The short delay in rushing this legislation through was welcome for consultation with interested stakeholders (that should have been happening much earlier in the two year period in which this Bill has sat on the shelf of the Department until suddenly when a “stage managed” arrest of two trawlers in Dundalk Bay brought the matter to a head with deliberate intent.

I wish to draw your attention Minister to the lack of representation and audience given to the “inshore fishermen”.

As part of the discussion on this legislation and while recognising that all eventualities can not be included in the Bill I want the Minister to re-assure me and the 70 plus fishermen in the Carlingford, Dundalk Bay, Annagassan and Clogherhead areas that in the event of (and expectation that it will be a no-deal Brexit) that he commit to as discussed:

  1. That the Marine Institute conduct a full appraisal of (a) fish stock numbers and (b) ecological study of the 0 – 6 mile zone along the Irish Sea coastline to see if the area can sustain a potential doubling of the number of boats fishing there.

Currently Minister there are 50 Razor boats fishing a quota of 600kgs.  In addition, there are 15 southern potting boats fishing in Dundalk Bay.

  1. While many will accuse me of being partitionist in my approach to this legislation and while I understand the concerns around “Viosinage” it is just as important that in conjunction with this legislation that the Minister regularises important issues that gives a level playing field to all beneficiaries of sharing the waters around these islands. Measures include:
  • Quotas for razor and fish and the difference for legal sizes for lobster, crab and velvet crab as these differ in both jurisdictions I have been advised by the Northeast Razor Fishing Association;
  • Will the fishery area be properly policed especially the stock being landed in different jurisdictions;
  • Can the Minister assure me that the Bill will not open a door to opportunist / unscrupulous fishermen to seize the opportunity to register boats in NI to avail of the freedom to ravish these waters – might I suggest that the current registered boats North and South only be capped especially until the capacity of these waters are determined;
  • The Voisinage Agreement of 1966 related to mackerel and herring fish in particular. The need to protect and manage the stock in the 0 – 6 mile distance from shore is most crucial and especially as this area has many proposals for wind farms that ultimately these areas will be out of bounds for fishing for the Inshore Fisheries fishermen.  I cite the example of the proposes Oriel  / ESB Wind Farm off Dunany in Co. Louth where swathes of sea water will be legally a no-go area.
  1. Much great work has been done on a voluntary basis in large scale conservation of in particular, egg bearing female lobster. All this work will be in vain when such efforts are not happening in Northern waters and now having ravaged pillaged and exhausted their own stocks will do the same here unless at Department level North / South that this is addressed.

Local communities in our 14 coastal counties depend greatly on inshore fishing Minister – the sustainability of this industry in my view will be hugely undermined if with this Bill pass is not followed up closely with necessary statutory instruments and bilateral agreements that are fair and affording equality.

Minister the definition of Reciprocation is a two-way balanced benefit with mutual impacts.

Minister I have contended and continue to believe that this legislation while urgent in view of the Court decision that in the event that the UK intends to leave the London Fisheries Convention (if Brexit occurs) will be seen to undermine our negotiation strategy (and while I do recognise the visuals of the need not to be seem as seeking a “backstop” on land that we could be seen as not wanting a backstop in the 0 – 6 mile fisheries area.

All of that said, I am a realist and know that the “whip” will see this legislation passed today but I believe that this Minister could if he shares any of the concerns of the inshore fishing industry delay the Commencement Order to see the bona fides of the British in respect of their overall approach to how “the spirit of viosinage” will be applied in their approach to real reciprocation in all European waters.

I also understand that there is so much concern in respect of this that we have a person on hunger strike outside the Dáil today in respect of the concerns and that the fishermen will consider petitioning the President to refer this Bill to the Council of State which is their right.

The requests that this Bill be parked have fallen on deaf ears Minister despite your selective Consultation (in Clonakilty) – most Irish fishermen are totally frustrated and appalled at what is happening and are at a loss to understand that you are more interested in satisfying UK citizens while treating your own inshore fishing industry with what they say is contempt.

I wish to conclude by reading a section of a letter from a constituent which succinctly shows the need for real reciprocation.