THE fishing port of Castletownbere could lose €8m if it can no longer fish at the disputed Rockall area off Donegal.
And a local co-operative manager has called on the Irish navy to accompany trawlers in the area to provide protection for them.
At present, there are two boats from Castletownbere fishing for squid, as well as haddock and other species, off Rockall, with 13 more due to join them shortly, according to John Nolan, the manager of the Castletownbere Fisherman’s Co-operative.
These vessels are, according to Mr Nolan, ‘in imminent danger of having a UK gunship coming up alongside them and boarding them, despite the fact that we do not accept that the English have jurisdiction there.’
For the past 15 to 20 years, Mr Nolan said Irish vessels have been steaming out to Rockall – 230m north west of Donegal – because of its rich fishing waters.
Mr Nolan said the fishermen he represents – who tend to fish off Rockall from June to September – will ‘not back down’ to threats being made this week by the Scottish fishing industry because this is their livelihood. ‘They don’t go out to sea looking for trouble and they have a right to fish there,’ he added.
Scottish fishing representatives are claiming that the UK own Rockall and are therefore entitled to a 12-mile exclusive fishing limit around the rock. Mr Nolan said he, other fishing representatives, the Irish Government, and the EU, have never recognised Britain’s claim to own the rock.
Every EU country, including Ireland, enjoys a 12-mile exclusive fishery limit around its coast, but Mr Nolan said the demand by Scotland to 12 miles around Rockall is a non-starter.
He said the 12-mile rule only applies to landfall that is capable of sustaining human life.
‘We expect our Government and the EU to step up and safeguard the livelihood of our fishermen,’ he said.
Failure to do so, he added, could result in Irish trawlers being boarded and being brought before UK courts, where they could face a bond of €500,000.
A statement from the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation added: ‘If this illegal action is carried out we expect more than words from our Government...the innocent should be protected here.’