Within the terms of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and UK, access arrangements are set out in Article 8 Fish. This Article sets out: provided that TACs have been agreed, each Party shall grant vessels of the other Party access to fish in its waters in the relevant ICES sub-areas that year. Access shall be granted at a level and on conditions determined in those annual consultations. In relation to the main access arrangements, the Agreement also provides that the outcome of the consultations should normally result in each Party granting:
(a) access to fish stocks listed in the Annex to the Agreement - these are the stocks that are shared between the EU and UK at a level that is reasonably commensurate with the parties respective shares of the TACs;
(b) access to fish non-quota stocks in each others EEZ's at a level that at least equates to the average tonnage fished by that Party in the waters of the other Party during the period 2012-2016; and
(c) access to waters of the Parties between 6 and 12nm in ICES divisions 4c (southern North Sea and 7d-g (English Channel, south - west coast of England and part of south - east coast of Ireland) to the extent that Union fishing vessels and UK fishing vessels had access to these waters on 31 December 2020.
I have asked my Department to work to ensure that fishing vessels which traditionally fished in UK waters will be granted such access by the UK authorities.
While authorisation for access for all licensed and registered fishing vessels has been sought from the UK authorities, at this time, approval has been granted to tranches of fishing vessels which have been identified as requiring such access.
The UK Authorities authorised access on a staged basis initially on 31 December for 141 vessels which were identified, in consultation with the Producer Organisations, taking into account vessels that were most likely to fish in the first week of January. The vessels were identified in the days before the end of the year taking into account the Department's understanding of the fisheries and in consultation with the four Producer Organisations (Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation, Irish Fish Producers Organisation, Irish South & East Fish Producers Organisation and the Irish South & West Fish Producers Organisation).
Vessels targeting mackerel in the RSW Pelagic segment and in the Polyvalent segment were specifically identified because mackerel is fished only in UK waters at the start of the year. In addition, for the first tranche of 141 vessels, I understand that the POs identified vessels in their organisations which they were aware of as likely to fish in the start of the year in UK waters.
Since the 31st December 2020, further lists of Irish vessels have been sent to the Commission to request authorisation by the UK authorities for these vessels to fish in the 12- 200 nm UK EEZ based on licence holders who contacted the Department seeking such access and those that had fished in UK waters in 2019 or 2020 based on relevant records.
As of Monday 18th January, a total of 214 vessels have now received an authorisation from the Department for access to the 12-200 NM UK EEZ. Another list of six vessels, requesting authorisation to fish in the 12- 200 nm UK EEZ, was sent to the Commission on the evening of Friday 15th January. The Department awaits to hear from the Commission regarding the status of the request for these six vessels.
The Department is also considering how smaller fishing vessels that do not have a Vessel Monitoring System to record activity maybe appropriately identified and will be consulting the National Inshore Fisheries Forum in that regard.