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HomeE.U.EU may allow Iceland access to Irish waters for commercial fishing

EU may allow Iceland access to Irish waters for commercial fishing

Irish fishing industry representatives claim Iceland is in secret talks with Europe over a deal to fish in EU waters.

If the deal is successful, the Icelandic fishing fleet could end up in Irish waters for the first time in history.

According to the chief executive of the South and South West Fishermen’s Organisation, Patrick Murphy, this would jeopardise the stocks available in the waters as it would lead to overfishing He said he found out about the negotiations by chance earlier this year and discussed the issue in detail at a meeting with Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue on October 19.

Local media reached out to the ministry to ask about the talks, but there was no comment. Instead, a spokesperson said:

“Icelandic vessels may not fish in EU waters, including Irish waters, unless there is an agreement in place allowing them to do so. There is currently no such agreement in place between the EU and Iceland. The European Commission has exclusive competence to negotiate with Third Countries on behalf of the EU. Before engaging in any such negotiations, a mandate for the Commission would first have to be set by Council representing Member States. The Department takes an active involvement in discussions which may impact on, or offer opportunities for, Ireland’s seafood sector.”

However, the Irish Examiner learned on Friday morning that Mr Murphy and others would attend a virtual meeting this afternoon to discuss “developments at EU level on the possibility of discussions between the EU and Iceland on fishing opportunities”. Mr Murphy told the Irish Examiner:

“I spoke to the Minister about the prospect of Iceland coming into Irish waters and how much my members would object to that happening. While I can guarantee you that he is aware that this is an issue coming down the tracks and that Iceland has made an approach to Europe, I just cannot give you any indication what he intends [on] doing because I don’t know. My biggest fear is that a deal will end up being agreed on and Ireland will end up being the country that will benefit the least from any such deal. I am not being alarmist when I say this because there is a track record here of Ireland ending up as the sacrificial lamb so the bigger EU countries can get the deals they want.”

Iceland has previously said it would “never” join the European Union because the country thrives outside of it. But overfishing and increased migration of fish stocks due to climate change could influence its position on closer economic ties.

The country applied to join the EU in 2009 but then withdrew from the negotiations. One of the main reasons was a desire to retain full control over its own fishing grounds and an industry that not only receives no government subsidies but is one of the most successful in the world.

Any fish stocks that Iceland shares with the EU are governed by bilateral agreements that are renegotiated every year.

One of the reasons Iceland is so reluctant to cede control of its fishing grounds is that it prides itself on how it manages them. In 2021, for example, the country boasted that of the two cod stocks in the world that were increasing at the time, one was in Iceland.

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