Brexit: Expert’s warning of ‘conflict’ in Irish fishing waters
Basilio Otero, president of the Spanish national federation of fishermen’s associations (FNCP), said such a move would have a massive financial impact on the industry but could also lead to an environmental catastrophe.
There is high concern that those vessels could move to Irish waters and collapse the area
Mr Otero said: “There is high concern that those vessels could move to Irish waters and collapse the area.
“Conversely, Irish authorities announced that in the face of a threat like this the Irish government would close the access to its waters temporarily until EU authorities re-establish a proper balance in this matter.”
Mr Otero said the hardest hit by such measures would Spanish longliners fishing in the north-east Atlantic for hake – Spain’s most popular fish.
He said around a quarter of the hake fleet’s revenue – around £24.4 million a year – comes from catches around the coasts of Ireland and the UK.
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He said: “Supertrawlers from the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark which usually operate in UK waters would have to move away and find new fishing opportunities elsewhere.
“In recent years we’ve seen some to them navigating in the Bay of Biscay also, probably preparing for this possible no deal between the EU and the UK.
“This would mean greater competition in our fishing grounds too which is another reason for concern.”
Ireland has acknowledged the could be an influx of EU fishing vessels putting enormous pressure on their fish stocks.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue said: “It’s really important as we come towards what we hope will be a positive outcome that there is recognition there from the British government that, in return, there are many positive aspects of being part of the free trade market, that that needs to work both ways, in particular in relation to reciprocal access to waters and also maintenance of quota share.
“Any reduction in our fish quota we want to avoid at all costs. That’s why the attachment of the fish negotiations to other aspects of the free trade agreement (FTA) is really important.”
In the event of a no-deal outcome, French, Belgian, German, Danish and Norwegian vessels, could instead move on to Irish waters.
Fishing rights remains one of the main sticking points on agreeing a post-Brexit trade deal.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said progress had been made and there was a “path” to an agreement, but it may be impossible to resolve the difficulties on fishing.
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The EU wants to continue to maximise access to UK waters for its fishing fleets after the Brexit transition period ends on December 31.
The British Government argues the UK is now an independent coastal state and should be able to prioritise its own boats.
However, most fish caught by UK fishermen are sold in Europe, which requires access to EU markets.
Downing Street said “some progress” had been made but the “most likely outcome” remained a no deal scenario.
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