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Fishermen voice quota concerns to Minister

July 18th, 2017 5:10 PM

By Southern Star Team

Donal O'Sullivan

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A DECISION has not yet been made on the controversial allocation of additional mackerel quota, valued at about €10 million, which is vital to the future of local fishing communities.

A spokesman for the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed dismissed as incorrect a report that stated Donegal fishermen were to get 87% of the EU quota, with the rest of the country, including Castletownbere, left with just 13%. 

This report had prompted fury from local fishermen as it was a request from the Irish South and West Fishermen's Organisation which had led to the minister's review of the share-out of the additional quota.

Donal O'Sullivan of Castletownbere Fishermen's Co-op said: ‘Killybegs already have 87% of the national quota of mackerel for Ireland, the rest of the country have just 13%. Surely the minister in his wisdom would use this opportunity to correct this in balance? We are only looking for 50% of the excess for the year – we are not looking for all of it. The quota is a national asset – it's for the whole country. This is in the minister's gift.'

He added: ‘We have spoken with Minister Creed and conveyed the importance of his decision. We have made it abundantly clear the importance of access to additional quota on a fair and equitable basis. Unlike factories in Killybegs we depend on the open market for supply.'

He said that if the decision was made in favour of Killybegs it would impact ‘the solid-economic activity with possible job losses in coastal communities in Dingle, Baltimore, Castletownbere and Rossaveal.'

‘As we all know we are at a critical juncture in the fishing industry with uncertainty prevailing due to Brexit negotiations. 

Now is not the time to create division and apathy within our own industry so it is incumbent upon the minister to make a fair decision.'

Mackerel is Ireland's most important commercial fishery, with a value of €64 million last year for the Irish fleet, according to Bord Iascaigh Mhara.

Patrick Murphy, CEO of the Irish South and West Fishermen's Organisation, a key figure in bringing about the review, added: ‘We have proven without question that this redistribution of mackerel, which is one of our country's natural resources, between those who have an entitlement to catch them, will then allow for a redistribution of €9 million of whitefish to the other 2,000 Irish fishing vessels, which in turn will help address the imbalance that currently exists in this hard pressed sector.

‘87% of Ireland's mackerel quota, 91 % of blue whiting quota, 88.7 % of horse mackerel quota and 85% of Scandinavian herring is given to 23 of our 2194 Irish registered vessels directly employing less than 200 people.

‘For too long the fishing resources which belong to this nation are disproportionately given to a hand full of people. ‘We will not stand idly by while the rich get richer and the poor get wiped out.'

It comes down to the survival of the industry, he said.

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