Wednesday, May 18

Brexit fuels the distrust of Irish fishermen towards the Galician boats that fish in their waters

The imprisonment of the Galician fishing boat Candieira Point in Irish waters at the end of May was the latest example of the growing climate of tension that exists after Brexit between the fishermen of the Republic of Ireland and the vessels of the rest of the European Union (EU) that fish in their fishing grounds.

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The agreement to exit the United Kingdom from the EU signed at the end of December will mean a 15% reduction in the volume of catches for the Irish fleet until 2026. This is the steepest fall of all the countries of the Union, according to with calculations of the Irish government itself, and would be equivalent to a loss of 43 million euros for the sector. The reduction would even reach 25% in the case of mackerel, whose cut is especially burdensome for Ireland, since this species is raised in its territorial waters but migrates mainly to the seas of the United Kingdom, especially to the area of ​​Scotland, when It is the right size to be captured.

With a smaller pie to share and with growing administrative problems to export their catch to Great Britain, many Irish fishermen have a worse view of the current quota system, which regulates the division they have to make of their fishing grounds with the fishing boats of others. EU member states. “What exists now is pure colonialism. The Belgian or Spanish fleet catches, for example, more sole in our waters than the Irish boats”, denounces Patrick Murphy, president of the Organization of Fish Producers of the South and West of Ireland, in statements to “Meanwhile, more and more of our fishing boats are being scrapped. Would the fishermen of Spain allow this?”, He assures.

His association is one of the promoters of the wave of mobilizations called by the sector in recent weeks and that this Wednesday will hit the streets of Dublin. The objective: to ask the Irish Government for more aid for the sector and demand a renegotiation of quotas that gives priority to Irish fishermen to the detriment of fleets from other EU countries.

“This distrust of the Irish is not something new,” says Ramón Manuel Muñiz, president of the Spanish Association of Nautical-Fishing Graduates (Aitenape). In his view, since the Common Fisheries Policy began, both the British and the Irish have looked askance at the continent’s fleet. So much so that regaining control of the fishing grounds was one of the main flags raised by Brexiters in the UK ahead of the 2016 referendum, despite the limited economic impact of fishing on the country’s economy. “Perhaps because of the fact that they are islands, they always thought that they had fared badly in the distribution of quotas. Now that catches in UK waters are going to be reduced, hostility towards outsiders is likely to increase in Ireland,” he says Muñiz.

Hake fishing grounds

In Ireland, fishing indirectly employs 10,000 and 4,000 more if fish processing factories are included. Its fishing grounds are particularly attractive to fleets from other EU countries, especially dedicated to hake fishing.

The Galician longliner Punta Candieira was arrested on May 31 by the Irish Navy, three days after being accused by Irish fishermen operating in Bantry Bay of casting their fishing gear within the 12 coastal miles reserved for flagged vessels. from Ireland. That day he had an incident with the Irish ship Lours de Mers, allegedly after a dangerous maneuver carried out by the Candieira Point to prevent this other boat from cutting off your hook lines.

The clash between the Galician longliner and the Irish fishermen, who will be tried by the Cork Criminal Court from 2 July, has had an impact on the political debate in Ireland. The independent deputy in the Dublin Parliament Michael Collins criticized in recent weeks the Government of the island for having taken three days to arrest the Candieira Point since the Irish fishermen denounced the events and demanded that the country’s Navy improve the protection of territorial waters against possible future incursions by Spanish ships.

“Without going to judge the case of the Candieira Point, it is true that the authorities of some countries use this type of clawing against foreign vessels as a show of force when there is an internal problem with the fishing sector, as if saying ‘here we are with you’ “, emphasizes the president of Aitenape .

A distribution of quotas that is difficult to modify

Although the European Commission updates the fishing quotas every year following the indications of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), in order to maintain the long-term sustainability of the fishing grounds, the sharing system It would be difficult for the same among EU countries to undergo major alterations, as claimed by the Irish fishing sector.

“This distribution followed the principle of relative stability, which was established in the 70s. It was made taking into account the regions especially dependent on fishing. The political complexity of opening this melon would be enormous and there is no real pressure to change the system. “, says Gonzalo Rodríguez, Professor of Fisheries Economics at the University of Santiago de Compostela.

The Galician Socialist MEP Nicolás González Casares believes that the growing concern among Irish fishermen has not so much to do with the presence of Galician boats and other EU countries in their waters, as with the problems caused by Brexit or regulatory changes . “The protests now, I think, are not directed against Spanish fishermen but rather enter into the dynamics of internal pressure towards the Irish Government, at a time when the quotas for next year are being negotiated,” he says.

González Casares trusts that the spirits of the sector will calm in the coming months with the approval at the European level of the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, a program of aid of more than 5,000 million euros aimed at alleviating the situation of the sectors and countries more affected by Brexit, which will have specific support lines for fishing.