Ireland and the CFP
Catch value data collated by a US academic fisheries impact project shows that Ireland has benefited significantly from being an EU Member State.
The Sea Around Us Project, based at the University of British Columbia, collected data for Irish waters from 1950 to 2004 that dispels the myth that Ireland lost out on Irish fish catches to the rest of the EU after we became a Member State.
Calculated in US dollars at year 2000 prices, the value of all fish extracted from Irish waters from 1950 to 2004 is $16.8 billion. Before we joined the EU the catch value from 1950 to 1973 was $4.8 billion and after we became a Member State it was $11.9 billion between 1973 and 2004.
Up to 1973, Ireland took just 12% of the catch from Irish waters. After becoming an EU state the share rose to as much as 40%, and averaged out at 30%.
The French catch from Irish waters, on the other hand, halved from 42% before we joined the EU to 21% in 2004 – and it continues to decline.
The Russians, who used to hoover up another 20% of Irish fish, are now virtually excluded from our waters. Since we joined the EU, they have managed a paltry 3.7%, most of which was in the years 1973-1977, before the Irish Marine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) was formally defined.
Part of the reason for the low Irish catches prior to EU membership was our inability to patrol Irish waters, and the lack of legal recognition for the exclusivity of those waters beyond the 12 mile limit.
That changed in 1976, when the Irish Marine EEZ was extended from 12 to 200 miles, and the EU paid for four new fisheries protection vessels - the LE Deirdre, the Emer, the Aoife and the Aisling – so we could patrol our own waters.
The US data shows that the Irish fish catch has never been more than 1.25% of GDP. In fact, since the late 1970s, the whole value of fish taken from Irish waters has never exceeded 2% of Irish GDP in any year, and was only worth a quarter of a percentage point of our 2004 GDP.
The figures indicate that at no point before becoming an EU Member State were we ever a viable fishing nation, even if we had succeeded in taking absolutely every fish caught in Irish waters for ourselves.