Thursday, 19 January 2023
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
390. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will provide an update as to the agreements that have now been reached following his recent meetings with the fishing industry in respect of the EU-Norway negotiations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2498/23]
The 1980 Agreement is the main bilateral agreement governing the EU's fisheries relations with Norway. It covers the North Sea, Skagerrak and the North East Atlantic, and allows for the setting of Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for joint stocks, transfers of fishing possibilities, joint technical measures and issues relating to control and enforcement.
The main issues of concern for Ireland in the annual negotiations relate to transfers of the Blue Whiting stock in Western Waters to Norway and Norway's access for Blue Whiting in EU, in practice, Irish waters.
The transfer of Blue Whiting to Norway is a long-standing feature of the EU-Norway agreement, as it is used within the agreement as a “currency” in the negotiations to pay for Arcto-Norwegian cod in the Barents Sea which the EU receives from Norway under an agreement reached as part of Norway's accession to the EEA.
Ireland's long-standing position is that those who benefit most from this transfer of Arctic cod pay for it or, as a minimum, contribute most and my priority in these negotiations is to keep the level of Blue Whiting transfer to Norway as low as possible. I have worked to bring down the level of this transfer from over 9% of the blue whiting TAC to just over 4% for the last two years.
The other area of interest for Ireland in these negotiations is the level of access for Norway to EU, and Irish waters. For 2021 for the first time, and in 2022, the EU granted access to Norway to fish some of its Blue Whiting quota in EU waters of ICES Areas 6 and 7. In practice this means waters within Ireland’s 200 miles zone up to our 12 nautical mile coastal limit off our West coast. This access was accepted by Ireland as part of the deal to reduce the level of Blue Whiting transfer to Norway. This year, however, Norway is seeking significantly higher levels of access to EU waters, in practice Irish waters reflecting the substantial increase in the Blue Whiting Total Allowable Catch for 2023 (a 81% increase on last year). I am working to limit overall Norwegian access to EU/Irish waters and in particular not to grant access to the 50 miles zone around Ireland (the waters West of 12 degrees West).
The EU-Norway negotiations for 2023 began in November 2022 and four rounds of negotiations have taken place, with the most recent round held in Brussels last week.
I am engaged with industry representatives on this issue and met them most recently on 10 January to discuss the ongoing negotiations. Industry representatives were working with my team during the negotiations last week in Brussels. I am actively engaged on this issue with Commissioner Sinkevicius, the EU Fisheries Commissioner, and met him most recently last Thursday (12th January) to set out Ireland’s priorities so that the Commission, as the lead negotiators on behalf of the EU, understand fully our position.
Further negotiations are expected between the EU and Norway next week and I will continue to be fully engaged to achieve the best possible outcome for Ireland.