The men are banned for most of the year from fishing off their own country while foreign boats load up with Irish fish.
But just a small increase in their fishing rights could transform the island communities, particularly on Arranmore, and create sustainable industries on land.
Speaking after the presentation of the Donegal Island Fishermen of their Donegal Island Survival Plan to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine today, Deputy Pearse Doherty said: “I welcome the invitation extended to the Donegal Island Fishermen to present their proposals to the Joint Oireachtas Committee today and the favourable response of members of the Committee.
“The Donegal Island Fishermen, represented by Mr Jerry Early from Arranmore, Fr John Joe Duffy and Mr John O’Brien of Inishboffin highlighted two main issues affecting the island fishing industry – the restrictions on salmon fishing and the ban on fishing in area VIa within 40 miles off the coast.
“The fishermen outlined the impact these policies have had on the coastal communities. Fr John Joe Duffy highlighted the high levels of emigration from the islands – in 1988 the population of Arranmore was over 750 and it now stands at just over 450- as a direct result of the depletion of the traditional livelihoods of the fishermen.
“The fishermen put forward several proposals to the committee such as a favourable quota of herring, which would enable the fishermen to brand their own fish and create seasonal employment on land.
“The fishermen called for the Oireachtas Committee to instruct a report into the effects of the salmon ban and the closure of Area VIa on island fishing and communities to be carried out, with a view to determining a sustainable plan which protects both fishing stocks and island communities.
“I hope that the Committee will grant this request and that the report will form part of the programme of work of the subgroup of the Committee, to be set up to explore coastal fishing and aquaculture.
“I concur with my Dáil colleague, Michael Colreavy when he recognised the first-hand experience of fishermen in relation to the impact of fishing policies on their communities and called for an increased role for the fishermen to contribute to the decision – making process, which will ensure the views of smaller fishermen are taken on board by policy makers.
“I hope that the views and experience of the Donegal Island’s Fishermen as presented here today will be fully considered by the relevant departments and solutions can be found to address the real difficulties faced by our island fishermen.”