Greencastle fishers losing up to 30% of income due to Britain’s ‘outrageous’ Rockall blockade

Donegal T.D. Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has claimed the Greencastle fishing fleet could be losing up to 30 per cent of its income due to the British blockade of its traditional Rockall fishing grounds.

He branded Britain’s refusal to allow Inishowen fishers access to the seas around the rock – a fertile ground for squid and fish species, particularly haddock, sole and monkfish – ‘absolute nonsense’.

Speaking in Dáil Éireann prior to the St. Patrick’s week recess, Deputy Mac Lochlainn said: "This is outrageous. There is no basis in international law for putting a nautical mile limit around an uninhabited rock. There is no basis for this under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

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"It is absolute nonsense. How on earth is the Government tolerating this? How is it not being taken to international arbitration? Why did the Government sign off on the Maritime Jurisdiction Act on access for the British Government to and control of the area at a time when it is negotiating to reinstate our traditional fishing grounds to our fishermen? Who on earth would tolerate that?

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'Absolutely outrageous' €7.7m 'British blockade' of Rockall blasted by Pádraig M...

“We talk about Brexit and the attitude of the Tories. They have arbitrarily kicked Irish fishermen out of our traditional fishing grounds, with no international legal basis for doing so.”

Martin Heydon, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, replied: “As Taoiseach, the Minister [current Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs] Deputy [Micheál] Martin, last discussed the matter of Rockall with Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, at the end of last year.

"It was agreed to prioritise this matter and continue to work together to seek to resolve the outstanding issues.

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“As Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Coveney met his Scottish counterpart, the Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, Angus Robertson, to discuss the issue.

"They agreed to continue to prioritise this matter and work together to seek to resolve outstanding issues. Working together with the Department of Foreign Affairs, there are active discussions between the Irish and Scottish side exploring all options. Further discussions at political and official level are planned over the coming period.”

British claims to ownership of the uninhabited rock, which is located 430 kilometres from Bloody Foreland and 461.5 kilometres from Ardnamurchan, the nearest point on the Scottish mainland, have never been recognised.

Deputy Heydon explained that ‘Ireland has never made any claims to, nor has Ireland ever recognised UK sovereignty claims over, Rockall’ and that ‘accordingly, it has not recognised a 12 nautical mile territorial sea around it’.

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However, under the terms of the Brexit Trade & Cooperation Agreement (TCA) between the EU and the UK, Donegal fishers have not been granted licences to fish within the 12 mile limit.

“Approximately 25 Irish vessels have fished in the waters around Rockall during the spring and summer months in recent years.

"Under the EU-UK TCA EU vessels must be licensed by the UK authorities. Since January 1, 2021 the licences issued by the UK to EU vessels, where granted, expressly preclude access to the 12 nautical mile zone around Rockall,” he said.

Britain’s claims are seemingly based on the fact the rock is located 301.3 kilometres west of the uninhabited island of Soay in the Outer Hebrides. It is 423 kilometres west of Tory.

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