A radical reset of the EU approach to Norway and other Coastal States is called for says Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO) CEO, Aodh O Donnell ahead of the EU’s annual quota sharing and access negotiations for 2024. He says that these States undermine Ireland’s commitment to long term sustainability of key pelagic stocks.

“Giving free access to coastal players is akin to a colonisation of our valuable maritime space. We need to proactively defend the rights of our fishermen and the coastal communities that depend on them.”

The EU – Norway negotiations on 2024 quota sharing and access commence in earnest next week. Among those quotas up for discussion again are mackerel and blue whiting, two species that are economically important to Ireland.

Ireland was a pioneer in establishing mackerel and blue whiting fisheries, and successful in opening up global food markets. The Irish seafood sector is heavily reliant on these mackerel and blue whiting fisheries. However, Norway and the Faroe Islands consistently in recent years have pursued unilateral quota grabs, systematically overfishing these species by up to 44 % yearly. Such practices impact negatively on the stocks, threatening Ireland’s supply.

Norway has unilaterally secured an enormous share of the total allowable catch (TAC) of blue whiting. This stock is found mainly in Irish waters in the spring of each year, meaning Norway requires access to Irish waters to catch its large quota. The catch opportunities available to Norway in Irish waters amounted to 224,000 metric tonnes (MT) last year.

O Donnell says this amounts to chronic overfishing in excess of the scientific recommendations.

“It is driven by the objective of establishing entitlements based on a bogus track record, at the expense of the responsible approach of EU Member States.

“Furthermore, this rogue initiative of fixing inflated unilateral quotas, as again for mackerel, is a contributory factor to Ireland facing a second consecutive year of mackerel quota cuts of minimum 5 %. It is an additional blow when compounded by the 2024 Brexit transfer instalment of approximately 4 %.”

Irish industry is united in opposing any unfettered access for blue whiting in EU waters.

The Chief Executive of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA), Brendan Byrne, says, ‘’The Irish pelagic sector is a key economic driver for our coastal communities. This sector is challenged by Brexit and the external factors of overfishing by certain Coastal States. We must take a united approach at National and EU Level to defend our interests and to face down this irresponsible activity.”

O Donnell, comments, “The essentially “free access” for blue whiting in EU waters must stop. Access is hugely beneficial from a cost perspective to Norwegian vessels. If Norway wishes to continue to benefit from an EU access quota for blue whiting in 2024 and the years that follow, then Norway will have to compensate the EU, and Ireland particularly, in species of interest to it.

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