEO Patrick Murphy said: “The fish we are asking for are only those found in our waters but once again we are informed this is too much to ask for in Brussels at this year’s December Council.”

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