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Ireland to be the sacrificial lamb yet again

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DAFM officials not fighting a meek surrender of Irish blue whiting to Norway


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Most people in the Irish fishing industry will by now be aware that prior to the Christmas break Norway had approached the EU Commission for permission to catch its hundreds of thousands of tonnes of blue whiting quota in Irish waters in what they describe as “unfettered access” - and, while the EU probably no longer view such waters as ‘Irish’ but as being ‘EU community’ waters, the proposal was being given serious consideration.


The general feeling amongst the fishing industry representatives involved in this debate, namely the IFPEA, IFPO and the IS&WFPO, was that there should be ‘no surrender’ of yet another jewel in the crown of Irish resources - but that if the might of an EU Commission / Norway (& other EU nations) deal could not be halted then, at the very least, Norway should be forced to give to Ireland, in exchange for access to make their catch in Irish waters, a sizeable offer of blue whiting quota (in the region of 50,000 to 80,000 tonnes) to the Irish pelagic fleet.


Despite Norway holding an annual blue whiting quota of ten times that of Ireland, (and their pelagic fleet of 280 vessels also ten times the number of Irish pelagic vessels) the proposal of any payment in terms of fish to Irish fishermen was deemed unacceptable to Norway and the talks were suspended.


However, with these talks set to resume in Brussels next week, the plan has now taken on a new twist in which not only will Ireland not receive any compensation for an EU deal to allow Norway catch its blue whiting quota in Irish waters, but a deal which will see a portion of the existing Irish quota (IN IRISH WATERS) actually be given to Norway!


If this is not a case of the turkey being forced to pay for the new cooker he’s going to be roasted in at Christmas then I don’t know what is…


The Norwegian blue whiting quota is currently around 420,000 tonnes, plus the 74,000 tonnes it is to be ‘gifted’ by the EU in return for quota transfers in Norwegian waters for Arctic cod which involves the demersal vessels of Spain, Portugal, Germany and Netherlands - meanwhile Ireland’s blue whiting quota is currently 28,900 tonnes and, under ICES’ advice, is set to rise to 47,800 tonnes…. BUT, under the EU’s ‘gifting’ of blue whiting quota to Norway, Ireland will be forced to submit 15% of its quota to them in what is being termed as ‘balance transfer’.


While the loss of 5,800 tonnes of blue whiting by Ireland is reportedly being accepted to be ‘a bit high’ by the EU Commission, it nevertheless expects Ireland to be satisfied with ‘only’ having to give up around 2,500 tonnes instead - and, it would seem that because Ireland ‘don’t want to upset’ their EU colleagues, the outgoing DAFM Assistant Secretary General and Ireland’s main pelagic Producer Organisation are reportedly NOT fighting against such a settlement.


The Norwegians, backed by the Dutch, have come up with this plan that will be to the benefit of everyone - everyone except Ireland of course.

The ‘swaps’ or access to Norwegian waters for EU demersal vessels is reportedly around 10,000 tonnes and Ireland’s share of this is a miserly 300 tonnes per annum - so it is obviously unsustainable for any Irish demersal vessel to steam from the Irish coast up to Norwegian waters just to catch 300 tonnes.


Once again the Irish fishing industry is about to be shafted - and once again the price and the scene of the crime is to be Irish fish stocks and Irish fishing waters.


Setting aside the cruel injustice of all of this, a repeat of the injustice of BREXIT, surely the Minister and his DAFM advisor can see the scientific dangers involved here —- if Ireland was previously taking 30,000-odd tonnes of blue whiting with Norway taking a similar amount out of Irish waters every year and, through politics, deals and pure greed, Norway are now allowed to catch the guts of a half a millions tonnes of blue whiting in Irish waters then the tenfold pressure on a stock which is currently deemed to be sustainable by scientists will be tremendous and this new massive pressure is bound to eventually lead to a stock collapse or displacement - in which case ICES will likely close the fishery completely and when that happens Norway will return to catching their quota elsewhere and Ireland will have lost yet another fishery.


It is laughable that other EU nations such as Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and Germany think that it would be unreasonable for Ireland not to accept the current proposal but that’s because they all stand to gain from it and, bearing in mind that these are not Norway / Ireland talks but Norway / EU talks the EU Commission’s fear is that if Norway doesn’t get its way then they will withdraw the EU deals that allow certain other nations access to Arctic cod in Norwegian waters.


If Minister McConalogue and his outgoing DAFM advisor were the managers of a football team mired in the relegation zone after years of dreadful management then the fans would be shouting “you don’t what you’re doing” but the bigger concern amongst fishermen today is that they know exactly what they are doing i.e. ensuring yet another step towards the final bankruptcy of the Irish fishing industry.

Cormac Burke,

Chairman, IFSA

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Photo credit Fiskerforum.com

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