A Brexit deal has only made life worse for Irish fishermen, who fear things will only get worse.
n Ireland’s largest port, at Killybegs in Co Donegal, skipper Michael Callaghan’s 50-metre fishing boat is stranded and going nowhere.
He reached his catch quota for this year in just a few days, meaning he won’t be able to use his boat again until next year.
The Brexit-related trade and cooperation deal between the European Union and the UK saw Ireland transfer 15 per cent of the total value of its 2020 fishing quota to the UK, meaning boats like Mr Callaghan’s are now forced to sit idle.
New figures from the European Statistics Office (Eurostat), to be released in the coming weeks, show that fish processing in Ireland has fallen by 16 per cent since 2014.
However, that drop will not have accounted for post-Brexit quota carryover, which totaled €25.8m last year – or 12 per cent of sales for this year – resulting in a full carryover of €42.9m per year, according to the figures Year from 2025 led seen from the Sunday independent.
“All the boats that are here are ready, they can no longer put to sea,” Mr Callaghan said.
“We got our quotas in January but due to the way the government handled it I caught mine in 10 days of fishing. The boat sits there and doesn’t make money until next year. I am angry.”
Surrounded by fish processing, manufacturing, boat building, engineering and electronics businesses, Killybegs is the base for a fleet of fishing boats that catch whiting, mackerel, herring and other fish.
For the past 40 years, South West Donegal – from Donegal Town to Dunloe – has revolved around the local fishing industry.
But now that work has dried up.
“The irony is that this town and the work that goes with it now depends on Scottish and Norwegian vessels arriving to supply the factories with a product that we should be supplying because they are catching the fish in our waters,” Herr said Callaghan.
The bridge of his boat is packed with electronics and multiple screens designed for navigation, finding fish, and identifying species.
“As I sit here, I sweep the ocean in search of fish,” he said.
When he and his crew finally catch fish, they place them in the boat’s nine holds, which are then filled with seawater chilled to -1.5C.
“Even if I’m sitting here and the boat isn’t moving, I still get butterflies in my stomach just thinking about fishing,” he said.
“It’s a pastime for me, a passion. I love it. But all we seem to be doing now is damage control, there is no government foresight. I’m struggling to see a future of some form of expansion for my business.”
Compared to other industries, he said, the fishing industry was “hardest hit by a country mile”.
The Chief Executive of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation, Aodh O’Donnell, said “the death knell” for the fishing industry was Brexit.
“We have a quota of 24-28,000 tonnes of blue whiting and the Norwegians have 260,000 tonnes, most of which is caught off the west coast of Ireland,” he said.
“To make matters worse, the EU has given them an extra 37,000 tonnes as part of their access to our waters to catch our fish.
Fishermen like Mr. Callaghan “are giving us an opportunity,” said Mr. O’Donnell, “just like Intel is doing for the rest of the country.”
“We have paid the price, we are the sacrificial lamb and it is coming home to settle.”
Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association chief executive Brendan Byrne fears the situation will only get worse over the next three years.
“If this had happened in the wheat sector, in the dairy sector or in the pig sector, it should have been stopped.”
He said 30 to 40 years of “bad government policy” means that “for every tonne of fish caught by Irish boats, at least four tons are not caught by Irish boats”.
“We are a minority shareholder in our own waters. Look at the carbon footprint of a ship leaving Spain, France or Denmark to come a few miles here to fish, fetch fish from Irish waters and bring it back from Irish waters to its own country,” he said .
“As we sit here our ships are idle, we are within 100km of this fish and cannot catch it.”
Mr Byrne said there must be “political willingness to take this fight to a European level”.
“This should never have been allowed, if this continues the only option in the fishing community is to protest,” he said.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine was contacted for comment on these issues, but did not respond.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/angry-fishermen-claim-they-have-been-sunk-by-brexit-quotas-41862764.html Angry fishermen claim they have been ‘sunk’ by Brexit quotas