Aodh O Donnell, chief executive, Irish Fish Producers Organisation

Issues Statement on Ireland’s EU Membership and CFP:

Ireland has a strong and enduring commitment to Europe and we are good Europeans in that regard. Participation in the EU project has been beneficial to the overall development of our economy and of our society generally.

However, since its inception in 1983, the Common Fisheries Policy has failed the Irish seafood sector. Industry growth has been inhibited by the low level of its development in the 1980’s, so much so that growth levels in terms of catches fell to 1% last year.  The main underlining cause has been the ongoing failure to allocate equitable quotas to Ireland. We hold 12% of EU waters, yet have just 5.6% of the fishing quotas.

The quota situation was dramatically worsened with the post-Brexit deal under which 40% of the quota transferred to the UK was taken from Ireland. Furthermore, EU deals with third countries like Norway to fish in our waters have failed to offer any meaningful quid pro quo to us.  For example, under an EU deal, Norway can now catch more than 3 times as much blue whiting in Irish waters as we do. They are a non-EU member with a similar population, but delivered seafood export growth of 25% in 2022 – the last available figures. Their seafood exports for 2022 were worth €14bn, compared to just € 0.674bn for Irish exports.

The EU is also now considering a deal with Iceland which give them access to our blue whiting too. These talks are being conducted behind closed doors and without consultation with the Irish fishing industry. The unpalatable reality is that the EU is trading access to Ireland’s waters to secure reciprocal deals which largely benefit other EU States, not Ireland. This has to end now.

The impact of the unfair treatment we have received has led to stalled growth for our industry, falling catches, loss of fleet, loss of jobs and major socio-economic impacts on our peripheral coastal of communities. We remain committed to the European project but we are calling for the creation of a level playing field in a radical overhaul of this policy. It is time Ireland was allocated our fair share of the quota and it’s time the EU stopped selling out our waters for others’ gain.

Our Minister for the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, has welcomed the commitment by Fisheries Commissioner, Virginijus Sinkevičius, to conduct a full evaluation of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The announcement was made during the Informal Meeting of Fisheries Ministers held in Bruges, Belgium on 24th and 25th March 2024.

However, our understanding is that the Commissioner’s announcement only means that there will be an evaluation document of the CFP for handing over to the next Commissioner.  The IFPO believes that this kind of evaluation is not sufficient. We believe it’s past time for a full review of the CFP to properly address the inequities in the Irish share of the quotas and in particular the inequitable Brexit deal.  This is what is needed in order for our fishing industry to experience the kind of growth other EU and non-EU States benefit from.

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