The Fishing Daily Podcast Season 3 Episode 03 – As round 5 of negotiations between the EU and Norway is set to take place this week, Aodh O’Donnell, CEO if the IFPO and Brendan Byrne, Chief Executive of the IFPEA join Oliver McBride to discuss the Irish fishing industry’s stance on Norway gaining access to fish blue whiting in Irish waters.
Norwegians warned - United front over blue whiting access in Irish waters
Irish fishing industry representatives Aodh O’Donnell and Brendan Byrne has warned Norway, the EU and the Irish government that the days of the Irish fishing industry being the whipping boys of Europe is over.
In this podcast, they lay down the law that this is a new beginning for Irish fishermen and women, and that this is the start of a clawback. Since Ireland has joined the European Economic Community, 50 years ago this year, fishing and coastal communities have become the biggest losers out of the deal.
The fallout from Brexit in 2021 saw Norway loose access to fish blue whiting in UK waters and they turned to the EU who granted them access to Irish waters for 2022. This year, the Norwegians are back looking to fish an even greater amount of blue whiting which breed and spawn in the Irish EEZ each year.
The Irish sees this as a new agreement, which they believe cannot happen unless Norway compensates Ireland with blue whiting or a monetary value. The Norwegians do not see it in the same light.
The last round of negotiations at the beginning of January which ended in deadlock was encouraging for the Irish fishing industry as the EU negotiators stood firm over access, and that they have the backing of other Member States in this issue.
Irish fishing representatives have been in serious talks with Brussels in recent months over this issue, and Aodh and Brendan were present. On the fourth round of talks, Aodh says:
“Basically, it was inconclusive. I suppose in a kind of a way, there’s a certain degree of frustration, not just within the Commission, but with industry generally, that the Norwegians are not prepared to come to the table with some sort of set of firm proposals.
“It would appear that the Commission gave a very balanced, rounded set of proposals to Norway, but unfortunately, they haven’t come to the table, and it would appear that there’s no firm proposals from the Norwegians at this stage. And the fifth round of negotiations as we understand it, are predicated on having a firm set of counter proposals from the Norwegians. So, time is slipping by. There’s no agreement.
“We’re obviously concerned that some of the other Member States, their ambitions to fish within the Norwegian zone are being held up by this, and that’s been fully discussed and communicated between ourselves and our colleagues in Europe. But there’s a little bit of pressure on to get an agreement, and for the Norwegians to come to the table.”
Brendan remarked on the new relationship that has grown out of the recent meetings with EU Commission representatives and feels there has been a sea-change to the Irish situation. He says:
“I think the reality is setting in that there’s a new dial tone coming from Ireland in terms of representation that’s in the form myself, Aodh, and in Patrick Murphy from the South and West, and the the Europeans have taken this new voice in terms of the representation that we’re given as a sea change in the that all is not well in Ireland. We appreciate that after the TCA we lost extremely heavily. You could very well say for the last 20 to 30 years the Irish fishing industry has declined. Over the last five years alone we have seen 16% decline in fish processing output. We saw the Bord Bia report there recently, which is even more bleak reading.
“So what has changed is that I think there’s a realisation right to the heart of Europe now that the Irish fishing industry is paying excessively high price for the membership of the European Union and that we are at an inflexion point where action needs to be taken, not alone by us ourselves and our government, and I have to commend the present government for taking the action that they are. But in terms of Europe itself that the common fishery policy, as I see it, certainly suits the larger players the big players, but there are others, and Ireland is one of those that’s being left behind because of the common fishery policy.
“Now that’s a much broader issue, but here we have a one-off instance where Norway, a third country, are seeking unfettered access into the Irish box South of 56 East of 12 degrees. and for the first time, as I see it, we have solidarity from the Commission. We have solidarity from like-minded coastal states and the realisation is that Ireland can no longer be the country that can be rolled over for the greater good of the rest of Europe.”
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