I share the very real concerns of fishing industry stakeholders regarding the fallout from Brexit and the severe impact it will have on our fishers and their communities. In a stark choice between this and a devastating No-Deal scenario, every fisher from Castletownbere to Cadiz will bear the brunt of the UK’s departure from the EU.
On the home front, our fishers’ livelihoods will be heavily impacted. We still don’t know for sure how this year’s total allowable catches (TACs) and quotas will be decided and will they follow the scientific advice? We are also in the dark around how the Brexit Adjustment Reserve might be distributed to affected communities.
As the only Irish full-member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries, I have raised these issues again and again in Brussels. On Monday last, I made it clear that we will all, Irish and British, suffer as a result of the lies sold to the British people and to the UK fishing industry.
The British people were told that they would ‘take back control’. Instead, where fisheries are concerned, they have burnt bridges connecting them to their largest market and wrought havoc on well-established supply chains. Scotland, home to the UK’s most important fishing communities, has now lost the preferential treatment it enjoyed in the EU (due to the Hague Preference mechanism) and will see a significant drop in access to white fish stocks, while the export of high-value salmon products has all but ground to a halt.
In short, for fishing communities, Brexit has become the economic and social disaster we have been warning about since the 2016 referendum, but its impact reaches far beyond UK shores.
It also remains to be seen what effect these changes will have on fish stocks and our marine environment, with worrying signs the UK is to increase fishing above sustainable levels and weaken environmental protections for areas of conservation in their waters.
With a six-year transition period now in place to iron out the details on fishing access, one thing is for sure: this is only the beginning of the disruption for our fishers and their families.