Leading Journal of the Irish & UK Fishing Industries

Patrick Murphy, CEO, IS&WFPO believes the Danish Mackerel row  may well herald the final nail in the coffin of Relative Stability and the deserved death of the Common Fisheries Policy.

As Christmas approached, that usual sense of “Déjà vu” experienced annually by the Irish Fishing Industry disappeared only to be replaced, once again with the dawning reality that nothing changes for Irish fishermen as we reached the conclusion of the December Council of Ministers.

Each year, we put forward credible, fair and sustainable requests for justifiable Increases in a few key white fish stocks, Hake, Haddock, Monk and Sole in the Celtic Sea to the Minister of the day and his Department Officials team who are working close on thirty years in the Department of Marine, who negotiate with their European counterparts up and down the corridors of Brussels through the long hours of the night.

As in previous years, no tooth nor nail was spared in these negotiations but despite this Trojan effort, the usual disappointment is related back to us – only this year it comes to us online as Europe goes Digital in the age of Covid.

Sarcasm aside, the future of our Industry remains bleak with scientific advice not conforming with the reality of what our fishermen witness, which is the abundance of fish witnessed by our fishermen every day on our Irish fishing grounds.

There is clear and irrefutable evidence showing many stocks in Ireland’s EEZ could clearly allow for far higher Total Allowable Catches and sustainable Quota’s for Irish fishermen many of whom will be forced to leave the Industry if the Common fishery policy remains in favour of our visiting fleets.

We ask for no more that equal rights and equal opportunities for Irish Fishermen in Irish waters.

The Minister announced his battle for a return to Ireland of Mackerel quota of 12,000 Tonnes granted to Denmark by the EU some 40 years ago from the Mackerel Stock that spawns and breeds in our waters at a time when the North Sea Mackerel Stock had collapsed as a result of overfishing by Fleets bordering the North Sea. This figure represents some 10% of Denmark’s Mackerel Quota to be taken back from Danish fisherman in the North Sea and returned to Irish fishermen fishing in Irish Waters where under the current policy 23 boats benefit from 87% while 2,000 fishermen must share in a mere 13% of this valuable National Stock.

The possible return of this Mackerel to Ireland after such a long period away must surely be welcomed by all but the question must be asked why successive Irish Governments have failed for 40 years to seek the return of this fish to all Irish Fishermen.

So all credit and praise must go to the current Minister Charlie McConalogue for stepping up to the plate and finally we see our Minister batting for Ireland in Europe.

At this moment in our history when we are about to lose 60 Whitefish Vessels from a fleet of 180 vessels falling foul of a third decommissioning scheme all due to a lack of Quota, this taken from us under the unfair Trade and Cooperation agreement between the UK and EU.

The Irish South and West would ask our Minister McConalogue not to continue with the current unfair Mackerel Policy and only give 12,000 to the 23 Pelagic Boats, when none of them since their creation needed to participate in any of Ireland’s decommissioning schemes due to any loss of their 87% share of the Irish Mackerel Quota.

The Irish South and West make this request to the Minister because many of the 27 Polyvalent Pelagic Boats with only 13% of Ireland’s Mackerel Quota are being asked to Decommission to allow more White fish be available to the remaining whitefish fleet.

Surely, the Minister must now follow European legislation on balancing the opportunities for the entire fleet; justice must dictate a more equitable sharing arrangement be introduced by the Minister in allocating this return of our Mackerel to those within all sectors of our fleet this to include a fisherman in the smallest punt, all our fisherman identified by the Task force as being those in the greatest need.

The demersal sector has already seen their number slashed in previous decommissioning schemes implemented since 2006 and they now ready themselves to lose another 60 boats from the 180 left fishing.”

We paid the price of Europe agreeing a deal for a tariff free trade agreement and our fish was taken from us with our fleet destined to follow if our equal rights and equal opportunities are not afforded to Irish fishermen fishing in our Celtic Sea.

Let’s be clear: The fish we are asking for are only those found in our waters but once again we are informed this is too much to ask for in Brussels at this year’s December Council.

We share the Minister’s frustration that there is no agreement reached between the UK and EU, our fishermen are once again forced to plan for the year ahead on three months of Quota until such time as the Egos of our respective negotiators are massaged enough to allow them reach an agreement for both sides that will last until the end of December 2022.

Whatever the case, the loss of this 12,000 Tonnes of Irish Mackerel that was gifted to those Danish boats that have been fishing it for almost 40 years represents a cumulative loss of over half a Billion Euro to the Irish people and its reclaiming by Ireland for the benefit of all Irish Boats may well herald the final nail in the coffin of Relative Stability and the deserved death of the Common Fisheries Policy.