Local fishing representatives are demanding that the EU refuse Norway access to the Irish Box for the lucrative blue whiting catch.
The rich Scandinavian country is seeking greater access to fish their annual quotas in Irish waters, while offering no reciprocal arrangement for Ireland to their own seas.
The fishing and seafood sector is appealing to the Minister for the Marine to ensure that the EU blocks Norway, a non-EU member, from gaining unilateral access to our blue whiting grounds.
“The EU already threw Ireland under the bus when it came to quota cuts after Brexit,” says Aodh O Donnell, chief executive of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO).
“We took the hardest hits. A staggering 40 % of the total value of quotas transferred to the UK under Brexit came from Ireland. This was way more than was taken from any other EU nation, including those with much shorter coastlines and far higher quotas than Ireland at the outset. Why is the EU now considering that we take the hit again for a non-EU member? It’s time to ask serious questions about the EU’s attitude to Ireland and our fishing industry.”
The fact that Norway is making their request to the EU, and not directly to Ireland, speaks volumes,” Mr O’Donnell added.
“They seem optimistic that the EU would unilaterally surrender access to Irish fishing grounds to a non-EU member – based on the track record of EU treatment of the Irish fishing industry.”
Mr O’Donnell says the blue whiting is a valuable species, concentrated in Irish waters. The Irish industry has pioneered its development as a quality food product for export markets.
“Basically, Norway is looking to more than double the amount of Blue Whiting they can fish and access further south in our waters. They are not offering any quid pro quo to Ireland, in terms of rights to fish in their waters.”
The IFPO say that they and other fishing industry representative bodies are extremely concerned that bilateral negotiations between Norway and the EU are already underway.
Brendan Byrne of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA) shares these concerns. ‘’In addition to access, Norway is pushing the EU to increase a transfer of quota by a staggering 158% to 80,000 tonnes. Most of this will be caught in our waters. Essentially, the Norwegians have enormous quotas but want additional access to Irish waters to catch this valuable stock. Their total catch of this species will have a value in excess €100 million in the coming year.”