Republic of Ireland news

Skipper calls on governments to sort out Rockall fishing row

Fishing crews from Greencastle in Inishowen depend on the waters around Rockall to survive in the industry. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

THE Donegal skipper of one of the first trawlers to return from disputed waters around Rockall has called on the Irish and Scottish governments to “sort out” a growing fisheries dispute.

Northern Celt skipper Adrian McClenaghan landed his catch at Greencastle at first light yesterday before his brother Hugh and a new crew set out to return to fishing grounds around Rockall.

An isolated Atlantic outcrop 260 miles west of the Co Donegal coast, Rockall has historically been at the centre of disputes involving Ireland, Scotland, Denmark and Iceland.

It is currently at the centre of a growing row between the Irish and Scottish authorities over who has rights to fish around it. The Scottish government has threatened to board Irish trawlers if they continue to fish within a 12-mile zone of the rocky outpost.

The Scottish claims have been rejected by the Republic's minster for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney who said the waters around Rockall are “EU fisheries”.

Mr McClenaghan said he was fishing near Rockall as he had done for years when he was informed of the row. The Donegal skipper said if the row is not settled soon, it could have a devastating impact on Irish fishing vessels.

“If a boat is seized, the first thing they do is value the gear – the nets and trawl doors - and catch and that's the starting point for any fine. You could be talking of between €50,000 and €100,000.”

The Donegal fisherman told The Irish News that the Irish government had pledged to cover any costs incurred by remaining in the disputed waters but refused to confirm the pledge in writing.

“If there's a court case it'll be me as owner who's before the courts and it'll be the EU courts not the local ones. If that happens, you'll have legal costs and the boat's sitting idle,” he said.

As his brother and a new five-man crew left Donegal last night, Mr McClenaghan said they were apprehensive about what lay ahead of them.

“We know there are behind-the-scenes talks going on but they'd need to get this sorted out sooner rather than later,” he said.

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