Instead, in a reversal of the commonly held view, Sean O’Donoghue of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation said the Lisbon Treaty would be in the best interests of the Irish industry.
“We looked at all the facts and the pros and cons and ignored the hype of both sides and we are now firmly of the view that a Yes vote is in the best long-term interest of the industry,” he said.
Voting No to protest against the EU’s fishery policy would be counter-productive, he warned. The policy is being reviewed and under the Treaty the European Parliament would be involved in this.
“We have some Irish MEPs on the Fisheries Committee in the Parliament and they offer us the best hope of getting the changes we need,” he said.
Claims that foreign fleets have taken €200 billion worth of fish out of the Irish seas since the country joined the EU were completely wrong, he said.
“I have researched it, and those figures should have been challenged long ago,” he said adding that the sum was a fraction of that.
An independent study carried out by the Canadian University of British Columbia in Vancouver as part of the Sea Around Us project puts the total value of fish taken from Irish waters from 1974 to 2004 at €8.5bn. During this time, Irish ships took €3.9bn from the Irish waters and €3.16bn from British waters that Irish boats have access to because they are part of the EU.
Mr O’Donoghue said that as a result of EU membership the Irish industry got aid that between 2000 and 2013 amounts to some €100 million. “The national government would not have been able to provide the aid to the same extent if we were not part of the EU,” he added.
The Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation has also called for a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum while South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation based in Castletownbere has decided to remain neutral on the issue.