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DISASTER LOOMING: No-deal Brexit could ‘devastate’ fishing

December 21st, 2020 7:05 AM

By Siobhan Cronin

Map shows British waters (blue) post-Brexit, with EU waters in pink. Source: Adapted from the House of Lords EU Committee on Brexit (Fisheries).

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A MAJOR disaster is looming large for West Cork’s coastal communities, a local fishing organisation has warned.

If Britain exits the EU without agreeing a deal on its fishing territories, then the Irish coast, including West Cork, can expect a major influx of fishing vessels.

‘It will be a free-for-all on January 1st, and that will spell disaster for us,’ Patrick Murphy of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (IS&WFPO) said this week.

There are approximately 400 non-UK boats fishing in UK waters presently, and those boats will be forced out, in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

‘Where will they go?’ asked Mr Murphy. ‘They won’t go back to their own waters, because there is obviously no fish there, so they will come to us.’

He said that in the last few weeks alone, the number of lorries collecting fish landed by non-Irish trawlers in Castletownbere, has already gone from 40 to 50 a week. ‘They are already moving in here,’ he said, ‘and after January 1st, we can expect a lot more.’

Mr Murphy added that in the long run, such an influx could devastate fishing stocks, spelling an end to the fishing industry entirely.

‘We have been asking for four years now, what’s Plan B in the event of a no-deal Brexit. We haven’t seen any contingency plan yet and we are at the end game now,’ he added. ‘It’s like living under a volcano and watching the sparks coming out and saying “ah we will be fine, it’ll be grand” but when it erupts, it’s too late to save yourself.’

No Irish boats will chance going into UK waters after January 1st, he said, so they will be coming back home too.

And the Spanish and French trawlers operating off the West Cork coast won’t welcome any more competition, even from their own countries.

‘Ireland has the richest waters in the EU, and we have attractive shallow waters, but we are going to kill the goose that lays the golden egg,’ Mr Murphy warned.

‘It’s like watching a meteor coming straight at us, and hoping against hope it will miss us.’

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