Fishing industry fears UK will 'play hardball'
Irish fishing industry officials warned the Government and the EU that their sector must not become "a political football" in the increasingly bitter Brexit showdown between London and Brussels.
The plea came as one leading Waterford fishing executive warned the fear now is that the UK's decision to withdraw from the 1964 London Fisheries Convention and retake control of waters six to 12 miles from its coast is merely a sign of more serious things to come.
"The concern is whether this is only the thin end of the wedge and the UK's next move to play hardball with Brexit could be a similar stance on the 200-mile limit. That is the major concern," Caitlín Ní Aodha said.
"For the most part, we don't fish within the six to 12 mile limit (of the UK).
"The only real areas I can think of being impacted will be Morecambe Bay, which is used by some Irish fishermen.
"But it is the 200-mile limit that is the major concern because that is a critical issue for the Irish fishing fleet."
Ms Ní Aodha, who operates a 25-metre boat from Dunmore East, pointed out that Irish fishermen regularly use valuable prawn grounds at the Labadie Bank as well as the Jones and Smalls Banks fishing grounds in the south Irish Sea.
"We would urge both the Government and the EU to put the fishing industry and the rights of Irish fishermen at the top of the agenda in the Brexit talks," she said.
"We do not want fishing to be a political football in all of this."