The EU has given Norway permission to catch four times more blue whiting in Irish waters than Irish fishermen and women are allowed.

Under the deal, Norwegian fishers can catch 224,000 metric tonnes of blue whiting in Irish waters this year — an increase of 110,000 metric tonnes on how much they were allowed to catch last year. In contrast, Irish fishermen and women are only allowed to catch 52,000 metric tonnes of blue whiting, up from the 28,000 tonnes they could catch last year.

In return for allowing Norway greater access to Irish waters, Ireland has also been allowed by the EU to catch just over 258 metric tonnes of arctic cod and 2,640 metric tonnes of Atlanto-Scandia herring in Norwegian waters. Norway, which already had limited access to Irish waters, wanted better access so it could catch more blue whiting

The value of blue whiting fish stocks in Irish waters, where they are of better quality and more plentiful, is estimated to be between €160m and €200m. That figure is set to increase this year because stocks of blue whiting have increased substantially, largely due to successful fish conservation measures.

While unhappy with the lack of quota parity between the two countries, fishing representatives here say the deal has an upside to it. It stops short of allowing Norway the almost unlimited access to Irish waters it was seeking since protracted negotiations on EU-wide fishing quotas started last year. Irish fishing bodies feared a fear a deal could be struck by the EU — despite Irish objections — to allow EU member states greater access to Norway’s cod stocks in return.

Irish Fish Producers Organisation chief executive Aodh O’Donnell said:

“Norway, a non-EU member, secured more out of the deal than Ireland.

“If you do the sums, you can see they can catch more than four times more blue whiting in Irish waters than we can. This last-minute St Patrick’s Day deal does nothing to address Ireland’s unfair share of EU fishing quotas and rights.” However, Mr O’Donnell said the industry counted it as “a win” because the EU refused to grant Norway’s demand for almost unlimited access to Irish waters.

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