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Scotland & Ireland At Loggerheads Over Rockall Fishing Rights

8th June 2019
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Naval Service vessel LÉ Róisín at Rockall conducting routine maritime security patrols in October 2012 Naval Service vessel LÉ Róisín at Rockall conducting routine maritime security patrols in October 2012 Photo: Irish Defence Forces

Authorities in Ireland have rejected Scotland’s threat of “enforcement action” against Irish trawlers in the waters around Rockall, as the two states fall into a spat over fishing rights in the North Atlantic territory.

The Irish Times reports on a formal letter received yesterday from Scottish external affairs minister Fiona Hyslop, declaring Scotland’s intention to defend its interests against “illegal activity” within 12 miles of the uninhabitable islet.

Rockall, which lies 300km west of Scotland and some 430km north-west of Ireland, is claimed by the United Kingdom — but Ireland does not recognise UK sovereignty over the territory.

In their response, Marine Minister Michael Creed and Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister maintained the position of the Irish Government that “the waters around Rockall form part of Union waters under the Common Fisheries Policy, to which the principle of equal access for the vessels of all EU Member States applies”.

Their statement added: “Irish vessels have operated unhindered in the Rockall zone for many decades fishing haddock, squid and other species.”

The ministers noted that the issue of access to Rockall’s fishing grounds first arouse in 2017 following the Brexit referendum.

“The Tánaiste and I have worked very closely to avoid a situation whereby Irish fishing vessels who have been and continue to fish for haddock, squid and other species in the 12-mile area around Rockall, are under the unwarranted threat of ‘enforcement action’ by the Scottish government,” Minister Creed said yesterday (Friday 7 June).

“However, following this sustained unilateral action by them, I have no option but to put our fishing industry on notice of the stated intention of the Scottish government.”

The Tánaiste said: “The longstanding position of the Irish Government is that Irish vessels are entitled to access to Rockall waters. We have never recognised UK sovereignty over Rockall and accordingly we have not recognised a territorial sea around it either.

“We have tried to work positively with the Scottish authorities and to deal with sensitive issues that flow from it in a spirit of kinship and collaboration. We very much regret that matters have reached this point and intend to do everything possible to achieve a satisfactory resolution.”

Minister Creed has met the fishing industry representatives to explain the situation and to advise them of the threat of enforcement action by the Scottish authorities.

“I am very disappointed to have had to make them aware of the risk,” he said, adding that they are “justifiably concerned at this action being taken by a fellow member states where our industries are closely connected”.

Published in Fishing
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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