MPs have accused the government of “coasting” on its plans for the future of the Northern Ireland fishing industry after Brexit.
The Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee at Westminster has written to Fisheries Secretary Michael Gove to outline specific concerns.
These included a “crushing” shortage of workers, illegal oyster farming in Lough Foyle, and the suspension of fishing rights in inland waters in the Irish Republic.
The MPs on the committee said they are disappointed with the government’s response to an inquiry into the future of the industry here.
Committee chairman Andrew Murrison said: “The government is coasting on its plans for Northern Ireland’s fisheries post-Brexit.
“Key challenges remain unsolved such as the crushing shortage of labour, illegal oyster farming in Lough Foyle and Ireland’s continued suspension of fishing rights under the Voisinage Arrangement.”
On the shortage of manpower, the committee recommended “a time limited immigration concession for non-EU fishing crew” and “a new visa pathway for the crewing of fishing boats by non-EU nationals” as a more long-term solution.
The committee also stresses the need for “timescales” to be introduced “immediately” to resolve long-standing issues such as the territorial claims on Lough Foyle.
The Foyle sits between Co Londonderry in Northern Ireland and Co Donegal in the Republic and has been a disputed territory since 1922 with both the UK and Irish governments laying claim to it as part of its territory.
It criticises the lack of urgency on the suspension of the Voisinage Arrangement – a long-standing agreement permitting fishing vessels from Northern Ireland and Ireland reciprocal access to each other’s territorial waters.
“The government has ignored the committee’s suggested deadlines and instead simply reiterated that it is working towards resolution of these issues,” the committee said.
The committee also said it was “encouraged” by work on securing the future of Lough Neagh eel fishing. An export license will be required after Brexit.