Deputy Verona Murphy spoke in the Dail yesterday (Thursday) and asked the Minister how the Department will deal with probably impartial trade following Brexit in respect of fishermen and the issues that will arise once UK waters are no longer accessible to EU fisherman and, in particular, Irish fishermen, who probably access UK waters more than any of the other EU member states.
“Currently, 60% of the mackerel we fish, as well as 40% of the prawns caught by Irish trawlers, are fished in UK waters. These goods are the mainstay of the sector but the waters are soon to be outside the EU and off limits to Irish trawlers. Put simply, 30% of what is trawled by Irish fishermen will be wiped out post Brexit. Significant changes to existing arrangements would be devastating from the Irish fishing industry.”
Deputy Murphy alluded to the situation in Wexford. “Another matter that is of major concern for fishermen nationally, and one I have at first hand heard discussed in my constituency when dealing with fishermen in Wexford town, Kilmore, Duncannon and other areas, is the likely increase in activity in the fishing grounds and waters surrounding Ireland post-Brexit.
“Fishermen expect a significant increase in the number of UK vehicles re-registering for EU ownership. I am glad this is recognised in the programme for Government. Will the Minister tell us what steps are being prepared to prevent displacement or an increase in the number of vessels that re-register to the EU post Brexit?”
In reply, Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence replied; “On fishing, the Deputy (Murphy) has raised a series of issues. No one should assume the outcome yet. It cannot be said yet that we will be locked out of UK waters or that 30% of the stock we access will be wiped out. We do not know whether any of that is true yet. We are in a negotiation. The important point in this negotiation is that fisheries are part of the broader trade negotiation to ensure the EU uses the leverage it must get the best possible outcome for its fishing interests, including Irish fishing interests.
“What we do not want are distortions of fishing that force fishermen to catch fish too early or in the wrong place in response to the restrictions in a post-Covid environment. This is a complex negotiation but an important one for counties such as Donegal, Galway and Kerry, in addition to west Cork, Wexford, Howth and all the other constituencies and counties that rely greatly on the fishing industry.”