Thursday, 9 December 2021
Seafood Taskforce Final Report: Statements
I agree with an awful lot of what has been said. We are dealing with the final report of the seafood task force. It lays out starkly the position of the fishing industry and the communities that lie behind it. We have had many reports on many issues over many years but we have not necessarily done anything other than bind them and present them well. We have not always done the business or carried out the required due diligence. There are fishing communities across this island, including in Clogherhead and other areas in my constituency. The Minister has had a number of interactions with fishermen and realises, or at least has been told about, the difficulties they are dealing with. We know what we could be looking at. That has already been said. I am talking about reductions in the fleet. Brexit is the gift that never stops giving and following the trade and co-operation agreement, our share of quota has been reduced by 15%. Only 30% of fish landed in Irish territorial waters go to the Irish fishing industry. We have great difficulties in this regard.
We have three major asks in respect of this report. The first is that too much of a burden is being put on the Irish fishing industry. There are also very significant issues in respect of financing, funding streams and the rules around them. We need these to be updated and we need a system that is fit for purpose. Beyond that, we are dealing with a third issue, the most major one of all. I have heard a term used here. I have used it myself and I am going to use it again. With regard to the Common Fisheries Policy, the Brexit negotiations and the trade and co-operation agreement, we see that once again the Irish fishing industry is the whipping boy. It was not sufficiently defended and it is now feeling the pain. We started from a bad place and ended up with a reduction of 15% in the quota. When the opportunity arises as quotas and the Common Fisheries Policy are renegotiated, we need to invest greatly to ensure delivery. Of course, there are many people who will want to avail of particular funding as regards decommissioning and so on. That is fine but we need to look at the fishing industry overall. We need to ensure it is able to deliver a stream of healthy food for us into the future. Even beyond that, we need to look at the positive impact the fishing industry has had in our communities.
It would be very difficult to talk about this and the whole issue of Brexit without noting the utter madness of a British Government which, I think it is fair to say, does not care at all about Ireland. That is the only view we can take.
We have the absolute madness now that we could be talking about new British immigration laws that might see non-Irish EU citizens living in the South needing to apply online for pre-travel clearance to cross the Border. This could be a matter of them crossing the Border to get to work and then crossing back. They would be leaving from the South to then end up back in the South. It is utterly unworkable and it once again shows how Britain in any of its determinations and negotiations concerning Brexit does not care in any way, shape or form about Ireland or the North. It only cares about that aspect as a pawn. This is an issue that we must be solid and firm about. I also brought this issue up yesterday with Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič. I refer to the impact this will have in future. It is fair to say that everybody here agrees that we must be solid. The Irish protocol is the only show in town and there can be no return of a hard Border.
To return to the issue at hand, we have an opportunity now to follow through concerning the report from this task force, and first and foremost is a renegotiation of the CFP.