Fishermen planning to disrupt Russian military exercises off the southwest coast say they could impact fish stocks for years to come.
The Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (ISWFPO) is due to meet with the Russian Ambassador Yury Filatov today after announcing plans to protest the exercises.
Russia has informed Ireland that it plans to carry naval exercises in waters around 240km off the southwest coast in early February.
The area is within Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) but not her territorial waters.
The government has informed Moscow that the plans are unwelcome and the Foreign Affairs Minister has warned his European counterparts about them.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, ISWFPO Chief Patrick Murphy said that, while this is not the first time military exercises have been carried out in the area, it is the first time the use of live missiles was flagged with fishermen in advance.
“We don’t agree with military exercises in biologically sensitive areas that could damage the stocks because if the scientist think there is damage there, they will give a precautionary approach on the advice and they will cut the stocks,” he said.
“That will be less fish for us to catch not this year but next year and in the years to come.
“That will have a huge detrimental effect on the earning power of the men and women who are risking their lives any day of the week when they go to sea. It is a dangerous environment.”
He said the meeting with the Russian is a “real positive” for the fishermen.
“We are getting to meet the Russian Ambassador – the face, the voice and the ears of Russia [in Ireland],” he said.
“He is ging to listen to our concerns and hopefully, if he agrees with our concerns, he will take them back to the administration in Russia and maybe change or adapt the planned military exercises that will limit if not eradicate the danger our boats will be under outside when they are trying to make their living.”
Yesterday, the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told Newstalk that the Government supports the right to peaceful protest – but warned the fishermen that they are dealing with the Russian Navy and should “take care not to yourself at unnecessary risk”.
Mr Murphy said a marine notice issued yesterday warning fishermen to avoid the area was “right notice was sent to the wrong people”.
“There was a Marine Notice No. 6 of 2022 brought out last night telling boats to avoid going there because of collision dangers,” he said.
“The actual situation is we are going there first. Their boats will come afterwards.
“If they are coming to where we are going fishing, it isn’t us in their way. It is them coming in to create the danger. So, the right notice was sent to the wrong people.”
The notice makes clear that Russia has “indicated that the exercises will include the use of naval artillery and launching of rockets”.
It reminds all mariners of their responsibility under the International Regulations for Prevention of Collisions at Sea (COLREGS).