Irish Fishermen vs The Big Bear

The Irish are a stubborn lot. According to my DNA results from, I’m 85% Irish. I prefer to think of myself as determined, not stubborn, but my mother would have said pig-headed. I, however, contend that whatever you call it, determination, stubbornness or pig-headedness, it has served me well throughout my life.

If you don’t follow the news closely, perhaps you missed the story of the Russians conducting a live-fire exercise off the southwest coast of Ireland. You might ask yourself, “What the hell are the Russian warships doing off the coast of Ireland?” UKRAINE!!

“What?” you say, “I didn’t think Ireland was anywhere near Ukraine”

And, of course, it isn’t. But it IS the back door into Europe, and NATO countries. And what could interest the Russians, especially at this time? Could it be the Undersea Communications Cables that connect Europe with America?

In 2017 and again in 2021, a Russian Research ship (read Spy Ship) was spotted off the Irish coast. This ship carries submersibles and it is suspected that they were used to plant listening devices on the undersea cables. The submersibles are also capable of cutting the cables, which could interfere or even eliminate internet connections to all of Europe. Perhaps, after all, they were Research ships researching the possibility of interrupting NATO communication? And, of course, a large part of spying is research.

Nearly 8 years after annexing part of Ukraine, the Bear is growling again, flexing his muscles on the northeast border of Ukraine. And conducting a show of force with a live-fire exercise at Europe’s back door.

So, what do the fishermen have to do with this story? Well, the Russian Navy planned to conduct the exercise in international waters, which start at around 12 Nautical Miles, but within the EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone), which is set at 200 Nautical Miles from the coast. The Russian ships were at about 130 Nautical Miles off the coast, well within the EEZ. The EEZ gives the country (in this case, Ireland) exclusive rights to the waters, the sea floor and all natural resources (basically fish).

Perhaps this story resonates with me because I remember back in the early 60’s that huge Russian trawlers with enormous refrigeration space were fishing off the coast of Boston, where I grew up. We would see them when we went to the market in Scully Square to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. We would also go to the docks where the fishermen would wometimes give us haddock for free. The haddock was so plentiful they could afford to give some away. I also remember when the Russians over-fished the area and the price of haddock skyrocketed!

Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, in speaking with Yury Filatov, the Russian Ambassador to Ireland, “made it clear that it’s not welcome. This isn’t the time to increase military activity and tension in the context of what’s happening with and in Ukraine at the moment.” Filatov’s response was that the ships were in international waters and had every right to be there.

Yury, however, hadn’t counted on the determination (stubbornness) of Irish fishermen. The live-fire exercise was scheduled to take place in the same area where the fishermen make their living.

There is a quota for catching fish and just last year, because of a Brexit deal between the EU and the UK, Ireland’s quota has been cut by 15%, with more cuts to come. The fishermen could ill afford to take days off while the Russians play war games in their fishing grounds. The fishermen held a demonstration protesting the cuts, but it came to nothing. They felt abandoned by their government.  And now, the Russians telling the fishermen that it would be too dangerous to be in the area where they’d be playing at war! Enough!!

Patrick Murphy, CEO of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation, took the fishermen’s case to National media, vowing to peacefully disrupt the exercise by simply doing what they do, i.e fishing. “It’s our livelihood” It’s our waters” said Murphy, “and we plan to be there.”  The story caught international attention and after blowing off the Irish Foreign Minister, Filatov, himself, invited the fishermen to come to the Russian Embassy and state their case. No doubt because of the potential for adverse world opinion, the exercise was moved out of the EEZ. Fishermen are fishing and not having to dodge missiles.

RESULT: Stubborn Irish 1   The Russian Bear 0

11 replies on “Irish Fishermen vs The Big Bear”

Great story, Mary. A retired U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander, Ralph Day, of Irish descent and member of the National Commandery (i.e. Washington, D.C.) of the Naval Order of the United States has the following statement at the end of his emails:
“I was always taught that being Irish is not about drinking beer or whiskey. It’s being a person of faith, forgiveness and fortitude, strength and passion that comes from this unforgiving yet beautiful culture.” BRAVO ZULU for the Irish Fishermen for standing their ground against the Russians.

Thanks for the comment John. Of course, you’re right! With 8 ships (mostly Patrol types, and a whole lot of fishing boats with courageous captains, they certainly do have a navy!

With a crazy man in charge of the Russian military it makes today not that different than the time your story took place. A different location on the globe but same scenario.

Thanks for the comment Becky. This incident actually took place last week! The Russians were to start their exercise yesterday (3 Feb 2022).

Hi Mary, it’s not only good, but interesting & informative. BTW I’m back. Haven’t felt like going online for a while. Sorry. I’m OK(more or less). I think it’s more mental than physical. Take care Patty

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