“We cannot stand idly by as Ireland’s seafood industry dies while the sector flourishes in other EU and non-EU states. The time to act is now.”

At just €1.3bn, the value of the entire Irish seafood sector is lower than the consolidated turnover of just one large Dutch seafood business at €1.4bn. That’s according to the chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO), Aodh O Donnell.

O Donnell says the latest BIM figures show how badly Irish catches have fallen and says the seafood sector here is at a crossroads. “Non-EU member Norway has a similar population to Ireland but enjoys seafood exports 20 times greater than us. We are being starved of access to our own marine resources. It’s time for the Irish Government and the EU to change this and deliver for Ireland’s seafood sector.”

Some Non-EU Coastal States in Western Europe are taking advantage of the flawed negotiation process and fishing an unfair share of pelagic species like Mackerel and Blue Whiting” claims O Donnell. The Coastal States include Norway, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and – since Brexit – the UK. O Donnell says Norway and the Faroes have a record of “setting themselves inflated unilateral quotas in non-compliance with scientific advice. This seriously threatens the health of these economically critical stocks.”

These Coastal States enter negotiations with the EU every year, but the flawed system allows them to avoid committing to any sharing agreements.  For example, the mackerel coastal sharing consultations have again failed to deliver by the March target date. This suits Norway, Faroe Islands, and Iceland, because they are not bound by any multilateral agreed measures at the Coastal States.  They are then free to fix quotas unilaterally at whatever level their industry wants.”

Norway, in particular, refuses to allow the Coastal States process to come in under the North East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NEAFC), which is based in London. Within NEAFC, agreements would be bound by more stringent rules and rights. More crucially, they would also be bound by the obligations and potential sanctions of a Regional Fisheries Management Organisation. “

Equally guilty in this respect is Faroe Islands. Worse still, the Russian Federation’s fisheries in the North East Atlantic still appears to be protected and encouraged by Norway in all Coastal States consultations.”

O Donnell says it’s time for the EU to act more forcefully in these negotiations to protect the interests of member states like Ireland. “The EU has an impressive Coastal States negotiating team, but they need a stronger political mandate to achieve a better outcome for EU members. In addition, the process needs a more sustained focus and earlier copper fastening on all three separate strands: TAC Setting, Sharing Arrangements, and Access.”

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