TALKS between Ireland and Scotland regarding disputed fishing territory around Rockall could lead to a “satisfactory agreement” without international intervention, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed has said.
The Minister expects high-level “engagement” on the diplomatic row to take place in the next few days and the issue to be resolved without international courts getting involved as EU Common Fishery Policy still applies to the territory pre-Brexit.
Issues around Irish vessels fishing within 12 nautical miles of Rockall — 230 nautical miles northwest of the Donegal coast — arose after the Scottish government surprisingly announced it would board Irish vessels fishing near the uninhabited islet.
The UK has claimed jurisdiction of the area since the 1950s but has never sought to prevent Irish vessels from fishing within the territory until now.
Minister Creed said he expects progress on the issue this week despite some Irish vessels defying the warning from Scottish authorities in the last few days.
“I think there will be engagement and I believe, as we speak, there is some movement on that and that will hopefully deliver a satisfactory outcome,” he said.
He added that claims by academics and legal experts that the UK may find favour with international courts on their exclusion zone due to ownership claims dating back almost 70 years do not hold sway as the island is not inhabited.
“We’ve never claimed jurisdiction, but we firmly believe the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas, article 121, does not give an uninhabited rock a 12-mile exclusive zone around it for fisheries,” he said.
“It’s not that Ireland have claimed jurisdiction. No previous Irish Government has, but it’s the fact that we dispute their claimed ownership gives them an exclusive zone around Rockall.
“The truth is, our boats have been boarded previously in that space by Marine Scotland doing the routine jobs of fishery enforcement in checking log books and meet EU Common Fisheries Policy and law.
“When they boarded previously, they never raised an issue around our right to be there in principle. It begs the question, ‘why now?’ We don’t believe they have the legal basis to do it,” he added.