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Minister dodges question on Irish zone extensions

The Irish Fishing & Seafood Alliance wrote an open letter to Minister Charlie McConalogue some time ago to ask for clarity on his proposal to apply to the EU Commission for Ireland to extended its zones from 6 to 12nm and from 12 to 20nm.

With no reply forthcoming, Sinn Fein Fisheries Spokesperson Pardraig MacLochlainn TD posed the same questions in ‘parliamentary questions’ and received the following response from the Minister (see below).

It is however of some concern that the Minister made no reference to the IFSA’s main question i.e. would the Minister confirm that any benefit from such zone extensions would be solely in favour of Irish-flagged vessels and that no advantage would result for any non-Irish fleets.

______________________________________________ For Written Answer on : 22/03/2022 Question Number(s): 1141 Question Reference(s): 14388/22 Department: Agriculture, Food and the Marine Asked by: Pádraig Mac Lochlainn T.D. ______________________________________________ QUESTION To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine his plans to seek an extension of the existing Irish territorial waters’ zone from 0-6 miles out to 12 miles and the existing 12-mile zone out to 20 miles; the benefits and estimated financial gains for the fishing industry; if this request has been agreed to; and if he will make a statement on the matter. REPLY Under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), Union fishing vessels have equal access to Union waters and resources, subject to the rules of the CFP. There are derogations to this access rule, including restrictions on access to Member States' coastal waters. Last year, the European Commission published a proposal to rollover, for another ten years, the provisions relating to the restrictions on access to Member States' 6-12 nautical miles zones, as set out in the CFP Regulation (Regulation (EU) No. 1380/2013). I had sought that this issue be dealt with in the context of the CFP Review. The matter of access to waters for fishing fleets is a sensitive issue and cannot be looked at in isolation. We must consider the wider context, particularly in light of the drastic changes arising from Brexit which have transformed the way fisheries in the Western Waters region are managed, imposed disproportionate burdens on Ireland and changed the overall balance in the CFP. However, the Commission views this as a technical amendment. This means that the proposal is now moving ahead of the CFP review process. Last month, I secured Government approval to seek an extension of the 6 and 12 nautical miles zones out to 12 and 20 miles, respectively. I believe that there is a strong case to be made to increase the protections for Ireland’s fishing fleets in these waters, particularly against the background of Brexit. I have written to the Commissioner to advise him of Ireland’s request and I have also written directly to my French colleague on the basis that France is most impacted and she is President of the Council at present. I will continue to engage with the Commissioner, fellow Fisheries Ministers and MEPs to seek to advance Ireland’s case on this matter.

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