‘Let’s Get Real’ If Holyrood Wants to Take a Hard Line on Fishing Ban Supertrawlers

‘While sparks fly between Ireland and Scotland over Rockall the operators of the Super Trawlers are rubbing their hands with glee as their floating factories sweep the seas’

Fishermen from Co Donegal are showing remarkable restraint. After the Greencastle based MFV ‘Northern Celt’ was stopped and boarded last week by the SFPV ‘Jura. Donegal, fishermen are now avoiding the 12 mile zone around Rockall and pinning their hopes on a diplomatic resolution (see link):

https://www.irishtimes.com/…/irish-vessels-near-rockall…

The Scottish (SNP) government for its part is possibly trying to demonstrate to fishing communities in the country’s North East that it will protect their livelihoods in a way that the London government has not. Communities around Aberdeen drifted towards the Conservatives at the last election on the promise of Brexit and ‘taking back control’ and probably felt let down by the subsequent Brexit deal. This is a way for Holyrood to demonstrate it can deliver what Boris Jonhson did not.

However, let’s get real, the real predators of Scottish fishing grounds are not neighbouring fishing communities on the Northern tip of Ireland that have fished the Rockall Bank for decades but the Super Trawlers from the large multinational corporations based in the Netherlands and Russia. While sparks fly between Ireland and Scotland over Rockall the operators of the Super Trawlers are rubbing their hands with glee as their floating factories sweep the seas.

As we pointed out in May 2020 EU and Russian super trawlers were devastating fishing grounds around and in Marine Protected Areas off Scotland (see link): https://www.facebook.com/…/a.80637947…/2894880137227395/

Surely if the Scottish government wants to flex its sea fishery protection muscle it should be aiming at vessels that devastate the fish stocks to earn millions for fat cats based in the Hague or Moscow rather than focusing on the living of indigenous fishing communities of a fellow Celtic state.

As indicated the Irish government is using diplomatic means to achieve a resolution. The Killybegs Fishermen’s Association say that whilst concerned ‘No Irish vessel is inside the 12-mile zone at this time’.

Others are more strident however the Leader in The (Irish) Examiner newspaper this week took a more bullish tone calling for Ireland to reactivate its claim to Rockall (see link): https://www.irishexaminer.com/…/ourview/arid-40202453.html

For the time however diplomacy rather than a new ‘Cod War’ is on the agenda.

However you have to ask how it has come to this. The real enemy of the livelihood of Fishermen in Ireland Scotland and the other Celtic countries is not the smaller vessels of the indigenous fleets of their neighbours but the gargantuan Super Trawler fleets of these multinationals. These predators have no national allegiance; they turn simply on the concept of profit and exploiting and ultimately destroying fish stocks using crews in many instances sourced from the third world and as our ‘Outlaw Ocean’ series of articles five years ago highlighted exploited as well.

Image: Irish Naval service vessel LÉ Róisín (P51) off Rockall during a previous period of tension some years ago.

Bernard Moffatt

Assistant General Secretary Celtic League (10th January 2021)

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