Hard border emerging on the high seas

Rockall might be in the middle of nowhere, but it's a rock with multiple claims on its ownership


By Anthony Neeson

An Irish fishing trawler was boarded by a Scottish fisheries patrol vessel with the crew warned about fishing near Rockall.

Situated in the North Atlantic, Rockall is claimed by the British, but this has never been recognized by Ireland. Although it is only 25 meters wide and 31 meters long, it is surrounded by rich fishing waters.

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The skipper of the Northern Celt, based out of County Donegal, said he was ordered to leave the 12-nautical-mile zone around the rock by officers of Marine Scotland.

This is the first fishing dispute between the UK and the EU since Britain left the EU at the start of the month.

Skipper Adrian McClenaghan said: “They informed us that we could no longer fish inside the 12-mile limit of Rockall.”

An Irish government spokesperson said: “We are in contact with the Scottish and UK authorities on this.”

A Scottish government spokesperson confirmed the incident.

“One Irish vessel was routinely inspected outside of territorial waters around Rockall. The master requested clarification on the access rights granted by his license to fish in UK waters.”

This is not the only dispute over fishing to arise out of Brexit.

Last week, the Irish Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority placed harbors on notice that vessels registered in Northern Ireland could no longer land their catches in all but two harbors in the Republic.

This led Fine Gael Senator Seán Kyle to claim that it made Brexit more challenging for coastal communities.

“From speaking to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, I understand that the new restriction is due to a long-standing regulation that vessels from third party countries can only land at international ports.

“This is unacceptable and places jobs and livelihoods at other ports around our coast, such as Rossaveal in Connemara and Greencastle in Donegal, at risk. Every effort needs to be made to change this rule so that UK trawlers can land catches at other ports.”

Fisherman Darrin McAvenue fishes out of Greencastle in County Donegal, although his boat is registered in Northern Ireland because he “fished in Northern Ireland waters around the north coast."

When he docked in his home harbor of Greencastle he was told by Sea Fisheries Protection Authority that that he had “broken the law by entering a southern port."

“I’m still in shock. The last couple of years we have been told there is no hard border, then this,” he told BBC Radio Foyle.