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Commercial Fishing



UK government vetoes Irish-Scottish agreement on Rockall access. Ireland’s  Department of Foreign Affairs has said that reaching an agreement on issues relating to fishing access around Rockall is a “priority” for the Government.

A spokesperson from the Department said:

“this is an area on which we will continue to work closely with Scotland, and on which we will continue to engage with the UK government.”

It follows reports that the British government has vetoed an Irish-Scottish agreement which would allow Irish vessels to access the waters around the uninhabited islet again.

The Irish Times has reported that the day after the British election was called this week, the UK government vetoed that deal.

Rockall, which is located over 200 nautical miles northwest off the Co Donegal coast, has been the subject of a long-running dispute over the sovereignty of the fishing area. After Britain left the European Union Common Fisheries Policy as part of Brexit, Irish vessels have been banned from fishing in the waters around it. Irish fishermen affected by the ban since 2020 say it continues to have a huge impact on the industry here and it is causing immense pressure.

Patrick Murphy, from the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation, told RTÉ News that the area around Rockall makes up around 3% of overall fish caught and this ban is “costing” them millions. He said of approximately €200 million worth of fish caught, around €7 million would have been caught around Rockall.

Rockall, a seabed rich in fish, is a prime area for squid and haddock.

He said Irish fishermen seem to “be getting the worst deal out of Brexit” and added that if access had been agreed during the TCA deal, the outcome would have been different. He said France in contrast was “on top of their game and got access to islands in the Channel” following Brexit.

Scotland’s Angus Robertson, Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs, says it is “disappointing that it was not possible to implement a resolution” on Rockall fishing waters before the UK election was called. In a statement to RTÉ News, he said the Scottish and Irish governments have been working “closely and constructively” on this issue for several years.

He also said the Scottish Government stands ready to re-engage with their Irish counterparts with a “view to returning to the issue with the UK Government after the election”.

Patrick Murphy of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation said they have been lobbying the Minister for Foreign Affairs to start these negotiations and fishermen were “pleasantly surprised” they were under way.

“We wouldn’t have been part of the negotiations but one of the elements we have been looking for is shared resources on scientific evaluation and studies in the water. So it is really critical if we are going to look after our stocks, both of us, that we have a collaborative working relationship with our neighbours in the UK.”

He said it is for the politicians to resolve the laws around Rockall but he hopes that leaders can “see sense”.

“We are all fishermen, we are all sharing the same water. We are asking the British government to have a little bit of sympathy here.”