With negotiations between Norway and the European Union entering a fifth round of talks, Irish industry figures have slammed Norway’s aggressive position, accusing it of demanding unrestricted access to Irish waters, but offering no concessions in return.
‘If the EU wants to strike a deal for such additional access with a non-EU third country, they need to adequately compensate the Irish fishing industry. This is a shared and strongly held sentiment within the entire industry here, which is united on that attitude,’ the Irish fishing sector has announced in a joint statement.
‘The Norwegian proposal comes at a time when the Irish fleet is still reeling from the Brexit legacy because of EU cuts to Ireland,’ added Aodh O’Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation.
Speaking from Brussels, he said the message ‘has been communicated at all levels in the EU and at home. The process is dragging on, but we believe it is better to have no deal than to have a bad deal. We are heartened by the firm supportive position adopted by the Commission and by our Government in recognising the importance of this valuable fishery.’
He commented that the Irish seafood sector as a whole has been hit by massive disproportional adverse impacts post-Brexit.
‘So, the EU must level up and support our industry now, so we can achieve the kind of growth that Norway’s seafood sector is already enjoying,’ he said.
Sean O Donoghue, CEO of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO), emphasised that Norwegian access to fish blue whiting in the Irish Box is a ‘new element’ in the negotiations.
‘We have consistently highlighted the critical importance of this issue since the start of these negotiations. The EU should not be conceded to this additional access unless it is paid for by the transfer back of blue whiting quota to Ireland. In addition, the transfer of blue whiting in the balance must be kept at a very low level,’ he said.
Patrick Murphy of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (IS&WFPO) commented that Norwegian negotiators understand clearly the value of what they are seeking from the EU and from the Irish Fishery.
‘The Norwegian negotiators have indicated a very high value on the additional and new access to Irish blue whiting Their truculent position confirms the view that they expect Ireland to roll over again, as we did in the similar raw deals which Ireland has endured over the last thirty years. It is time to say stop. Now that all cards are on the table, I am confident that the EU will ensure Ireland’s fishing communities’ contribution will not be undervalued or given away for nothing,’ he said.
‘This is an important point in the history of our industry. Our collaborative all-island approach has been crucial in our campaign to get proper recognition for our country’s contribution to Europe.’
According to Brendan Byrne of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association, Ireland is facing into the worst year in its fish processing history.
‘The Brexit quota cuts are continuing to bite hard along with some fishery closures. The only prospect of showing growth is through an improved share of blue whiting for our processing sector,’ he said.
‘We have come a long way in this campaign for fair play. We stand together to reflect the renewed fight and resilience of our industry and coastal communities, with the full support of our Minister and Government. It’s time for the EU to recognise this and strike a fair deal for Ireland.’