We have the most fertile fishing waters in Europe with huge potential for creating vast wealth and jobs for the communities which inhabit our beautiful coastal towns. Yet as it stands, a maximum of 18,000 people in Ireland are employed in occupations reliant on the fishing sector.
Under the EU Common Fisheries Policy, Irish fishermen are entitled to only 15% of the catch in our own national marine territory. EU trawlers on the other hand are entitled to 85% of the catch. They are effectively allowed to plunder our fishing waters at will. These fishing quotas for Irish waters are decided in Brussels by unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats. Successive Irish governments have refused to stand up for our fishing industry and protect our national resources.
Eighty boats and their attendant fishermen came to Dublin Port Wednesday looking for a better deal for their families and their coastal communities. They have done a great job making a case to the public and to listening TDs that they need a better deal. Their arguments are irrefutable.
However the sad thing is, their urging of the government will not make any difference. Why? Because the Irish minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine has no power when it comes to the quotas which derive from the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy. Ireland has 1% of the EU population and 1% of the vote at the Council of Ministers which deals with Fisheries. While a member of the EU, Ireland will be outvoted time after time because other bigger more powerful countries like Spain and France want as much fish out of our waters as they can get. They will never voluntarily agree to take a massive cut in their fishing quota so it can be handed back to Irish fishermen.
Put simply, the Minister for Marine in European terms is the monkey, while the European Commission and the European Council is the organ grinder which plays the tune.
The Irish government has no power over the size of quota for Irish fishing boats because it’s decided and dished out at EU level.
To give an example— Ireland has an extremely lucrative Bluefin Tuna fishery but Irish boats are not allowed to catch them.
The EU share of the global Bluefin quota is 19,360 tons in 2020. The Irish government hasn’t even asked— never mind secured— a single ton of this for the Irish fishing fleet. We have had no history of fishing for tuna is the argument. Yes, well the Bluefin have only entered Irish waters in recent decades. But the refusal to even ask for Bluefin tuna demonstrates a terrible failure of vision and will.
The only way Irish coastal communities will ensure that Irish boats have exclusive access to our territorial waters is to leave the EU and get out from under the massive millstone that is the Common Fisheries Policy.
Some politicians like Sinn Féin’s Pádraig Mac Lochlainn wish to lay the blame at feet of British fishermen whose quota for their own seas will increase to 75% within 5 years, with conjoined loss to Irish boats.
But he missed the root cause of Ireland’s fishing demise— our EU membership which has handed our waters on a plate to be carved up by the EU. Outside the EU, Irish fishermen could have 100% of all the fish caught in Irish waters.
As it stands, while our fishing boats are tied up in Dublin, EU super trawlers from the Netherlands, France and Spain are hoovering up what they can around our coast. The Common Fisheries Policy is not just an economic disaster for Ireland, but also an ecological one. It is a perfect illustration of the Tragedy of the Commons— when no one has ownership and responsibility, there’s little cause to care for the resource. Alternatively, an independent country like Iceland can plan and strictly monitor catches to ensure the long term ecological health of its waters.
Few people realise that when our seabed territory is taken into account, Ireland is one of the largest countries in Europe. The Real Map of Ireland clearly depicts the full extent of Ireland’s marine territory of over 220 million acres (880,000Km2), which is ten times the size of the island of Ireland.
Under a recent EU ruling, Irish fishermen have been singled out in the most unfair and disproportionate way. They have been ordered to weigh their catch at the harbour while French and Spanish boats are treated differently.
According to Dr Karen Devine of DCU using EuroStat, EU trawlers have taken 215 billion euro worth of fish out of our national waters up to 2016. Just think of the jobs and families that type of money could have supported around the coast of our island. Ireland is a country wealthy in resources— if only Norwegian companies did not suction up the benefit of our oil reserves and EU boats did not plunder 85% of the fish in our own territorial waters.
When will the Irish politicians in the Dáil Éireann, dripping with Hibernophobia, realise that Ireland is not a quarry in which the EU and global corporations can dig out to build a new Global Order. We are a nation and our people should come first. The Irish people should be housed first, Irish fishermen should get as much access to Irish waters as they can handle, our oil and gas resources should be for the benefit of the Irish people.
Let’s all face the facts, if we want our fishermen to have the right to exclusive access to Irish territorial waters, we must leave the EU and its terrible Common Fisheries Policy. It is the only route to a fair deal for our coastal communities. In order to be prosperous, we must be free to act in our country’s best interests. As being a Brussels lapdog gets us nowhere.