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A hollow Christmas victory for Irish mackerel industry

More papering over the cracks as the Irish fishing industry endures weak political representation in Europe



Minister Charlie McConalogue’s grand announcement from the EU Council fisheries negotiations earlier this week that he has “successfully secured an increased mackerel quota share for the Irish fleet” is, in real terms, a ‘red herring’….

“I was determined to reach a resolution on this issue -  this new, permanent allocation of mackerel quota will be worth approximately €3 million annually for Ireland,” he proudly declared.

Hurrah for you Charlie - now lets look at what you’re not telling people:

There has previously existed a separate mackerel quota of 12,300 tonnes (reportedly a quota that at one time belonged to Ireland) that was held by Denmark and that came into their hands as part of an EU Coastal States’ agreement with Norway - - but that Denmark was not utilising as it needed to be caught within Norwegian waters and put simply, the fish were just not there.

So it was only last year when Denmark applied to alter this arrangement so that the fish could be caught in EU waters that everyone, including Ireland, began to take interest and regard themselves as having an entitlement.

Even at one point a poorly advised McConalogue somewhat jumped the gun when he announced that Ireland had ‘won back’ this quota, but then had to sheepishly backtrack when he discovered that Netherlands, Germany and a few others intended to challenge any EU share out of these ‘new’ spoils.

And, in the latest negotiations, bearing in mind that if this ‘new’ quota was opened up in normal Area IV of Western Waters then the U.K. still retains the rights to 71% of quotas within and therefore, to avoid the U.K. getting even more EU mackerel quota, this quota is being quietly handled as a direct transfer from Norway to the EU for Areas VI & VII.

Ok, so it sounds like Ireland is still on track for a nice little slice of additional mackerel quota at a time it is so badly needed, with Brexit adjustment and ICES quota deductions for 2024 taking the Irish mackerel quota down from 62,584 tonnes to 47,559 tonnes, but as ever, the devil is in the details and in reality it transpires that of the announced 2,495 tonnes of ‘new’ mackerel quota that Ireland is getting, it is not, as McConalogue described a “permanent allocation” but quite the opposite in that it will reduce by 725 tonnes next year and even further after that.

Under this new deal, Denmark will retain 75% of this quota and the rest is divided pro rata among the other EU pelagic states - - which of course is good news for Denmark as they previously held 100% of a 12,300-tonne quota which they could only fish if they searched for it in Norwegian waters but now they will hold 75% of a quota which they can fish inside the EU.

So, at this point it appears that the fine details of the deal are that EU gets 40% of the 12,300 tonnes in 2023 and Ireland’s share of the EU share is 50.3% which comes to 2,495t but this reduces by 30% in 2024, by 27.5% in 2025 and 25% in 2026.


From 2026 onwards it is to remain at 25% and therefore, at a rough calculation (12,300t x 25% x 50.3%), if Ireland gets 2,500t in 2023 then we get approx. 1,550t p.a. from 2026 onwards.

Now let’s put that into perspective - Ireland is going to ‘gain’ 1,500t per year but is going to lose 15,000t next year alone!

The EU is describing the deal as an "ambitious balance of exchanges of fishing opportunities of major economic interest" with Norway, with the EU to receive 9,983t of Arctic cod for 2024, while it will transfer 48,000t of blue whiting to Norway.

As a result of the latest negotiations, the EU will have access to catch up to 15,107t of Atlanto-Scandian herring in Norwegian waters while Norway gets access to EU waters to fish 150,000t of blue whiting.


The questions that must be asked


  1. If the greatest giveaway from EU in the annual Coastal States deal is blue whiting off the Irish coast then why is Ireland not the greatest benefactors in the exchange?

  2. If the injustice regarding the previously unutilised mackerel segment of quota has been evident for years then surely awarding the full 12,300t of ‘Danish mackerel’ exclusively to Ireland would have gone some way towards addressing the imbalance;

  3. Spain, the Netherlands and others are benefitting hugely from the transfer of Arctic Cod quota to the EU in this deal but, as usual, the Irish fisherman gets nothing in return for the boat loads of blue whiting we are being forced to give away;

  4. The Dutch and Danes benefit hugely from the Atlantic Scandia herring transfer and Ireland is left with the crumbs but yet again it is clear that the quid pro quo is coming from Irish blue whiting.



Three years after BREXIT there has still been no ‘levelling up’ for Ireland in terms of the EU Commission’s promise of burden sharing - and surely these recent talks and the 12,300t of mackerel was an ideal opportunity for the EU to throw Ireland a small bit of recovery instead of an insulting paltry ‘fraction of a fraction’ of quota which reduces greatly over four years.

As it is, it now transpires that this ‘additional mackerel quota’ has become a Christmas gift to all, but the closest Ireland is getting to any real benefit is to unwrap it while everyone else will get to enjoy the present inside.

It seems that blue whiting in Irish waters has become the black market currency of the EU Commission and when it comes to fisheries it is obvious that the Irish government is willing to let Ireland be nothing more than a colonised state where our EU overlords are stealing our resources and trading it to benefit the more favoured EU fishing nations at our expense.

How Irish people can allow our Marine Minister have the gall to come out and praise himself for ‘securing additional permanent’ mackerel quota while the industry is continuing to collapse due to being robbed of their vital lifeline is beyond me.


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