Irish fishers are planning to peacefully disrupt plans by the Russian Navy to conduct military exercises 240km off the coast of Cork next month.
The artillery drills at the start of February will take place in international waters but within Irish-controlled airspace and the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that the area was very important for fishers and that they wanted to protect biodiversity and marine life.
There are currently half a billion tonnes of blue whiting in the area that move up along the coastline, he said.
Mr Murphy said his members felt this was a very serious issue. He referred to the Green Party leader Eamon Ryan who had been on the radio programme earlier talking about the importance of fuel.
“This is the same for us. This isn't about €100 per person, this is the livelihoods of fishermen and fishing families all around the coastline here," Mr Murphy said.
"We've already seen 25% of what we were allowed to catch taken from us in the Brexit negotiations, and the cure to that is to wipe out one-third of the fleet again? Another 60 boats are looking to be decommissioned by this Government.
“We’re entitled to go fishing here. It’s our waters. Can you imagine if the Russians were applying to go onto the mainland of Ireland to go launching rockets, how far would they get with that? It's no different to fishermen, this is our ground, this is our farm, this is where we earn our living.
“Why should somebody be able to come in and do that in our waters? This is going to affect our livelihoods and the marine life. There's seismic activity out there for years and it actually changed the migratory pattern of tuna at one stage.
“This is a very important ground where fish come to spawn and we don't know what's going on out here.
“We should be entitled to go fishing there, and if we're fishing there then these boats, these warships shouldn't be having war games”.
On Monday the Russian ambassador to Ireland said that plans by Russia to hold navy military exercises off the coast of Ireland are a “non-story”.
At a press conference in the Russian Embassy on Monday, Yury Filatov downplayed the significance of the navy exercises after concerns were raised by the Irish Government.
Foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney had earlier said the plans were “not welcome”.
Mr Murphy pointed out that the ships would likely be followed by submarines and asked what would happen if the fishing gear and nets got tangled with a submarine. This was a real concern as fishing boats had been sunk by submarines in the past.
“We in our industry feel nothing's being done here, like everything else, and we want to act. We're not going to face down boats, we're not going to take them on that way, but we are definitely making a point here and we want our Government to do something for us.
“Getting rid of us is not the cure, trust me.”
The Minister of State for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne says he fears war is looming in Europe because of the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“I think this is really a moment of great danger in Europe and I'm not sure that we're fully apprised of the seriousness of the situation that there is war looming in Europe and I think it is extremely, extremely worrying," he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show.
“I think we're in a very precipitous situation. There have been diplomatic efforts going on for weeks and months now at this stage to try to prevent this. We support all efforts to try to stop this - this could be very dangerous if it happens”.
Mr Byrne called on Irish citizens in Ukraine to register with the Irish embassy which opened in Kiev last year.
“We've a lot of Irish citizens there, what we're asking is that Irish citizens register with the embassy. In our experience in situations such as this - whatever number of Irish people we have registered, there's multiples more who aren't registered.
“I think it's very important that they do in case of the outbreak of hostilities and we are advising people not to go to Ukraine at the moment on any non essential business or travel.”
Senior officials in Brussels are all “extremely concerned, extremely worried” about the situation.
“We are showing as a European Union 100 percent full solidarity with Ukraine - they're entitled to the integrity of their sovereign area, they're entitled to set their own destiny as a country. We must support democracy there and we must support their rights as a sovereign state.”
Unlike the US, European countries were not withdrawing personnel from diplomatic missions in Ukraine, added Mr Byrne.
“It's very important that we continue to review the security situation in Ukraine, we're doing that all the time, obviously the safety of people there is very important. But it's also important that we show full solidarity with Ukraine and not simply walk away from that. I think we've done that consistently”.
When asked about Russian plans for naval trials off the south west coast of Ireland, Mr Byrne echoed the comment by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to the Russian Ambassador: “Russia are not welcome here, this is very, very worrying, as to what they are doing.
“The difficulty we have is that they are entitled to do this under international law in our exclusive economic zone, once they give notification to the Irish Aviation authority they are in compliance with international law.”