WHEN John Nolan, the general manager of Castletownbere Fisherman’s Co-op, was asked: ‘What will Brexit mean for the Irish fishing fleet?’ he honestly replied: ‘Nobody knows.’
He said: ‘Britain is the first country to indicate that it wants to exit the European Union. And, in the lead up to the referendum, the British fishing fleet gave every indication that it was unhappy with the way they were treated by the EU. But, in comparison to the way the Irish fishing fleet has been treated, they have nothing to complain about.’
John explained that Ireland provides 22% of the EU fishing waters, which is the most lucrative in relation to fish stocks. ‘Our fishing fleet makes up 2% of the European fishing fleet, in relation to capacity, yet it is not possible for that 2% to survive with the quota they have been allocated by the European Union.’
‘We are a sovereign country. We are supposed to be equal partners yet the European Union tries to use the track record we had in 1970 and tie this to the quotas they now give us in 2016.
‘In 1970,’ John said, ‘we were so poor a country that we could hardly afford to buy a net not to mind a fishing boat. Most of the boats fishing then had no export markets so they were dumping hake and monkfish and white sole because they could not sell them but they are now the most important species in the Castletownbere fishing fleet. ‘We must now use this opportunity to try and renegotiate a much fairer deal for Ireland as equal citizens and, at the same time, try and allow the British to leave with dignity and keep the market, open for the UK.’