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Representation in Ireland
Factsheet6 April 2019

Ireland lost control of its fisheries when it joined the EU

It’s a common myth that Ireland lost control of its fisheries when it joined the EU back in 1973, but the facts and figures show that this is just a misconception.

As an island nation, fishing is important both culturally and economically to Ireland’s coastal communities.

It’s a common myth that Ireland lost control of its fisheries when it joined the EU back in 1973, but the facts and figures show that this is just a misconception.

Data from the extensive Sea Around Us (link is external) project shows that the catch value from Irish waters from 1950-1973 before Ireland joined the EU was $4.8 billion.

However, after becoming a Member State the figure rose to $11.9 billion between 1973 and 2004.

Up to 1973, Ireland took just 12% of the catch from Irish waters. This figure increased to as much as 40%, and averaged out at 30%, after joining the EU.

Part of the reason for 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 Exclusive Economic Zone (link is external) (EEZ) was extended from 12 to 200 miles, and the EU paid for four new fisheries protection vessels so we could patrol our own waters.

The fact is, that during much of the 20th century relentless fishing and marine pollution pushed some fish stocks to the brink of extinction.

Sustainable fishing is now become a matter of survival – not just for fish stocks, but for fishing communities too.

The interests of Irish fishermen, fishing communities, the environment and consumers of fish products are supported through the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

The CFP not only promotes and implements measures for sustainable fishing, it also supports the economic health of impacted fishing communities as well as initiatives that protect the marine environment from threats such as climate change and the dumping of plastics in our oceans.

Ireland plays an active role in shaping the CFP and has a voice when it comes to proposing legislation.

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