Three Things: Irish Fish Stew

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

Looks like Russia decided to move its planned naval war games away from Ireland’s fisheries. Bonus: CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan got to make a trip home to interview Irish fishermen.

(Is it me or did Donie’s accent regain a bit of its strength?)

There are three points about the Irish fishery versus Russian navy story which have struck me as odd and worth more examination:

~ 3 ~

Watch CNN’s videos at the Twitter thread shared above. Doesn’t it strike you as unusual that a Russian diplomat would work directly with an Irish fishing industry representative Patrick Murphy, CEO of the Irish South & West Fish Producers Organisation, rather than the diplomatic arm of the Irish government as well as the UK since Irish and UK waters abut each other?

Granted, most U.S. newspapers painted this as Russia being discouraged but what does this scenario look like to the Irish?

Is it possible Donie himself missed a potential influence operation at work?

This clip from an Irish news media outlet doesn’t pointedly say that Russia bypassed Ireland and the European Union, or that the Irish and the European Union ignored Russian diplomats, but the wording suggests Irish diplomatic service and EU’s diplomats may not have been involved directly in the negotiations with Russia’s foreign ministry and navy (at 0:29 in the video).

The Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney tweeted last night that he had written this past week to Russia about the naval war games’ planned location:

But the timing of Russia’s response to the Minister for Foreign Affairs seems secondary to the meeting between the Irish fishery industry’s representative and Russia’s diplomat.

~ 2 ~

The 150-mile reference used in most reporting as the range of Irish fisheries from the Irish coast doesn’t make sense, the first reason being the use of an imperial measurement rather than metric like kilometers and the second being the location of the Irish fisheries.

The area of concern is much wider than 150 miles from the coast; as you can see for comparison from this Google Map below, the linear distance between Dublin and Plymouth UK is a little less than 220 miles.

The Irish fisheries are at least as wide as that distance from the west coast of Ireland.

Both Ireland and Russia are parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which spells out the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for each country. The Irish fisheries are part of that EEZ denoted in the outlined area in the first map above.

Russian vessels would have to make a very large swing around UK waters to get close to the southern Irish fishery while avoiding Ireland’s EEZ.

~ 1 ~

No matter what the buzz about Russia’s navy moving further away from the Irish coast, there’s no way Russian vessels can maneuver around Ireland and the United Kingdom without crossing submarine communications cables.

As you can see, a majority of the submarine cables south of Ireland run to North America, and most of them to the U.S.

The suggestion that the Russian Navy might cut communications cables – accidentally or not — while in waters south of Ireland during a military exercise was an implied threat to the U.S. and the Big Tech companies which have data farms in Ireland. Facebook, Google, and Microsoft have facilities in and around Dublin; Apple has been working on a planned data farm near Galway though construction hasn’t started.

The threat also targets NATO since Ireland is dual represented by itself and EU member nations as parties to the UNCLOS. Under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, an attack on a member nation is an attack on NATO.

Where it gets messy: Ireland is not a member of NATO though Northern Ireland is as part of the United Kingdom.

Is this why the Russian diplomatic service talked directly with Irish fishermen, to avoid getting NATO into the mix?

Was it part of a Russian influence operation to be perceived as open to non-NATO countries?

~ 0 ~

Speaking of Irish fisheries, I found a recipe for Seafood Chowder from the Renvyle House Hotel in Connemara, County Galway I want to try as I have scallops, salmon, and some lake trout in the freezer which I need to use.

It’s a lot like the Finnish stew kalamojakka my mom makes. Well, right up to the brandy.

Sláinte mhath!

56 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    The Russians negotiated with the Irish fishermen for one simple reason: the fishermen were the ones who were threatening to be in their way.

    Yes, it’s unusual, but so is having a bunch of commercial fishermen threaten a group of foreign military vessels.

    It could also reflect the fact that the Russian Navy didn’t bring the Russian foreign ministry into it on their side of things until after they decided to back off.

    • emptywheel says:

      Yeah, and the Irish foreign minister did later speak to Russia.

      My read on this is quite different. First, Russia is treating this entire affair as an issue between it and the US (and its UK sidekick). An EU country–especially a neutral one–standing up to Russia was not foreseen.

      And as soon as it became clear that Russia was pushing a key neutral space towards NATO, it had to back off.

      • emptywheel says:

        One more point: One reason the exercise was within Irish EEZ is bc that’s before the cables drop off.

        At some point they would not be as accessible.

        • Bardi says:

          I wonder if SWIFT uses those cables, as in, if we, Russia, is sanctioned from SWIFT, then nobody can use SWIFT?

          Ms. Wheeler, thank you for your posts and comments. I know this particular post is from Rayne but you have quite an intellectual group here.

          • Rayne says:

            I don’t see Russia wanting to damage the very thing to which they want to maintain access.

            If there was intent to cause economic disruption via submarine cables, SWIFT would be deprecated as a concern.

            • earthworm says:

              “I don’t see Russia wanting to damage the very thing to which they want to maintain access.”
              yeah, exactly (in jest) — why would the Russians want to halt Emptywheel’s dispatches? that’s how we all learn what the US gov’t is doing.

        • Rayne says:

          Ireland’s EEZ does roughly follow the continental plate but the cables are still accessible between the end of the EEZ and continental plate using ROVs. Example:
          [Image via GeoTel]

          • John Paul Jones says:

            Caveat: this comment relies on the Maddow show, and yeah, she tends to inflate stories a bit too much for my taste, but…..

            Her early reporting on this linked the naval exercises to two incidents last year where Norway had undersea data cables cut and which were (speculatively, because there is no CCTV at the bottom of the ocean) linked to Russia. Noted also that the Russians “visited” Irish waters last year with the very vessel which supposedly contains the cable-cutting ROVs. So yeah, there was speculation that the naval exercises might be a cover for cable cutting.

          • Geoguy says:

            I couldn’t see your example of ROV access so I looked at charts at It looks like Ireland’s EEZ extends past the Irish Continental Margin and well into the Porcupine Abyssal Plain to the southwest where the water is at least 12,000 feet deep. The big cluster of cables from the SW follow the Porcupine Seabight which is a submarine valley from the abyss to the plain.

        • Theodora30 says:

          What I find odd about this story is that the US media has mostly ignored it even though Norway recently has had cables capable of detecting submarines cut.
          The Irish fishermen brought attention to this story in Ireland and other European countries which is why I think the ambassador met with them. Putin wanted an end to the bad publicity — or maybe just publicity in general.

      • emptywheel says:

        Republic of Ireland’s population is half that of Michigan, so everything that feels state-wide at MI would be nation-wide here. There’s literally no defense establishment at all, and the Navy is 200 people short of being able to properly staff their 9 ships.

        Meanwhile, fisherman have been aggressively fighting about their fishing grounds since Brexit.

        So it all makes sense when you think of it like that.

  2. Badger Robert says:

    Its a miracle there are still Irish fisherman, after what the English tired to do.
    But still, Colin Farrell and Ondine, and as we see. they are still there after all these centuries.

  3. Rugger9 says:

    I think there is a deeper message here in the apparent refusal to discuss this with the diplomats first (especially considering the larger EU interests). It might be worth asking if the Russians have a Status of Forces Agreement or basing agreements with Eire, because such a legal construct allows this kind of bypass. However, nothing I have seen from either side has made it into the reporting which would indicate there is a deal. It is not outside the realm of possibilities, though, given the distrust between Eire and the UK (with a lot of valid reasons for it) that the Russians would work out an “enemy of your enemy” kind of deal.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    As you say, the 150-mile reference makes no obvious sense. The UNCLOS has a 12-mile territorial limit, not applicable here, in which the state has complete sovereignty, and a 200-mile EEZ, in which the state has exclusive rights to exploit natural resources in the sea and on the seabed (subject to non-interference with shipping on international waters – navigable waters outside the territorial limit). The EEZ is often, but not necessarily, contiguous with the continental shelf. Large foreign naval operations in the EEZ would certainly pose a risk to Ireland exploiting its fisheries.

    Where states’ EEZ’s overlap, the UK and Ireland, for example, they split the difference between the two or more countries involved. (A sometimes complex matter, when coastlines undulate and “natural” islands extend national boundaries. See, e.g., the controversies in the South China Sea.)
    The press seems to have focused on Russian surface ships. I haven’t heard much discussion about submarines and submersibles (manned and drones), which could operate independently and over the seabed on which these cables lie.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      In any case, Russia’s objectives here appear to include the principal one it achieved in backing Trump – chaos and disruption in the West, which creates multiple opportunities to exploit.

      • Al Ostello says:


        Even if Putin fails to invade in 10 yrs…he accomplishes his terrorist goal. Amazing that his own people have yet to turn that seat over one way or another.

    • Rayne says:

      Submarines’ use in naval war games haven’t received as much attention as they should have given Russia’s recent development, testing, and release of the Poseidon Status-6 unmanned underwater vehicle and the Vityaz-D autonomous underwater vehicle, the latter of which handles great depths and is already in service.

      • silcominc says:

        What about jamming? Instead of cutting cables, why not just jam their signal. If they can do that, then Putin moves ahead on creating chaos and confusion – which seems to be a goal.

          • Rugger9 says:

            It’s worth observing that the cables can carry much higher volumes of traffic than pinging off satellites so while there would be work-arounds the loss would be significant. That’s even before the Russians muck around with the satellites.

        • Scott Johnson says:

          “Jamming” a signal in a cable, without physically damaging the cable, is rather hard to do. I suppose they could go down to the bottom of the ocean with a giant RF choke and strap it on… but the whole point of a cable is that a) signal power is kept within the conduit, rather than radiating out everywhere, and b) outside interference (both natural and artificial) is greatly attenuated.

          My suspicion is that the Irish sea exercises are, at this time, meant as a threat, not as any sort of cover for an operation to attack the cables–a declaration that “we could do this”. The satellite business a few months back, same. Occasionally one hears discussion of NATO destroying (or at least rendering inoperable) the Nordstream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea, especially Nordstream 2 which IIRC is not yet in operation, and a pose “if you destroy that, we’ll destroy this” may be designed to neuter that threat.

  5. graham firchlis says:

    Regards #2, the distances cited under the Law of the Sea are by treaty measured in Nautical miles, not Imperial, standard or metric units. Ships at sea measure speed in knots – Nautical miles per hour – rather than mph or kph. One Nautical mile is approximately 1.151 standard miles.

    • Rayne says:

      Which is roughly 172 imperial miles — the distance from shore to the limit of the EEZ appears wider than 172 nautical or 150 imperial miles.

      What hasn’t been addressed is where outside the range discussed in media will the Russian navy hold their exercises after all? Did the discussion simply push them farther out to sea where it may be more difficult to monitor their activities.

      • graham firchlis says:

        Ireland’s EEZ extends 500 NM west and northwest, 200 NM southwest and south. The boundary eastward is attenuated after compromise negotiations with neighboring nations.

        No clue why “150 miles” would ever be cited.

        Wherever the Russians exercise, we and the UK will have eyes in the sky and ears undersea. We’ll know what they do as they do it, wherever.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          As always, it’s a little more complicated. That Irish claim to a 500nm EEZ to its W and NW is disputed.

          The EEZ includes sovereign rights to resources in the water column, and on and under the seabed. It extends 200 nm from shore (at mean low tide), except where it meets the claims of a neighboring state, in which case, the EEZ is usually negotiated to be the midpoint between competing claims.

          Exclusive rights to resources on and under the seabed can extend further, up to 350nm or the limit of the legal continental shelf, whichever occurs first. Those rights do not include sovereign rights to resources in the water column, eg, fish. The difference is illustrated in how competing rights to fisheries and oil resources are delineated in the North Sea and in the Bight of Biafra.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Yes, a 200-nautical mile EEZ boundary would be about 230 statute miles from shore (without regard to where EEZs overlap and reduce that distance).

      In any case, Russia would seem to be introducing more chaos now, with the potential for actively interfering in cable traffic now and in the future. I would note that a common tactic is to set up an op, then activate it later, when you no longer have an obvious presence. It introduces proof problems and extends the period of potential chaos.

  6. Jon says:

    This looks like a win-win story to me. Plucky Irish fisher folk proved that people power works, and sent the bad guys packing. The Russians proved reasonable. And the politicians didn’t screw it up.

    Lucky the Russians didn’t try to dip any nets, or there would have been real hell to pay.

    The reality is that Russia could readily disrupt undersea cables from a distant surface location, or from submarine launched resources. In some ways they’d have better deniability than if any disruption happened directly beneath their maritime exercises. Regardless where this was Russia’s intent on locating their exercises, the fact that they have the ability to disrupt communications has been amply made – though it surely did not previously escape the notice of NATO leadership or European politicians.

    All in all, this kerfluffle has been handled rather adroitly by all parties, and it suggests that the Ukraine conflict might also be defused, providing if enough actors are willing to ratchet down the tensions and provocations.

    • Scott Johnson says:

      Some of this, of course, is for show; in order to influence public opinion in the West.

      The US military is certainly quite well aware of a) the capabilities of the Russians, and b) the locations of critical infrastructure that may be vulnerable to attack. My general assumption is that US submarines are patrolling there already, and other key pieces of infrastructure that might be endangered but haven’t been the subject of a veiled public threat, are also being watched.

      • Jon says:

        Well, sure, Putin wants to get as much as possible to advance his priorities, with the minimum effort, risk and cost. And it costs little to move the exercises and gets him some good press. Much of what he does is posturing for effect, but we’ve also seen many times when he has taken quite aggressive kinetic action to secure those goals, and he has generally been rather successful in that. The US has very good submarine assets, but they can’t be everywhere all the time, they won’t identify every incidence of Russian mischief, and we will be in a worse place if subs start facing off against each other right now. Russia would love to have an incident to manufacture into a cassus belli and claim justification for aggression.

    • Molly Pitcher says:

      You surely do not believe that this is over ? I would say that is a very optimistic view of the situation.

    • Rayne says:

      LOL okay, glad to know you have this all solved. Let me know when you get done moving those +100,000 Russian troops and equipment away from the Russia-Ukraine border.

  7. Raven Eye says:

    Nautical miles are the unit used in many international treaties and agreements — especially for territorial waters, economic zones (fisheries and mineral rights), etc. Also for international flight distances.

  8. Spencer Dawkins says:

    I had been paying some attention to this story anyway, but had no idea of the potential number of moving parts that people commenting are pointing to, and explaining their thoughts plausibly. Fascinating. But I think Rayne nailed it, when referring to possible Russian influence operations twice in the diary.

    I don’t think Putin’s Russians EVER do anything just for sh*ts and grins, so we’re left with trying to guess what they hope to achieve, and it’s rare in our modern world that they would not have at least once plausible goal – things are just too complicated.

  9. Troutwaxer says:

    One of the things embassies do is strive to create good trade-relations between countries, including engaging with industry leaders in the countries where they’re based. So while I’m generally suspicious of Putin, I’m not sure there’s a lot going on here.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Lindsey Graham’s praise for shortlisted S.Ct. candidate Michelle Childs is praise for a home state candidate and fellow alumna from the University of So. Carolina. If so, he should support her nomination to the DC Circuit or the Supremes.

    I would guess, though, that the putrid Graham is also throwing sand into the nomination gearworks, knowing that she’s probably not the preferred choice for the Supremes, but that the conservative Democrat Jim Clyburn is pushing her candidacy.

    Strangely, Graham’s nominal position is better than that of his GOP colleagues. They are either overtly racist (Wicker) or offended (Collins) that Biden is considering race (and gender) among his selection criteria – impliedly, instead of competence. That formulation is itself overtly racist, given the overwhelming dominance of white men among prior nominees.

    Lost among the GOP horse manure, assuredly intentionally, is that all of the mentioned shortlisted candidates are profoundly qualified for the S.Ct. Where they are different lies in their ages, personal characteristics, work histories, and politics. Three of these are supposedly verboten topics when considering federal judicial appointees, but they are fundamental when deciding who will have a lifetime appointment to judge all the rest of us.

    • bmaz says:

      Note that Childs was already previously nominated for the DC Circuit, and she should be confirmed for that. She is nowhere on the level of KBJ and Kruger.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I agree. Her nomination to the DC Circuit is on hold until Biden announces his S.Ct. pick. On this, as on much else before the mid-terms, momentum is everything. Let’s keep this ball rolling.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      It seems that Childs’s background as a partner at a firm whose strength was rabid pro-employer labor relations (a redundant description) ought not put her at the top of any S.Ct. short list. The courts are full of such perspectives. What’s absent is a history of representing labor. Clyburn should feel lucky Biden already nominated her to the DC Circuit.

  11. notjonathon says:

    Amid NYT reports that Trump asked Rudy to get the Dept. of Homeland Security to seize voting machines, how fragile is our democracy that it depended on Ken Cuccinelli to refuse?

  12. Leoghann says:

    As I am wont to do, I look at this Fishermen vs Red Navy matchup in psychological terms. (Caveat: Rayne has made a few of these points.)

    The war games, as planned, was a great big “fuck you” to Great Britain, and, through them, to the US, as well as NATO, which seems to be Putin’s obsession right now. With Ireland being neutral, and not a member of NATO, that leaves them in the category of “people we speak to” for Putin. It’s definitely a dig at NATO, and several of their stronger nations.

    In this episode, Russia is negotiating with the little guy, the Irish Fishermen, and leaving the Big Guys behind. So this is their Good Cop, while they’re being Bad Cop in Ukraine. It also matters not one whit to the Russian navy where they hold their war games, so this outcome just means they will move their operations somewhere close by. They probably already had plans for that.

    Regarding the 150-mile thing, that could be just a simple typo, or a misspoken word for someone. The comparative distance pointed out on the map is a straight-line distance. But the reference may have been to road distance, which can be considerably longer–there’s a small mountain town in this county that is ten highway miles from the nearest city, although it’s only four miles as the crow flies.

  13. mospeck says:

    go ahead and cut the cables, vlad.

    Yea, we all gotta piece of the devil inside (anyway, I for sure do). But vlad seems to have an extremely larger piece. And so, a lot like the one ring, it gets him into thinking that he’s maybe infuckingvulnerable and can join 30M young Ukrainians into his new iron curtain xmas party (goodluck with that). Yea, it’s the devil in me, but I’m rooting for attack by his 30k (in joint exercises with that genius lukashenko 10-20 Feb) storming straight across 670 mi of mainly unguarded marshland with advanced special forces to Kyiv. Come as you are with Iskander hit anywhere rockets, tip top tanks, artillery and armored. vlad, just go right straight after that young upstart comedian, who’s not yet in jail like Navalny, Protasavich or Sepega. One way or another we got to get rid of you, and this will be the end for you

  14. skua says:

    Twitter are increasingly obstructing tweets being viewed unless you’re logged in.
    Whilst they’ve doubtless calculated that this obstruction will improve their financials it is also biasing me against trying to read the very informative tweets from the good folks who create
    I’m not seeing any attractive solution to this. Spose if someother twitter-like medium became available then it could be considered but there is nothing like it AIU things. So just noting the problem.

    • bmaz says:

      Just create an anonymous account and login then, it is easy! When we started this here blog, Twitter was not really yet a thing. But, despite its warts, Twitter really is indispensable to people who want to follow the news in real time. That is exactly why we have the bug on the side of our page. But you are right as to them wanting people to have an account to view, that has become more so over time.

  15. khollenCA says:

    I find this website invaluable because of its – in my opinion unique – ability to zoom in on the details I would never in a million years notice and point them out, and then zoom out to explain the context around why those details are significant. Case in point right here. This absolutely never occurred to me and never would have, but it makes total sense.

    Anyway. Thanks for sharing the recipe! I am planning on giving it a try but quick question re: the fish stock. Is that what you used? What do you think about substituting chicken stock – maybe too strong, vegetable stock better?

    ETA: by “website,” I mean the journalists who write the articles that I read on this website. The website isn’t sentient and cannot write. I know it’s a minor correction, but my phrasing bothered me – credit to the people to whom it’s due, Rayne and Emptywheel et al.

    • Rayne says:

      You could try chicken or vegetable in lieu of fish, but I wouldn’t use stock. I’d use broth which is less concentrated than stock. I’ve used a combination of chicken and vegetable broth when making kalamojakka, will probably use the same with this Irish chowder. I’ve also tried using clam juice but it tends to overwhelm lighter fish; best to use it blended with another light broth for shellfish chowder.

      And I’ll definitely use less brandy than the recipe calls for, holy smokes. If I use a delicate fish that much brandy could swamp the flavor depending on what brandy I used. Start with half and adjust upward to taste. I admit to being tempted to try a whiskey distilled here in Michigan instead, one aged in sherry casks — it’d probably be tasty in a shrimp chowder.

      Best of luck, bon appetit!

  16. Eureka says:

    Well Rayne, my mom’s was heavy on the scallops (also often some crab meat) and light-to-absent on the booze (enough o that in the grog I suppose). So I heartily endorse the proposed scalloped variant.

    Sláinte agatsa!

  17. mospeck says:

    vlad got the fire and the fury at his command

    Bit depressed, but we gotta keep the devil way down in the hole, because right now the man is looking at nothing.
    For ex. we got this and he don’t and never will (unless he steals it).
    Mach diamond forms at T+19 indicating stable hypersonic flow. Note this is old v1 raptor where the turbo pump spools up 1 sec from 0 to 600 kgs of methalox going out at 3.7 kps. But it’s only 180 tons of thrust and the new v2 is 220 with stable Mach diamonds forming at T+2. vlad don’t have nothing like this–just blown up proton rockets and almost collisions with the space station is all he’s got to show. So he knows he sucks and is just being practical and stealing from the Western World. Question is how long can he keep this going because the Russian people, they definitely don’t suck. Russian rocket science was once just the best. vlad said one thing right–that Russians and Ukrainians have a deep bond between them. But it’s just not under his boot (today at the opening ceremonies he was too busy licking xi’s boot). On the following get you lawyers will disagree, but I just keep coming back to the 100 M young Russians under vlad’s pot metal tin curtain. These folks have no future. And he’s running out of folks (corona + his incompetence has taken well over 1M) so he needs 30M more young Ukrainians to shovel into the furnace. So what’s so wrong (morally, ethically or legally) for us to just have it all out right now and smoke the guy?

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