WEST Cork’s fishermen are ready to take on another nation, it appears.
Today, members of the IS&WFPO, who took on the Russians earlier this year and got them to move their planned manoeuvres in the Atlantic, have said they will stage similar action in the face of the French navy’s similar plans.
The Castletownbere organisation has formulated a plan of action to prevent what the fishermen are calling ‘the potential catastrophic environmental damage’ from the proposed French military exercises due to take place off the Irish coast between the June 23rd and 25th.,
In late January 2022, the West Cork fishermen were successful in having planned Russian naval exercises relocated outside of the Irish EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) and are now calling on the Irish and French governments to agree to a similar move.
Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the IS&WFPO said the impact of military sonar and live missile launches has the potential to severely disrupt the annual migratory path of fish and dramatically interrupt the breeding season of mackerel and other migratory fish species.
‘The Albacore Tuna fishery is opening for Irish vessels on the 23rd June in the waters of our continental shelf which could potentially be disrupted by these live fire exercises,’ he added. ‘We also believe this will cause untold damage to marine wildlife like whales and dolphins that are greatly affected by underwater noise.’
He said he had instructions from member fishermen to implement a plan to highlight the ‘dangerous exercises’ and consider any course of action that may disrupt them.
‘It is our understanding that live fire exercises cannot take place if our vessels are engaged in fishing in the area, so we are discussing a plan with our vessel owners and skippers aimed at, once again, carrying out a peaceful protest in our traditional fishing areas near the proposed area of the military exercise,’ said Mr Murphy.
‘We understand that an aircraft exclusion zone has been announced for the area but we are dismayed at the lack of comment from our government bar the Marine notice, once again advising us to be cognisant of a marine law that should protect us rather than put us in harm’s way.’
‘It would be infinitely preferable if these naval exercises were stopped as a sign we in Europe are peaceful and not looking to escalate the current tensions but at the very least they should be relocated further south to waters, well outside of EEZ, beyond our 200 mile limit and away from our the men and women who sail their boats in our fishing grounds,’ he continued.
As multi-generational fishing families, the IS&WFPO members are the custodians of our waters, he continued, and sought the Irish public’s help and support to protect and save the ‘wonderful resource’ for future Irish generations.
He further stated: ‘Concern has also been raised by fishermen within our organisation of the likelihood of increased submerged submarine traffic by Nato forces transiting the fishing grounds off the west coast for the duration of the exercises. The seas around Ireland are our workplace and while it can be a dangerous and hostile environment to make a living from, we and our natural resources deserve the right to protection from unnecessary and dangerous actions by foreign powers.’