Fishing grounds must be protected from unregulated access

01 March 2019

Reacting to the controversy over the detainment of two Northern Ireland fishing vessels, Labour Senator from Louth, Ged Nash has said that the roots of this lie in the unregulated access, and resulting damage to mussel beds in Irish waters, and fallout from the decision of the UK to leave the EU.

Senator Nash explained:

“In late 2016 a judgment of the Supreme Court found that an almost 60 year old North-South ‘gentleman’s agreement’ on reciprocal fishing rights north and south within six nautical miles of the coast had no legal basis.

“The DUP and Nigel Dodds MP, who I’m told is also a barrister, will be aware that since late 2016 it has been unlawful for Northern Ireland registered fishing vessels to fish within six nautical miles of Ireland’s coastline.

“The issue has been further complicated due to the stated intention of the UK, as part of Brexit to withdraw from the 1964 London Fisheries Convention.

“The roots of the current controversy lie in the aggressive pillaging of our mussel seed beds over decades by Northern Irish vessels which has had a damaging effect on the livelihoods of Republic of Ireland trawler owners and their crew.

“This back-of-an-envelope ‘voisinage’ arrangement struck in the 1960s was a classic Irish solution to an Irish problem when this State still exercised a constitutional claim over Northern Ireland.

“Just because it was politically expedient in the 1960s didn’t mean that it was right to put that flawed and legally dubious arrangement into law as Minister Creed rushed to do in March 2017.

“The actions of the sea fisheries authorities yesterday were above board and within the law.

“The Minister’s proposals presented to the Seanad had upside for our local fishermen but no move should be made to resurrect the pre-2016 arrangements until there is clarity on Brexit and clear regulations on access and environmental protection produced.

“The State has a duty to the fishing families who exposed these flaws in the original voisinage agreement.”

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