Thursday, 5 January 2012

€860 million worth of fish was taken from Ireland's seas in 2011

The Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney told the Dáil before Christmas that 937,924 tonnes of fish would be taken from Ireland's waters in 2011, worth a total of €1.04 billion.

However, Irish fishers were only allowed to take 17% of this, meaning that €863 million was be fished by foreign trawlers. Only a quarter of the fish taken from Ireland's seas are landed in the country, meaning that the potential to create processing jobs is also being lost.

How did it all come to this?

Lorcán Ó Cinnéide from the Irish Fish Producers Organization (IFPO) explained thus; The EU doesn't view Ireland's territorial waters as 'Irish', they are seen more as a commonage to be divided up between all the nations of the EU. Indeed when Ireland joined the EEC its waters only extended 12 miles from shore. This was increased to 200 miles in the late seventies so foreign trawlers were already fishing in what become Ireland's waters.

The quotas for each EU nation's fishing fleets were set according to the historic size of the fleets. People in Ireland didn't recognise the potential of the fishing industry (and to be honest aren't all that mad about eating fish) and hadn't developed it by the time we joined the EEC.

Ireland had a small fleet when it joined whereas France, the UK and Spain had much larger ones – so we got a tiny quota and they get large ones. In fact, according to Lorcán, France gets about 32% of the fish from Ireland's waters, almost twice what Irish fishers get. To increase Ireland's quota France, Spain, the UK etc would have to reduce theirs and the IFPO don't believe there is much chance of that happening, so short of us leaving the EU there doesn't seem to be much we can do.

Ireland may not have recognised the potential of fishing in the past, but times have changed and it seems a bit unfair that the current quotas should be set in stone forever more. Certainly the next time France raises the issue of Ireland's “unfair” corporate tax rate we should mention the fishing quotas.

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