Irish fishermen planning to peacefully disrupt Russian naval exercises

Irish fishermen planning to peacefully disrupt Russian naval exercises

FISHERMEN IN the southwest of the country have expressed their opposition to planned Russian navy military exercises off the coast of Ireland.

As reported over the weekend, the Russian navy plans to complete exercises between 3 February and 8 February within Ireland's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) 240km southwest of Cork.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney yesterday briefed his European counterparts on the issue, and said the exercises were not welcome.

Now, an organisation of fishermen has spoken about the impact the planned exercises may have on their livelihoods and marine life in the area.

Speaking to The Skipper, a leading journal of the industry, CEO of Irish South & West Fish Producers Organisation said they plan to peacefully intervene to disrupt the Russian activity being discussed.

"It is our understanding that live fire exercises cannot take place if there are vessels engaged in fishing in the area so we are discussing with our vessels owners and skippers a plan aimed towards concentrating the West Cork and Kerry offshore fishing fleet to undertake a peaceful protest at the military exercise location proposed by the Russians," he said.

An aircraft exclusion zone has been announced for the area, but a similar marine notice has not been issued.

"We have not received any marine notice that prevents us from fishing this area that is situated inside our sovereign waters.

"We regard our Members, as multi generational fishing families, to be guardians and custodians of our waters and support them in their efforts to protect and save this wonderful resource for future Irish generations to come."

Following up on the organisation's plans on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Murphy described the impact the exercises can have on the marine life in the area.

"What we're planning is to try and protect the biodiversity and all marine life in that area," he said.

"We see many studies about noise pollution and the effects on whales and dolphins. Reports from whale and dolphin groups show that they are being beached because of interference with their sonar and the way that they communicate.

"There's seismic activity out there for years and it actually changed the migratory patterns of tuna at one stage. If we're fishing there then theses vessels shouldn't be having war games."

He mentioned Brexit negotiations which reduced the catchment quota of fishermen in the area by 25%

"We feel that this is serious. This is the livelihoods of fishermen and fishing families all along the coastline.

"Let me put it to you this way; can you imagine if the Russian were planning to go on to the mainland of Ireland to go launching rockets? How far would they get with that?

"It's no different for fishermen. This is our ground, this is our farm and this is where we earn our living. Why should somebody be able to come in and do that in our waters?"

Murphy finished by clarifying that the fishermen are not going to face down the Russian ships, but said they "definitely want to make a point here."

We're not going to face down the boats, but we definitely want to make a point here.

Yury Filatov, the Russian ambassador to Ireland, said yesterday that the controversy surrounding the exercises has been "hugely overblown" and that it is a "non-story".