Rockall dispute: Irish fishermen defiant despite Scottish warning | News | DW | 09.06.2019
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Rockall dispute: Irish fishermen defiant despite Scottish warning

Irish trawlers are continuing to fish around the Atlantic Ocean islet despite Scotland warning that it would send patrols. Dublin doesn't recognize Britain's sovereignty of the rock, but has never claimed it for itself.

Irish fishing vessels have ignored a warning of "enforcement action" from Scotland's government against "illegal" trawling in a 19-kilometer (12-mile) fishing zone around a tiny disputed islet in the Atlantic Ocean.

Irish public broadcaster RTE reported on Sunday that Irish skippers were continuing to fish around Rockall, a small uninhabitable rock that the British government claimed 64 years ago. The broadcaster said the Irish trawlers had no intention of leaving the area.

"Our boats are inside that [exclusion zone] at the moment and they are going to continue fishing there," John D O'Kane of a fishermen's co-operative in Greencastle, the closest Irish port to Rockall, told RTE.

Fiona Hyslop, Scotland's cabinet secretary for external affairs, vowed this week to send patrol vessels to the area after noticing an increase in activity from Irish vessels, which she said was unlawful.

Hyslop wrote to her Irish counterpart on Friday warning that the country would protect its fishing zone around Rockall, which lies 420 kilometers (260 miles) off Scotland's Western Isles and Ireland's County Donegal coast.

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Infografik Karte Rockall Insel EN

Ireland doesn't recognize Britain's claim to Rockall but has never sought sovereignty for itself. The government insists, however, that the waters around Rockall form part of Irish waters under the European Union's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

'No reason to exclude Irish trawlers'

"Ireland's position has been strongly made that there is no basis for excluding Irish fishing vessels from the Rockall waters as they are legitimately pursuing EU fishing opportunities in these waters and have done so unhindered for decades," a statement from the Irish government said on Friday.

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Michael Creed, Ireland's minister for agriculture, food and the marine, said although the government had tried to avoid a standoff with Scotland, he had "no option but to put our fishing industry on notice of the stated intention of the Scottish government."

The Scottish Fishermen's Federation, meanwhile, backed its government's proposed action.

"The area is recognized in UK law as part of Scottish territorial waters and hosts multimillion-pound haddock, monkfish and squid fisheries that are hugely important to our fleet," Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the SFF, said in a statement.

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Move emboldens Scottish fishermen

"The Scottish government is right to impose compliance, full stop. But at a time when we are moving toward independent coastal state status it lays down a benchmark for the future," he added, referring to Britain's exit from the EU, which will see it operate outside the CFP.

Fewer than 20 people have ever set foot on the isolated Atlantic islet, among them the British navy, which hoisted the Union flag in 1955. In 1972, the British government declared Rockall part of Scotland.

As Rockall cannot sustain human habitation or economic life, the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) does not allow the claimant to establish an exclusive economic zone, which includes the exploitation of natural resources such as fish.

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