Minister Charlie McConalogue says that the government is working intensively on getting access to traditional fishing grounds at Rockall

Minister Charlie McConalogue says that the government is working intensively on getting access to traditional fishing grounds at Rockall

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue says that the government is working hard on getting access for Irish boats to their traditional fishing grounds at Rockall.

Irish fishing boats have been locked out of the 12 nautical mile limit around Rockall by the Scottish government since January 2021 when Brexit came into effect. The Scottish government are claiming that Irish vessels are not licenced to fish the area under the terms of licences issued following the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement. Irish boats have traditionally fished squid, a non-quota species, and haddock in the area but now vessels are being forced to tie-up, putting in jeopardy fishing jobs and the future of the boats themselves.

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Post-Brexit, fishing boats in the north of France had a similar issue with licences for fishing Jersey and Guernsey waters but the EU Commission worked along with the French authorities on restoring access to traditional fishing grounds, but Irish fishing boats remain unable to access their traditional fishing grounds around Rockall because the Irish government has not been committed to dialogue on the issue.

In June it was revealed that the Irish government had not engaged with the Scottish government since early March 2022 on this matter. This is a pressing issue for Irish fishermen who have lost fishing worth millions of euros, and in turn the Irish exchequer millions of euro.

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Fisheries and the Marine, Padraig Mac Lochlainn asked Minister McConalogue if anything has been done by himself regarding fishing access. He asked:

“To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine the efforts that he has personally made in the past six months to reinstate access for Irish fishermen to their traditional fishing grounds around Rockall; and the estimated financial loss to Irish fishermen over the past 18 months since the British Government blocked access to these grounds.”

The Minister for the Marine replied:

“As the Deputy is aware, Ireland has never made any claims to Rockall, nor has Ireland ever recognised British sovereignty claims over Rockall and accordingly has not recognised a 12 nautical mile territorial sea around it either. This remains the position of the Government.

“The Government has been in contact with the relevant Scottish and UK authorities on Rockall over recent years and intensively since the beginning of last year.

“Through this engagement, the Government is seeking to address the issues involved, reflecting the longstanding fisheries tradition in the area.

“I continue to work closely with Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence, Simon Coveney T.D. to consider all options for further engagement on the issues involved.

“I received the report of the Seafood Task Force – Navigating Change last October.  Irish vessels have traditionally fished for squid and haddock in the waters around Rockall and the impact of the loss of access to these waters was examined by the Task Force.  The Task Force estimated that, in 2019, the total squid fishery was valued at around €6.6 million.  The majority of squid is taken from the waters surrounding Rockall and this amounted to 1,071 tonnes, valued in excess of €5 million in 2019 and 371 tonnes valued at €1.6 million in 2020.   The estimate by the Task Force of the catch of other stocks near Rockall is €1 million, which generally may be fished outside the waters around Rockall.

“In May, I launched a 2022 Brexit Voluntary Temporary Fishing Vessel Tie-up Scheme, as recommended by the Seafood Sector Task Force. The scheme is an extension of the 2021 Tie-up scheme, with some modifications, and will help mitigate the impacts of quota cuts for 2022 arising from the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.  For 2022, eligible vessels may tie up for two, non-sequential months but eligible Rockall squid vessels may tie up for two consecutive months, due to the short length and seasonality of this fishery.”

Brian J McMullin Solicitors
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Minister says Government working ‘intensively’ on access to Rockall grounds

by editor time to read: 7 min