Monday, 22 December 2008 - Tony Killeen TD, Minister for Fisheries and Clare T.D., has secured a valuable package of fishing measures for Irish Fishermen following intensive and difficult negotiations at the December Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting in Brussels.
These negotiations, the toughest for many years, focussed on a range of issues which have very substantial impacts on the Irish Fishing Industry. The December Fisheries Council sets the level of Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and Quotas for 2009 and also agrees fishery conservation and management measures, and third party fishery agreements.
The main elements of the package secured by Minister Killeen are quotas valued at EUR200million an increase of 5% on 2008, the successful defence of the Hague Preferences, conservation measures in the north west fisheries that take account of Irish fishermen’s needs.
The Hague preferences, agreed by Heads of State in 1976, give additional quota in certain species and are a fundamental part of relative stability. They give a bigger share of the traditional stocks around , if they are at low levels. They have become increasingly important to as quotas of fish that fishermen are allowed to catch have decreased. The Hague Preferences again came under sustained attack from several Member States this year and their removal had been identified as a real risk with serious consequences for . In the final package, the delivery of additional quotas for the main commercial stocks of importance to through the invocation of the Hague Preferences on 11 fish stocks around was critical in order to provide good fishing opportunities for 2009.
According to Minister Killeen, “The Hague Preferences almost doubled ’s cod quota in the Celtic Sea and increased the cod quota in the Irish Sea by some 40%. I cannot emphasise enough the difficulty we faced on a number of fronts in regard to the Hague Preferences and I am both pleased and relieved that we have been successful in our efforts to defend an issue of critical importance for Irish fishermen”.
Total allowable Catch (TACs) and quotas:
This year the Commission proposal involved cuts of between 25% and 15% for most of the whitefish stocks of importance to . Coming into this Council, faced double digit cuts in 30 of the stocks of interest to . The final deal delivers 37 thousand tonnes of whitefish for Irish fishermen for 2009 involving status quo on monkfish and haddock; this is up 4% on last year.
Minister Killeen said, “I am delighted to have been successful in delivering a balanced package of fishing opportunities for our fishermen in what were extremely difficult negotiations. I have worked closely with our Industry Representatives, the Federation of Irish Fishermen (FIF), over the past number of weeks and especially during the negotiations to ensure that where possible ’s priorities were delivered.”
One of the major objectives of was the roll over of the Prawn quota in The Irish and Celtic seas. This was virtually achieved with the reduction being rolled back from the proposed 15% to 2%.
Minister Killeen added, “This year we faced a severe range of cuts across many of the commercial stocks that our fleet are reliant on. After careful consideration of the scientific advice for these stocks, I sought increases on the proposed quotas where I was satisfied that the state of the stock could sustain higher catch level. I accepted cuts on stocks where the science was strong and created cause for concern. In the final package, a balance has been struck that will give our fishermen, whitefish opportunities to the value of EUR202 million for 2009 from €194 million on 2008”.
On the pelagic stocks, the total fishing opportunities available to will be 137,000 tonnes in 2009. Reflection the poor state of the herring stocks in our waters, Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for these stocks were reduced. Irish fishermen brought forward a Rebuilding Plan for the important Celtic Sea herring stock which was adopted by the Commission and commits to sustainable fishing practices and the rebuilding of that stock to the levels last seen in the late1980’s.
Minister Killeen explained, “For 2009 we secured a 33% increase in mackerel and a roll over in the 40,500 tonne horse mackerel quota. These stocks are the economic drivers of the pelagic fleet and will copper fasten the future viability of this part of the Irish fleet”.
Whitefish closure in Area VI:
The Commission proposed a closure on all whitefish fishing in the waters off Donegal. The measures would have severely impacted on our whitefish fishermen in the north west. Following intensive negotiations a package of measures were agreed that both delivered strong conservation measures for the cod, whiting and haddock stocks in decline while facilitating the continuation of important fishing activities for the Irish fleet.
According to Minister Killeen, “I was particularly concerned that the new conservation measures did not put our smaller whitefish fleet out of business. On the other hand, I accepted that there is serious concern on the state of some of these stocks. In the negotiations, one of my priorities was to improve the protection of the stocks and agree measures for smaller vessels which are dependent on fishing in this area and which do not have the option of moving fishing grounds. I worked with the Federation of Irish Fishermen (FIF) and with them brought forward measures that were practical and took account of their particular situation and I persuaded my colleagues to agree these measures. It was vitally important that this deal was secured for the fishermen of North Donegal given the limited employment opportunities in this Coastal area”.
Gill nets - New Rules for the hake fishery:
A proposal to introduce 100mm mesh nets instead of the 120mm mesh nets currently in use, was tabled at this Council. has always opposed the introduction of smaller mesh fishing gear in our waters because of concerns about the negative impacts on conservation of stocks. Following huge efforts by and discussions with the Federation of Irish Fishermen (FIF) on the essential restrictions on the use of any such gear, new stricter rules on the use, location and quantity of these nets were agreed involving:
- Prohibiting the use of these nets in continental shelf waters around and banning the use of these smaller mesh nets in waters less than 200 metres to protect traditional stocks of cod, haddock and whiting
- Strict new limits reducing the quantity of nets per vessel by 20% and limiting the numbers of boats that fish with this gear;
- Strong control measures for the fishery including measures to stop the unacceptable practice of leaving the nets in the waters for long periods which results in ghost fishing and huge losses to the stock. These include requirements for skippers to certify the nets on board when leaving port and to have at least 90% of these nets on the vessel when landing.
Minister Killeen continued, “I was very worried about the proposal to introduce smaller mesh generally in our waters. Taking account of the scientific advice and following long discussions with the Federation of Irish Fishermen (FIF), I demanded and secured the introduction of a range of restrictions that offers protection against adverse impacts of the gear on stocks in our waters”.
“We have agreed a balanced package of measures which in my opinion was the best possible deal available to in what were extremely challenging circumstances. This deal was dependant on the active engagement of our industry who were able to provide me with advice on critical issues arising, in advance of and during the negotiations. I am satisfied that the deal introduces new conservation measures where necessary while simultaneously giving our fishermen total quotas of 183,000 tonnes to utilise in 2009”, concluded the Junior Minister,
Minister Killeen was accompanied at the Council by Minister Brendan Smith TD, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
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