A RETIRED Castletownbere fisherman has said it is disappointing to see that the practice of fishermen ‘catching a few mackerel’ in summertime has already ended this year, with the quota reached early last month.
The mackerel quota for small boats for this year has been exceeded, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine confirmed to The Southern Star.
Fishing for mackerel was ‘closed’ by the Department on June 12th, a spokesperson said.
The Department made the confirmation following comments by Richard O’Connell, who said it was upsetting to see mackerel fishing already finished for the year.
‘In the past, fellas in summertime would catch a few mackerel, and they might use it for bait for lobster pots, they might sell a few boxes, or a few fish to friends, but that is gone now. A few bigger boats have creamed it off for the rest,’ he said.
Mr O’Connell, originally form Kinsale, said that fishing had changed so much in recent years and that there was now huge pressure on the industry due to the reduction in quotas.
The big boats had edged out the little operator now, he said, with reports of some big boats landing up to 40 tonnes of mackerel a day.
The Department confirmed Mr O’Connell’s suspicions that this year’s mackerel quota had now been reached.
Mackerel p olicy sets down a total catch limit of 400 tonnes for the mackerel hook and line fishery, for vessels under 15m in overall length, with a catch limit of 750kg per fishing trip, a spokesperson explained.
The Minister increased the trip limit for the fishery from 500kg to 750kg in 2020, following a request from the National Inshore Fisheries Forum (NIFF). In 2020 the 400 tonne limit was exceeded.
This was unexpected, as up to 2020, the landings for the fishery each year had been below 400 tonnes.
The 2021 fishery was closed by the Minister on June 12th, they added, when the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) advised the Department that the available quota had been caught and exceeded, as landing data for the fishery comes under the remit of the SFPA.
The allocation of 400 tonnes for the fishery for smaller vessels fishing for mackerel by means of hooks and lines was set down by policy in 2010.
The Minister amended the mackerel policy in July 2017 after intensive review and public consultation. However, this particular amendment did not involve the hook and line fishery.
‘In order to amend mackerel policy, the Minister must be satisfied that that there is satisfactory evidence of changed circumstances to justify a policy review,’ the spokesperson added. ‘If the Minister considers there is a case for review in any aspect of policy, it would require due process, involving an assessment of all issues arising, including a full public consultation.’
The Department went on to say that there has been, for the past 20 years or so, intensive competition within the industry for a higher share of the mackerel quota. ‘The EU-UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) provides for the transfer of 25% of Ireland’s mackerel quota to the UK by 2026. This will only increase demands for a higher share of Ireland’s mackerel quota from all sectors within the fishing fleet.
‘The 400 tonne limit for the hook and line fishery has not been reduced and has remained the same as in previous years. Unfortunately, the situation is that if there is an increase in the mackerel quota for any sector in the allocation made available, such as for the hook and line fishery, it must be taken from others who are already facing significant cuts under the TCA.’