The slow death of Ireland’s fishing industry

Irish fishermen say they do “Doha” for a post-Brexit trade deal between the United Kingdom and the European Union.

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement, known as the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, takes effect in 2021, and obliges European ships to gradually switch to the UK part of their quotas for some fish stocks in the Atlantic and North Sea.

For Ireland’s fishing industry, this means a 15% cut in its quotas by 2025, and an expected annual loss of €43m, making Ireland one of the countries hardest hit by the deal.

“It’s a knockout” says John Nolan, director of the fishermen’s co-op in the southwestern village of Castletownbear.

He believes that 25% to 30% of his staff will be laid off as a result over the next two years.

Ship decommissioning

Dubbed the ‘whitefish capital’ of Ireland, Castletownbere could see 19 of its ships decommissioned, as part of a plan approved in the summer of 2022, by the Irish government, with the help of the European Union.

According to Charlie McConnalog, Secretary of the Navy, the scheme will help “Restore balance between fishing fleet capacity and available quotas, following reductions in stock quotas arising from the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.”

Of the 180 whitefish vessels in the country, 64 have reportedly applied for decommissioning.

Skipper Daniel Healy is one of the applicants, but has yet to receive the government’s offer for his boat, the Robyn RJ, named after his three children. After a life at sea and years of promising fishing, Daniel told Euronews that his industry “It’s just not in a very good place right now. It’s on a slippery slope and we don’t know where it’s going to stop.”

“Quotas have been lowered year on year, there is a very slight increase in quotas, it’s just up and down and down, especially since Brexit.” Daniel adds, wondering if he would take his boat again.

Impact on local business

This sentiment is echoed throughout Castletownbere, with many worried about the negative impact the decommissioning plan will have on local businesses and on this small community of less than 2,000 residents.

We will suffer in our coastal communities. We will see people devastated by this. Generations and generations of people who have been hunting for perhaps a hundred years now, there will be no one left of that hunting family. They were forced out of the industry they love. To be honest, it’s just a crime against us.” says Patrick Murphy, CEO of Irish South and West Fish Producers.

Despite the many protests in Ireland, and appeals at the European level, the fate of Castletownbeer and other fishing villages in Ireland appears to be closely linked to Brexit and the Common Fishing Policy, which assigns fishing quotas to each EU member state.

However, Irishman John Nolan says The European Union should give her some hope. And I appeal to our leaders and politicians in Ireland and Europe to treat Ireland more fairly.”

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