The FD Podcast Series 2 Episode 02 – Oliver McBride, Editor of The Fishing Daily, speaks to Brendan Byrne from the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association about an unprecedent week where Irish fishermen came to the world’s attention when it was announced a Russian Naval Exercise would take place 240kms southwest of Ireland. 

The Real Custodians of the Sea - how Irish fishermen won hearts and minds against the Russian Navy

by The Fishing Daily Podcast in Audio

Taking matters into their own hands they negotiated the Exercise’s a move away from the marine sensitive area it was set to take place in, and at the same time winning hearts and minds across the globe.

Brendan tells how the week of the 24 January 2022, which started with a visit to fish processors in Castletownbere, seen him meeting the Russian Ambassador, Yuriy Filative in the Embassy in Dublin, to the eventual outcome of a Russian naval withdrawal from the proposed area.

Irish fishermen became the centre of attention when the Russian Department of Defence announced that their Navy would be holding a planned exercise 240kms southwest of Ireland between 03 and 08 February 2022. The Exercise would be held in International Waters, but still within the Irish EEZ.

Concerned the military exercise would have of marine life in the area, the Irish South & West Fishermen’s Organisation (IS&WFPO) led by CEO Patrick Murphy launched a campaign to highlight the issue when the Irish government failed to act.

The campaign got the attention of the Russian Ambassador who invited the group to Dublin. Patrick asked Brendan to join them and the duo of fish producer and fish processor, joined forces and went to Dublin on Thursday, 27 January.

Meeting the Russian Ambassador was new territory for both Patrick and Brendan, but they both soon realised that they had a sympathetic ear in Mr Filatov. He told him he would do his best to ensure that both the Russian Navy and the Irish fishermen could co-exist during the operations.

Then on the night of Saturday, 29 January, the Russian Embassy in Dublin announced that the planned naval exercise would be moved outside the EEZ, in a move that was greeted with both surprise and relief.

The momentous events of one week even led to EU Commissioner of the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevicius heaping praise on the fishermen saying:

“Irish fishermen got their diplomatic game on! They managed to stop Russian military exercises that would undermine their activities & marine life. Real custodians of the sea on duty! The world could use more of you!”

In this interview Brendan asks what was the background which led to the fishermen meeting the Ambassador and reflects on how the Irish fishing industry had to become the diplomats when the Irish government didn’t step-up to the plate.

Oliver asks, what is next for the fishing industry and what does the future hold?


Podcast music used with permission of In Their Thousands – Acrasia © In Their Thousands 2018. Check out Spotify

Russian Naval Exercise diplomacy a defining week for Irish fishermen

by editor time to read: 4 min