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 subject to 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).
In relation to vessels targeting mackerel in the RSW Pelagic segment and in the Polyvalent segment, these 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, the Department has sent lists of Irish vessels to the Commission to request authorisation, by the UK authorities, for these vessels to fish in the 12- 200 nm UK EEZ based onlicence 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 today (Monday 15th February), a total of 243 vessels have received a UK licence and an authorisation from the Department for access to the12-200 NM UK EEZ.
The Department is currently inviting applications from the licence holders of Irish sea-fishing boats who wish to apply for access to fish in:
- the UK Exclusive Economic Zone (12-200 nautical miles only) and/or;
- the 0-6 nautical mile zone of Northern Ireland.
In this regard, a letter was issued on 10th February 2021 to the licence holders that had not already received a UK licence and Irish authorisation to fish in UK waters (12-200 NM UK EEZ).
Details regarding the application process are available on the Department's website at:
In relation to the vessel that the Deputy has made reference to in the Details Supplied, I have been informed that, from Friday 8th January 2021, this vessel has been approved to fish in UK waters (12-200 NM EEZ). This vessel was initially issued with a temporary licence by the UK Authorities to last until the 21st January 2021. This temporary licence has now been replaced with a 'full' UK licence that will expire on the 31st December 2021. Furthermore, in relation to this vessel, I can confirm the following:
- an initial temporary authorisation (with expiry date of 21st January 2021) was issued by the Department by email on 8th January 2021;
- a second temporary authorisation (with expiry date of 11th February 2021) was issued by the Department by email on 21st January 2021;
- the full yearly authorisation (with expiry date of 31st December 2021) was issued by the Department by email on 4th February 2021.