Irish fishing representatives have accused Norway of stalling EU quota talks, because they failed to  secure privileged access to blue whiting in Ireland’s EEZ (European Economic Zone) waters.

“Norway has a track record of overfishing blue whiting and mackerel ,” says Aodh O Donnell of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO). “So, they should not be rewarded with new and additional access to Ireland’s waters to catch their blue whiting quota.”

“They already have an inflated 25% of the total catch for blue whiting, compared to just 3% for Ireland. The Irish Box (a key part of our fishing zone) has some of the richest blue whiting grounds – worth around €160m. This is why Norway is targeting our waters. They are still not offering any meaningful reciprocal deal to Ireland in return for our blue whiting.”

O Donnell praised Irish and EU efforts to stand firm against Norway’s unreasonable demand for  inequitable access to blue whiting from Ireland’s waters. “However, because the EU-Norway fishery talks are stalled, this mean that deals for other EU states on cod and other catches are now being held up. Other Member States’ fishing access arrangements in the North Sea are being held to ransom, as Norway holds out rigidly for a new access agreement to fish in waters on our coast.

“In the last 7 years, despite having inflated quotas, Norway has overfished blue whiting by an average of over 10% a year,” says O Donnell. “In fact, during this period, they overshot their quota by almost 200,000 metric tonnes. This is an irresponsible and unacceptable utilisation of a valuable resource.  It is the hallmark of the Norwegian approach, and should not be rewarded with additional access to our waters. We need a fair playing field if we are going to agree to any form of access for Norway to fish blue whiting in the Irish Box. Ireland demands a long-term reciprocal agreement, before any Norwegian request for access to stocks on our coasts is considered.”

“In particular, the EU must take into account that Ireland is already reeling from our post-Brexit quota losses. A total of 40% of the EU quota transferred to the UK came from Ireland, far more than was taken from any other EU State. So, it’s not just that Norway’s request is unjust. It’s also that Ireland’s seafood sector is struggling to survive while Norway’s is blossoming. We are an EU member and they are not, and the EU’s primary responsibility should be to its members.”

O Donnell praised the Minister for the Marine, and Irish and EU Commission officials and MEPs for their support over the past two months. “We hope that they will stiffen their resolve to seek a fair deal for Ireland, and to face down Norway’s provocative stalling tactics. The Irish fishing industry is united on this issue. We remain confident that the EU will vigorously defend the legitimate interests of our coastal communities and that a fair and permanent deal can be struck for all involved.”

Media enquiries to Trish Hegarty, Inis Communications.