Sinn Féin Councillor Tom Cunningham has called on the Irish Government to ensure the rights of the Irish fishing industry are protected in the aftermath of Brexit.
Cllr Cunningham said Irish fishermen were in danger of becoming “the meat in the sandwich between the EU and Britain during any talks on Brexit.”
Cllr Cunningham who hails from the fishing village of Clogherhead said “Our government needs to make it absolutely clear to the EU negotiating team how important our fishing industry is to this island. You can be sure that the French, Dutch and other EU countries will do everything to protect their fishing industries and we must not be any different.”
At present, Ireland catches half its quota in British Waters. The London Convention of 1964 allowed Irish fishing vessels to fish in British waters before their entry into the EU. Britain has expressed that they are seeking to exit that agreement. After Brexit Ireland will have 30% of Europe’s viable fishing water and 40% of its fishing stocks yet Irish fishermen are restricted to landing just 5% or less of the overall catch putting tremendous pressure on the industry.
Cllr Tom Cunningham asked “what will happen to the EU vessels that are currently fishing in British waters? They will be displaced and the obvious place for them to go to is Ireland’s waters. Stakeholders estimate Brexit will cause the loss of between 500-600 Irish vessels and as our industry is comprised of small fishing vessels, in real terms, that means thousands of families losing their primary source of income and the decimation of coastal communities right around Ireland.”
Cllr Cunningham called on the Irish Government to “demand that the non-Irish vessels that are displaced from British waters are not redirected into increasingly crowded Irish waters.”
The British decided in July of this year to withdraw from the London Convention of 1964, however, Cllr Cunningham said he would give a cautious welcome to “remarks from the British Minister Michael Gove in August on allowing EU vessels to use British waters post-Brexit” but warned “these comments will cause as much confusion as relief. The Irish fishing industry needs certainty, it needs to know what is coming down the line so they can make adequate preparations, they don’t need this flip-flop approach from the British Government. The onus is on the Irish Government to represent the fishing industry and fishing communities.”