Irish fishing representatives in Killybegs have accused Norway of stalling EU quota talks, because they failed to secure privileged access to blue whiting in Ireland’s EEZ (European Economic Zone) waters.
Norway is currently allowed by the EU to fish 74,000 tonnes of blue whiting in Irish waters – a higher quota than the 48,000 tonnes Irish fishermen can catch in Irish waters.
As part of annual international quota negotiations, Norway included a demand that it be allowed fish for a total of 450,000 tonnes of blue whiting in Irish waters but this request was denied.
Aodh O Donnell, chief executive of the Killybegs-based Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO), said because the EU-Norway fishery talks are now stalled, this mean that deals for other EU states on cod and other catches are now being held up.
“Other Member States’ fishing access arrangements in the North Sea are being held to ransom, as Norway holds out rigidly for a new access agreement to fish in waters on our coast.”
“Norway has a track record of overfishing blue whiting and mackerel ,” says . “So, they should not be rewarded with new and additional access to Ireland’s waters to catch their blue whiting quota.”
“They already have an inflated 25% of the total catch for blue whiting, compared to just 3% for Ireland. The Irish Box (a key part of our fishing zone) has some of the richest blue whiting grounds – worth around €160m. This is why Norway is targeting our waters.
“They are still not offering any meaningful reciprocal deal to Ireland in return for our blue whiting,” said Mr O Donnell.
Mr O Donnell praised Irish and EU efforts to stand firm against Norway’s unreasonable demand for inequitable access to blue whiting from Ireland’s waters.
“In the last 7 years, despite having inflated quotas, Norway has overfished blue whiting by an average of over 10% a year.
“In fact, during this period, they overshot their quota by almost 200,000 metric tonnes.
“This is an irresponsible and unacceptable utilisation of a valuable resource. It is the hallmark of the Norwegian approach, and should not be rewarded with additional access to our waters. We need a fair playing field if we are going to agree to any form of access for Norway to fish blue whiting in the Irish Box. Ireland demands a long-term reciprocal agreement, before any Norwegian request for access to stocks on our coasts is considered.”
“In particular, the EU must take into account that Ireland is already reeling from our post-Brexit quota losses. A total of 40% of the EU quota transferred to the UK came from Ireland, far more than was taken from any other EU State.
“So, it’s not just that Norway’s request is unjust. It’s also that Ireland’s seafood sector is struggling to survive while Norway’s is blossoming. We are an EU member, and they are not, and the EU’s primary responsibility should be to its members,” said Mr O Donnell.
Concluding O Donnell praised the Minister for the Marine, and Irish and EU Commission officials and MEPs for their support over the past two months. “We hope that they will stiffen their resolve to seek a fair deal for Ireland, and to face down Norway’s provocative stalling tactics.
“The Irish fishing industry is united on this issue. We remain confident that the EU will vigorously defend the legitimate interests of our coastal communities and that a fair and permanent deal can be struck for all involved,” said Mr O Donnell.
Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere