Tuesday, 28 June 2022
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
386. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if a French military exercise is taking place off the south-west coast of Ireland during the end of June and early July 2022; if notification of the exercise was provided to his Department; and if there are concerns about the impact on marine biodiversity as a result of the exercise. [33781/22]
496. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will introduce a ten-year moratorium on military exercises by foreign armed forces in the Irish exclusive economic zone, EEZ, following the intended actions of the Russian and French navies in the Irish EEZ in 2022; and if he will engage with the Irish fishing organisations, an organisation (details supplied) and other concerned parties in this regard. [34276/22]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 386 and 496 together.
As a close EU partner, the Government has remained in contact with the French authorities throughout the period of the recent French military exercise. The exercise in question was due to take place from 21 to 24 June and on 27 June in an area of the Atlantic Ocean, off the French coast. The exercise area was relatively large, spanning approximately 250 nautical miles north to south and approximately 210 nautical miles east to west.
The full extent of the area that could potentially have been affected included a small piece of the southern extremity of Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), approximately 200km southwest of our territorial waters. The French authorities confirmed to the Government that no French naval vessels would be within the Irish EEZ during the exercise.
The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) was informed of the exercises via standard procedures and the Department of Transport issued a Marine Notice to this effect.
While not common, such exercises do on occasion occur in international waters, including in a country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Under international law, all States are entitled to freedom of navigation in another state’s EEZ, having “due regard to the rights and duties of the coastal state.” States are not legally obliged, in most cases, either to inform the coastal authorities of any proposed naval exercises, nor to seek permission.
It is not for my Department to lead on matters relating to marine biodiversity. However, I do recognise the negative impact that some naval exercises, including those that involve active military sonar, could potentially have on marine wildlife. This is an important factor in the consideration of such exercises. I remain open to engaging with fisheries and other groups in this regard.