MARINE Minister Simon Coveney secured 36,886 tonnes of whitefish quotas for Irish fishermen at this week’s EU Fisheries negotiations – a 10% increase on last year.
The whitefish quotas agreed amounted to a value of €131m, an increase of €10m on the 2015 figure, according to the minister.
However, Eibhlin O’Sullivan of the Irish South & West Fish Producers Organisation said her organisation still had concerns.
‘We knew travelling to Brussels that there were significant cuts proposed to key stocks such as haddock and cod in the Celtic Sea which were based on the Commission’s desire to reach Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) for these stocks in 2016. We had hoped that the Council would adopt a phased approach in implementing the reductions necessary to achieve MSY on a step-by-step basis between this and 2020, but this did not happen. While the actual reductions of 13% for haddock and 4% of cod are less than those initially proposed this will result in significant economic loss for those whitefish fishermen who rely on these stocks,’ she said.
‘While the 4% reduction in cod may appear small, due to the pressure this stock is under it will, in fact, have a detrimental effect on all whitefish fishermen, particularly for inshore fishermen.’
It was good to see that the proposed reductions in prawns, which is the most valuable whitefish stock for the Irish industry, were reversed, she said, but added: ‘It should be pointed out that if not for the additional quota uplift for prawns, due to the obligation to land all catches which comes into effect from the 1st of January 2016 there would, in fact, be a 2% reduction in this stock. It is disappointing to note that the Council, despite scientific advice, chose to continue to implement the ‘of which’ restriction for the Porcupine Bank prawn fishery which, in effect means, it is a separate quota for prawns fished in this area.’
Earlier, Minister Coveney said: ‘We are currently rolling out the most radical reform ever agreed under the Common Fisheries Policy. The phasing out of discards is a challenging policy for the fishing community to implement and is being supported by the introduction of a quota uplift for fisheries affected.’
Referring to the discards ban for prawn, whiting, haddock and hake fisheries in 2016, he said: ‘Fishermen are being given additional quota to cover the increased landings with an 18% overall increase for these stocks with an additional value of €9m, if more selective fishing methods are used to avoid juvenile catches.’
He added that the new CFP also introduces a policy that sets quotas at the highest level possible while ensuring the sustainability of the stock (Maximum Sustainable Yield or MSY). This will result in increased quotas and stability for the fishing sector in the coming years, he claimed.
Regarding the south and west – specifically Ros a Mhil, Dingle, Castletownbere, Union Hall and Dunmore East – the Minister claimed the total whitefish quotas have increased by 7%. ‘Notable increases are whiting (26%), megrim (5%), and hake (21%),’ he said,