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Minister questioned on Ireland’s fishing zones

When asked by the IFSA some months ago if his proposals for changes to the 0-6nm and 12-20nm zones would exclusively be to the benefit of Republic of Ireland fishermen, the Minister evaded this topic — once again this week the matter has been raised in the Dail by Sinn Fein Spokesman on Fisheries, Padraig MacLoughlainn TD.

______________________________________________ For Written Answer on : 05/07/2022 Question Number(s): 883 Question Reference(s): 35457/22 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 approval to seek an extension of Ireland’s marine zone, changing the 0-6 mile limit to a 0-12 mile limit and changing the 6-12 mile limit to a 12-20 mile limit; the benefits to our fishing communities and the wider economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


Under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), EU fishing fleets are given equal access to EU waters and fishing grounds subject to allocated fish quotas.  There are derogations to this access rule, including restrictions on access to Member States' coastal waters.    In Ireland’s case, other than Northern Irish vessels under the Voisinage Agreement, no EU Member State or Third Country has access to our 0-6 nautical miles zone.  France, the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium have access for specific species in various areas of the 6-12 nautical mile zone along Ireland’s West, East and South coasts. 

Ireland does not have access to any other Member States’ 6-12 nautical mile zones. 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 Common Fisheries Policy Basic 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.  However, the Commission views this as a technical amendment. 

This means that the proposal is moving ahead of the CFP review process.  I had initially sought to extend Ireland’s current exclusive 6 nautical mile zone out to 12 nautical miles and create a new restricted zone between 12nm and 20nm with access for fleets with traditional fishing activity in that zone. 

Both of these changes were intended to provide a level playing field for Irish vessels and to enhance the sustainable exploitation of stocks within Ireland's 12 nautical mile zone. Having carefully considered the concerns of some Member States, and in the spirit of compromise, I removed the request for restricted access to the 12-20nm zone. 

However, I continued to argue for an amendment to seek exclusive access to the 12 nautical miles zone around Ireland for our own fishing fleet.  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 had ongoing engagement with Commissioner Sinkevicius on this issue.  I have also been engaging  with the French, Belgian, Dutch and German Fisheries Ministers.  In May, I met with the French Fisheries Minister to further discuss my proposal and Ireland's concerns.  France is the most impacted of the four Member States and France currently has the Council Presidency. 

On the margins of the May Agriculture and Fisheries Council, I met with the Dutch and German Fisheries Ministers to discuss this matter further. I highlighted in particular the unacceptable impact of the TCA on our fisheries and the importance of a re-examination and full review of the CFP to ensure a fair,  balanced and equitable policy, and explained the strong case for my proposal in relation to our 12 miles zone.  

Other Member States did not support Ireland's proposal and on 1st June a Council General Approach  on the rollover of the derogations was adopted with only Ireland opposed.

However, Ireland was able to secure an amendment to the text which provides that both the duration and scope of this extension to the derogations may be revised in the framework of any review of the CFP. The draft Regulation is due to be discussed by the European Parliament's Fisheries Committee later this month. 

Once the Parliament has adopted its negotiating position, trilateral negotiations between the Council, European Parliament and Commission will commence. 

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