North County Leader

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Big Problems Ahead For Local Fishermen

Our Lass IILocal fisherman Ivan Wilde (inset) and one of his trawlers, Our Lass II

With the North County and other communities along the east coast having a rich tradition in sea fishing, with many families relying on it for their livelihoods, the news that the British Government’s decision to withdraw from London Fisheries Convention will be a worrying move. This means that the UK will exclude foreign fishing vessels from fishing between 6 and 12 miles from their coast, including those from Ireland.

The first shots in the Brexit war are likely to affect fishing communities in Howth, Rush, Loughshinny, Skerries and Balbriggan where there are many families involved in fishing industry. It is estimated that for every crewman on board a boat, there are four people employed ashore in spin-off jobs.

The County Leader spoke to prominent local fisherman, Ivan Wilde who operates out of Skerries who said, “The six to 12 mile exclusion zone won’t make that much of a difference to us, as we don’t fish there too much, but if they extend that to a 12 to 200 miles range, that would have a severe impact on local fishermen. We get approximately 60 per cent of our catch within that area.

We also contacted Clogherhead based fisherman, Barry Faulkner, who has three boats at sea and he fears that the Irish Sea will be split down the middle. He said, “This decision by the British government is not an immediate thing and will take a few years to implement. We have an agreement put in place with civil servants in Britain and here about 50 years ago, where we could fish from zero to six miles off the coast of Northern Ireland and they could do the same in our waters, which suited everyone. This was challenged and it was found to have no legal basis and was thrown out.

The harsh reality is that the Irish Sea will be split down the middle, with the result that there will be certain areas in the Irish Sea where I won’t be allowed to fish. We have a traditional prawn fishery, which we used to fish, alongside Northern Ireland boats for generations, between the Isle of Man and the English coast. That will now be lost to us, if this Brexit suggestion comes to pass. It also means that the Northern Ireland boats will be precluded from fishing up from Howth to Clogherhead for prawn between zero and 12 miles, which has been a traditional fishery for them. This is similar to the restrictions to be imposed on us,” he said.

“This is going to affect me, but we’ll survive, but if the British claim their territorial waters and impose their 50 to 200 miles limit, then we’ll have a real problem because if the EU fleet that is fishing in this area can be precluded from these areas, then they’ll come to fish in Irish waters. This is not an Irish-UK thing, it is an EU-UK thing, so we’ll all be affected,” he concluded.

Local TD Darragh O’Brien (FF), and the party’s Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Trade has criticised the British Government’s decision to withdraw from London Fisheries Convention.

He told the County Leader, “The decision will prevent Irish trawlers from fishing in waters within 12 nautical miles of the UK coastline. I am extremely concerned about the impact that the British Government’s decision to remove itself from the London Fisheries Convention will have on Irish fishermen, particularly those operating out of Balbriggan, Skerries, Howth, Rush and Loughshinny.”

“The fishing industry in North County Dublin is a major employer and any move which has the potential to threaten this sector must be treated with the utmost seriousness. Hundreds of jobs in this region are dependent on the reciprocal fishing rights applied under the Convention and our Government must insist that fishing rights are discussed, as part of the wider Brexit trade discussions.

“I will be meeting local fishermen to discuss the impact of this situation with them. Irish fishing fleets have a lot more to lose as a result of this decision because of our proximity to UK waters. Minister Creed must step up to the mark and ensure that the industry is protected by negotiating a larger quota. I will be raising my concerns about the UK Government’s decision with the British Ambassador when I meet with him this week, and I will be seeking assurances that the special relationship between Ireland and the UK will be respected and maintained, during the Brexit process,” he concluded.