Irish fishing representatives say Norway must offer Ireland some reciprocity, if requesting access to our Blue Whiting fishing grounds. Spokesperson Aodh O Donnell has rejected Norway’s claim that their request is part of regular negotiations.
“The request for unfettered access south of the 56-degree line of the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is in additional element to their existing agreement with the EU,” says O Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO).
“At present, the EU give Norway a ‘Balance’ transfer of 31,500 metric tonnes (MT) of Blue Whiting to Norway. This is part of a quota exchange for 10,000MT of Norway’s Arctic Cod, according to 2022 figures. For this existing arrangement, Norway is seeking a 158 per cent increase in this quota transfer to 80,000 MT
In addition to this long-standing transfer arrangement, they are pressing for unfettered access to Ireland’s rich Blue Whiting grounds. This is for a second year, and they are not offering anything to Ireland in return.”
Brendan Byrne of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA) says this is not just an EU policy issue. “It is not acceptable for Norway and the EU to negotiate away access to Irish fishing grounds and offer us nothing in return. Ireland as a Member State issue to needs to secure support from the EU commission to negotiate an access deal that is fair and mutually respectful.”
“The Irish position needs to be understood by our EU colleagues. More importantly, the Norwegians need to be equitable and fair in making a request such as this. In this, the EU needs to secure a quota transfer to Irish Vessels if the Irish Waters are to be opened up further for Norwegian vessel access.”
Byrne says Blue Whiting is rapidly becoming an important stock for the Irish fish processing sector, and the coastal economy and community. “Killybegs is the main European hub utilising this species for food production. In fact, Ireland is a pioneer in food production for blue whiting, with strong brand recognition in overseas markets. Much of the Norwegian catch is landed for fish meal production.”
Byrne adds that a lot of the supply is “already caught by foreign vessels in our waters. Foreign vessels often land fish from our waters when our own fleet is tied up in port due to our low quota opportunities. So, this move would simply be adding insult to injury.”
Patrick Murphy of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (ISWFPO) the 2022 EU – Norway Fishery Negotiations are thus “more than just a sore point for the Irish Fishing community. At this juncture Ireland has a strong hand in this negotiation and a level of ambition is required to secure a fair and equitable access agreement.
Murphy says the Blue Whiting are in our waters at a time when “they are in prime condition for food production, so close to our ports. We are lucky to have a modern state of the art, efficient and environmentally friendly fleet, supported by world class on-shore factories. The Irish industry is reliant on ongoing developmental policies that take account of a sustainable long-term approach to fisheries management.”
“Without an access agreement, Norway as a non-EU member must catch much of its quota outside the Irish EEZ. However, an access agreement with our Norwegian neighbours with the requisite reciprocal arrangements would benefit both parties. It would underpin an existing long-term relationship with the Norwegian catching sector.”
Aodh O Donnell says Ireland must approach these negotiations “with resilience and be resolute in defending the national interest. There is much discontent in the sector that unfettered access might be negotiated or given away to the benefit of Non-EU States. There is particular concern given the current decline of our fishing industry, as Ireland continues to suffer disproportionately from the aftermath of the shameful TCA/Brexit deal. “
“This is one of the last remaining pieces of family silver: to throw it away to third countries without a direct dividend compensating coastal Ireland is reckless,” he says.
“We need an immediate focus with a united approach. A collective rolling up of the sleeves is needed to secure a deal that is respectful of the sustainability needs of our coastal communities.”