Wednesday, 31 March 2021
Post-European Council Meeting: Statements
The Minister of State is aware of the outrage in our fishing communities around the coast at the outcome of the EU-UK trade and co-operation agreement. The cost to our fishing industry every year is at least €43 million. This is a 15% loss. In areas such as mackerel and prawn, which are crucial to particular ports and harbours, the impact is huge. The reason people are so angry is not only what has happened in the trade agreement. It has historical context. As we speak, Ireland's waters account for 12% of overall European Union waters yet in terms of fish we catch 4%. We get one-third in proportionate terms. This is nowhere near a fair share of the fish in European Union waters.
What is the impact of this? It is that every year tens of thousands of jobs are lost in our seafood sector. It is estimated that the loss to our economy is €600 million per year because we do not get a fair share of the fish in our waters or overall European Union waters. This is the context that has led to an even bigger injustice now, whereby we are taking a proportionately much bigger hit from the deal.
This is absolutely outrageous and unacceptable. What I hear from the Minister with responsibility for the marine, Deputy McConalogue, and from the Taoiseach today, is that we should be grateful that we were not entirely blocked from getting access to UK waters. They are missing the point. The historical context is that we have never got a fair share of the fish in our own waters. This is not about sustainability. This is about us getting a fair share. This was costing us tens of thousands of jobs every year and €600 million before the trade deal and now it is even worse. That is why people are so angry.
I also want to put on the record the issue of bluefin tuna. Bluefin tuna is one of the most lucrative fish in the world. It is in abundance at present in our waters. In the past four years, there has been a 73% increase, or 8,000 additional tonnes, for the European Union fishing fleet. However, not one fish or one pound of that increase was given to the Irish fleet, even though the species is in abundance in our waters. Right now, our fishermen can only catch and release bluefin tuna but huge volumes are caught in our waters by foreign fleets. This practice is being allowed to continue. I put to the Minister of State the cumulative injustice and the example of bluefin tuna. Our fishing communities are being treated with absolute and utter contempt. I urge the Minister of State to up the game of the Government and put all of these facts on the table with our European partners and demand fair play and justice for our coastal communities.