With negotiations currently underway in Oslo, there is serious concern with the Irish fishing industry that Norway could be handed a 150,000 tonne blue whiting quota with access to EU waters to catch it. According to industry figures, this would be €42 million gift to the Norwegian fleet, with nothing coming back the other way to the EU or the Irish fishing sector.
Aodh O Donnell of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO) stressed that the Irish industry is not opposed to granting Norway access arrangements to fish Irish waters for blue whiting – as they have done so for many years. But the industry considers it entirely reasonable that there should be compensation from Norway for such generous access, which is so crucial to the profitability of Norway’s blue whiting fishery.
‘We are in Oslo to participate in ongoing fishing negotiations for 2024 and with a prospect of Norway being granted access to our waters to fish almost three times Ireland’s own quota and free gratis. This access ambition is of critical importance to Norway as this blue whiting stock is abundant mainly in Irish waters,’ Aodh O Donnell said.
‘We’re not opposed to reaching an agreement and there is precedence in such arrangements for granting access. The access for Norway to Irish waters underpins their profitability for this fishery. However, a fair treatment is needed if Ireland’s seafood sector is to survive and grow, as Norway’s is. This is critical for the Irish industry, which is still reeling from the Brexit TCA in which we lost 40% of the total EU value in this deal.’
Brendan Byrne of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA) stated that Irish fishing bodies are united on this issue.
‘The Irish Industry has grave concerns at the prospect of Norway being granted enormous levels of free access to Irish waters. This cannot be at Ireland’s expense, and so there must be something on the table for us too,’ he said.
‘The Irish Government must maintain the position similar to the UK that any access for Norway to our fishing grounds must be adequately compensated. Discussions are ongoing and a firm position must be taken until an arrangement is reached which benefits the EU and Ireland in particular, as much as Norway. Ireland must no longer attend the table as a perpetual loser; we must refuse to countenance any additional unfair deal with a non-EU Member.’
‘We are at a crossroads and Ireland must be prepared to maintain a firm unwavering stance,’ Aodh O Donnnell commented.
‘A radical reset is required regarding access by third countries to fish in our waters. The UK granted access rights to Norway in 2023 to fish mackerel in its waters and received in return a quota transfer that benefitted the UK sector to the tune of approximately €35 million. This mechanism is a benchmark that can be equally applied to the blue whiting access under discussion for Norway. We ask the Minister to maintain a resolve and be prepared defend our interests with a meaningful compensatory transfer of quota by Norway in lieu of access. This is required as a step to turn the tide for our coastal communities.’