Irish fishermen say they are concerned a taskforce set up to support coastal communities after Brexit will become a “talking shop”.
Representatives from the fishing industry said the Brexit trade agreement reached on Christmas Eve has “failed” Irish fishermen and is a “bad fisheries deal”.
Under the terms of the Brexit agreement, Irish fleets will have to give back 25% of fish caught in UK waters.
Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said that after meeting fishing groups, he will set up a taskforce to seek recommendations on how to support the sector.
The losses due to Brexit will ensure a large portion of the Irish fishing fleet will be unviableJohn Lynch, Irish South and East Fish Producers
However, Sean O’Donoghue, chief executive of Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO), said some issues needed immediate action.
“We welcome the taskforce, but there are two things I am concerned about.
“Number one, that it becomes a talking shop, and secondly that it delays us from the immediate action that we need,” he added.
“We need to immediately take up the burden-sharing and it can’t be waiting for a taskforce to decide on something like that.
“The taskforce should be looking at something like the issues around relative stability.
“I would see that they would be more longer time than short term. I am talking about addressing the burden-share in the next two months, not in the next year.”
The industry said that based on the current burden-sharing equation, Ireland will incur losses of 42 million euro.
It amounts to a loss of 15% in the value of all fish caught by Irish fleets, however other EU member states are incurring losses of about 7%.
Giving evidence to the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee on Friday, Mr McConalogue said the taskforce will provide recommendations for local coastal communities.
“I intend to set out in the arrangements and the terms of reference for this taskforce later next week,” he added.
“I will ask the taskforce to immediately focus on possible arrangements for a temporary fleet tie-up scheme to counter the impacts of the reduction in quotas which will impact from the beginning of April.”
John Ward, of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO), said they want the issues in the “terrible Brexit deal” resolved.
“We are very much a junior partner in a huge department,” he added.
He said that the marine sector is on the coattails of the agriculture department.
“We will never get the representation that we require,” he added.
John Lynch, chairman of the Irish South and East Fish Producers Organisation, said the loss of 42 million euro has been “gifted” to the UK.
“The loses due to Brexit will ensure a large portion of the Irish fishing fleet will be unviable for the future and these figures do not include the negative effects of these losses on all fishing-related ancillary industries,” he added.
Sinn Fein’s Padraig Mac Lochlainn said it is estimated Donegal’s fishing industry will suffer 400 job losses.
Mr Mac Lochlainn said the effect on an industry that is already struggling to survive will leave it “completely unsustainable”.
This is a profound injusticePadraig Mac Lochlainn, Sinn Fein
“They (fishermen) are looking for a fair allocation of the fish in our own exclusive economic zone, under the jurisdiction of the common fisheries policy,” he added.
“This is a serious crisis.
“As (fishing) was the last item on the (Brexit) agenda, there was a rush to get the deal over the line, and our fishermen were sacrificed and we took a disproportionate hit.
“This is a profound injustice.”
Mr McConalogue said Ireland will see a greater impact compared with other EU member states.
“That is a situation I am certainly not happy with, and one that we never wanted or fought for,” he added.
“Although we knew we were very much the nation that was most endangered from a fishing point of view because, by far, compared to other EU members, we share more of our species with the UK, and the species that are important to us are the species that are most important to the UK as well.
“The outcome is not a fair reflection of burden-sharing, it does put more weight and impact on our fishing sector.”
Independent TD Thomas Pringle said: “This is a very serious situation for the fishing industry and it’s debatable how it can survive.”