The European Commission has said it hopes to represent “the best interests” of EU member states in talks with Norway on blue whiting.
A Commission official was responding to fears voiced earlier this month by Irish fishing organisations that Norway would be granted greater access to annual quotas in Irish waters, while offering no reciprocal arrangement.
In a joint statement, industry organisations had appealed to Minister for the Marine Charlie McConalogue to ensure that the EU “blocks Norway, a non-EU member, from gaining unilateral access to our blue whiting grounds”.
“The EU already threw Ireland under the bus when it came to quota cuts after Brexit,” Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO) chief executive Aodh O’Donnell said.
“We took the hardest hits. A staggering 40 % of the total value of quotas transferred to the UK under Brexit came from Ireland,” he said, questioning whether the EU was “now considering that we take the hit again for a non-EU member?”
“The EU already threw Ireland under the bus”
“ It’s time to ask serious questions about the EU’s attitude to Ireland and our fishing industry,” O’Donnell had said, pointing out that “the fact that Norway is making their request to the EU and NOT directly to Ireland, speaks volumes”.
Norway seemed “optimistic that the EU would unilaterally surrender access to Irish fishing grounds to a non-EU member – based on the track record of EU treatment of the Irish fishing industry”, he noted.
Brendan Byrne of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA) said that Norway was pushing the EU to increase a transfer of quota by a staggering 158% to 80,000 tonnes, in addition to access.
“Most of this will be caught in our waters. Essentially, the Norwegians have enormous quotas but want additional access to Irish waters to catch this valuable stock. Their total catch of this species will have a value in excess €100 million in the coming year,” Byrne had said.
Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation chief executive Patrick Murphy said that Norway’s quotas were nine times those of Ireland, and there was “no justice in allocating them more rights to fish in the Irish Box.”
The Irish organisations said it was a “red line” issue, and stressed that any agreement by the EU with Norway must be balanced by a reciprocal arrangement.
A Commission official said that “when representing the EU in international negotiations, the European Commission operates on the basis of positions coordinated with the member states”.
“The Commission notes that the current fisheries arrangements between the EU and Norway include reciprocal access to waters to fish for blue whiting and that the exchanges of fishing opportunities for 2023 are still to be discussed between the parties,” the official said.
“The Commission welcomes the contribution of industry organisations and representatives to these consultations and looks forward to achieving progress in the best interest of the EU and its Member States,”the official said.