Fish processors have accused the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) of being in breach of the Northern Ireland Protocol, following the latest development in the ongoing row over the weighing of pelagic fish in Killybegs.

Two fish processing companies in the port have had their permits to weigh fish in their factories revoked after a Norwegian vessel landed blue whiting in Derry and the fish were transported by road to Killybegs for processing on two occasions recently.

The skipper of the vessel decided against landing the fish in Killybegs, because of the method to be used by the SFPA to weigh it. He said it would be damaged and made unfit for human consumption.

The SFPA said the permit to weigh in-factory relates to 95% of bulk landings of pelagic fish, the remaining 5%, estimated at 30 catches annually, are subject to a full inspection, which includes supervising the weighing before transport of the catch to the processing factory.

RTÉ News has seen correspondence from the SFPA in relation to the withdrawal of the in-factory weigh permit of one company.

It states: "The SFPA remains of the view that the landing took place outside of Ireland as per the Control Plan."

"The indication by the SFPA that they cannot treat the ports of Northern Ireland as part of the Protocol arrangement is nothing short of shocking and is contrary to the Protocol and the Good Friday Agreement," said Aodh O'Donnell, Chief Executive of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO).

In a statement, the SFPA said that there has been no change in the fish weighing and landing arrangements between the Republic of Ireland and other jurisdictions as a result of Brexit.

It said that operators can choose to land a catch at a port in another jurisdiction before transporting and processing the catch in the Republic of Ireland.

"However, the catch must be weighed on landing pierside in the landing state before transportation to the Republic of Ireland.

"A Common Control Programme that would permit transport to the Republic of Ireland after a landing in Northern Ireland does not and has never existed."

Confirming the withdrawal of the permits, the SFPA said that "permitting establishments to weigh after transport at a processing facility following a landing in the Republic of Ireland is a significant exemption".

It added that it will not accept the misuse of the system, which it said hah the potential to jeopardise the EU approved exemption for the entire fishing and seafood processing sector.

"If this exemption is revoked, all 20,000 landings of pelagic and demersal fish annually could be required to be weighed pierside."

Brendan Byrne, CEO of the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association, said the two landings were signed off on by authorities in Derry.

He described the development as "shocking" and added that the actions of the SFPA have created a hard border in Ireland.

"We now witness an Irish control authority imposing a sanction against an Irish fish processor on the basis that Derry Port is not in Ireland, that the special status for Northern Ireland which applies EU rules, regulations and rights in addition to other jurisdictional rights does not apply, because Derry is not deemed to be in Ireland," he said.