Ireland will not stand idly by as EU negotiate a Norway-type Icelandic deal while destroying the Irish fishing industry

Iceland is seeking access to fish in Irish waters, in a new deal being negotiated with Europe without reciprocity for Ireland. Irish fishing industry representative bodies are extremely concerned that bi-lateral negotiations are underway and may be near finalisation without their input or adequate consultation. They say there is a history of the EU Commission rushing through deals of this nature on before holiday periods to minimise opportunities for pushback and objections.

Despite not being in the EU, Iceland wishes to catch valuable blue whiting in Irish waters that are not available in Iceland’s own extensive waters. The stock is abundant and sustainably managed in Irish waters. However, allowing access to another non-EU country would be at the further expense of the livelihoods of Irish fishermen, and the sustainability of the stock.

Furthermore, the Irish industry warn that Iceland is growing the scale and scope of its fisheries while Ireland is passively allowing its industry to continue its terminal decline. The representatives fear another ‘sell out’, like happened with Norway and the UK, and are appealing to the EU to refuse Iceland’s request.

“We fear that this give away of more foreign access to Irish waters is being agreed behind closed doors. There is a lack of clarity and Christmas is upon us, and we are very concerned,” says Aodh O Donnell, CEO of the Irish Fish Processors Organisation (IFPO).

“From what we hear, Iceland is in advanced consultation with the EU to grant them access to Irish waters to catch an enormous tonnage of blue whiting. Iceland has a highly developed fishing industry with strong interest by other European states. It’s a massive fishing fleet including factory ships that will covet our stock.  There is no justice in allocating them rights to fish in our waters.

“The EU already threw Ireland under the bus when it came to the Brexit as we took the hardest hits. As a result of that disastrous transfer of Irish fishing quotas to the UK, Ireland has decommissioned 39 vessels and downsized our national fleet.

“Now, we find ourselves again in an unbelievable situation in granting a third country access whilst Ireland’s small fleet and onshore factories struggle with reduced fishing quotas.

“It’s time to ask serious questions about the EU’s attitude to Ireland and our fishing industry. Why are they now considering that Ireland takes the hit again?

The proposed deal for Iceland to fish blue whiting stocks in Irish waters would benefit Iceland to the value of €22.5 Million, with no reciprocal benefit for Ireland.

“We aim to work in harmony with other member states, but we will not stand by and watch more plundering of our rich maritime resources by another non-EU country,” says O Donnell. “We fail to understand why our Minister and his officials are hastening an agenda driven by the EU Commission and to the benefit of an Iceland as a non-EU member. Why have we not learned lessons from the past?”

O Donnell appeals to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie MacConalogue to stand firm, and immediately block the initiative to ensure an equitable, fair and reasonable arrangement is made. “We call on Minister McConalogue to make urgent contact with the EU Commission to prevent a disastrous deal being imposed on Ireland.”

Brendan Byrne of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA) echoes his message saying, “The deal as it stands is nothing less than outrageous. It must be put on ice so that Ireland can avail on a compensatory transfer of quota from Iceland in lieu of access. We call on the Minister to make it clear that there will be no agreement without consultation, transparency, and reciprocity.”

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