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Fishermen may have to ‘rethink fishing patterns’ as Republic waters no-go zone .

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

KILKEEL fishermen fishing in the Irish Sea off the Republic of Ireland may have to rethink their fishing patterns after the UK government ended an arrangement that allows other countries to fish in UK waters.

The government announced on Sunday (2 June) that it will trigger the two-year process of leaving the London Fisheries Convention, which allows vessels from France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands to fish between six and 12 nautical miles off the UK coastline.

Britain signed the convention before it joined the EU and would be bound by its terms after leaving the bloc unless it starts to withdraw from the treaty now.

But it also means that UK vessels will also lose the right to fish in waters six to 12 nautical miles offshore of other nations, meaning that fishing vessels in Northern Ireland who fish in the waters of the Republic, such as the Kilkeel fleet, will be affected.

"The Kilkeel fishing fleet fish in the Bay of Dundalk in Irish waters under this rule and they might have to totally rethink their fishing patterns," said Dick James, from the Northern Ireland Fish Producers Association (NIFPO).

"The Bay of Dundalk is in their backyard and it is not immediately obvious where else they could go to fish.

"If they diversify and go somewhere else there could be displacement issues all over the place." Mr James said the ending of the agreement was a "direct consequence" of Brexit and "part of a much wider picture".

The DUP MEP Diane Dodds said that this "was the first step in re-establishing the UK as an independent coastal state".

She also said it would be the UK who would negotiate and decide on what terms other countries had access to British waters after Brexit.

The Republic's minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, however, said the move was "unwelcome and unhelpful".

"Brexit poses very serious challenges to the seafood sector and this announcement will form part of the negotiations," he said.

However the ANIFPO said that Ireland stalled the resolution on Voisinage fish agreement and that they "shouldn't be complaining now".

They said that £1m worth of NI quota was surrendered annually to the Republic under EU rules, which was "unwelcome and unhelpful".

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