Leading Journal of the Irish & UK Fishing Industries

KFO say millions will be returned if Ireland doesn’t follow Danish lead

A European fund established to compensate Irish fishermen adversely impacted by the permanent loss of quota due to Brexit, has yet to be distributed to the most affected sector some 17 months after it was first recommended.

Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) Chief Executive, Seán O’Donoghue said his members are extremely frustrated at the inordinate and punitive delay in providing financial support to pelagic (mackerel, horse mackerel, blue whiting, boarfish and herring) fishermen which is ironically, the sector most impacted, from the Brexit fallout. The number one economic driver of the fishing industry here, mackerel, has been reduced by a staggering 26%.

We have been repeatedly fed the line that our modest slice of the €1billion Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) was subject to the Department receiving national sanction and state aid approval at EU level. However, Denmark was formally given EU Commission approval under state aid rules only last week meaning the way is now effectively cleared for our monies to be dispersed here.

“In a nutshell, if Danish fishermen can draw down the funding for losses of quota due to Brexit, why can’t we get it? The most damming aspect of this protracted fiasco is that if we don’t distribute this funding by year end, it’ll be returned to Europe and permanently lost to our fishermen. This is potentially an appalling vista and we’re calling for the most urgent of political action by Minister McConalogue on this matter”, said Mr O’Donoghue.

In October 2021, a Government-established Seafood Taskforce rightly recognised that the end of the Brexit withdrawal period brought about the biggest change and disruption in EU-UK relations in 50 years. This was manifest across all aspects of trade and society but most notably within the Irish seafood sector, where a savage loss of 26% of mackerel and 14% of nephrops quota, was wiped from the bottom line with the stroke of a pen.

In the absence of financial support and other burden sharing measures, Ireland’s pelagic sector will shed more than 1,200 jobs by 2030 because of Brexit. From 2021 to the end of 2023, pelagic fishermen will have had more than 37,000 tonnes of their mackerel quota stripped away as a direct result of Brexit, resulting in loss of more than €52 million.

This fishery is the cornerstone of KFO members’ businesses with fishermen in the North West feeling the cold wind from Brexit for more than two years now and further hits to come over the next three years.