IRISH fisherman have netted 233,500 more tonnes of quota, worth €280m, for 2017, following negotiations in Brussels.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed secured the increase of 17,390 tonnes over the 2016 amount, following two days of intensive discussions at the annual Fisheries Council in meeting.
Patrick Murphy, the chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (SWFPO), welcomed the news, adding that he was confident that the increase would lead to the creation of more jobs in what he called ‘the most rural communities of our island nation’.
On the south and west coasts, there will be a 9% increase in the €74m prawn fishery which benefits the ports of Union Hall and Castletownbere, among others. In addition, there is a 9% increase in hake, as well as a reversal of cuts proposed for monkfish, which will benefit Castletownbere too. The mackerel quota will experience a 14% increase to €86m.
For Celtic Sea fisheries, there is a 21% increase in whiting (from a possible 27% cut), a 7 % increase in haddock, 15% cut in cod (reduced from the 68% proposed cut) and for the Irish Sea, a 25% increase in haddock and retention of cod and sole quotas.
‘This is a balanced package for the Irish fishing industry,’ said the Minister. ‘I am satisfied that I have managed to turn an extremely worrying set of proposals from the Commission into a much-improved outcome for the Irish fishing industry.’
The SWFPO’s Patrick Murphy, while delighted with the development, also urged caution in the management of the changes. ‘We wish to remind the minister that it is very important that these increases must be distributed in an equitable manner, in that the share of these increases are targeted to address the imbalance within our demersal whitefish sector. I wish to thank and congratulate the minister, his team and our fellow industry colleagues, for their work and determination,’ he told The Southern Star.
‘Not only did they not reduce [proposed] cuts but they achieved some substantial gains in very important species to help, not only sustain our industry, but assist it to grow and prosper,’ he added.
Meanwhile, Deputy Margaret Murphy O’Mahony (FF) said that while the actual reduction in the cod quota is less than those initially proposed, a 15% cut would ‘result in significant economic loss for those Whitefish Fishermen who rely on these stocks in these coastal communities’.
‘This is cause significant hardship for these fishermen and their families. We cannot allow the slide in fishing income to continue,’ she said.
‘Thousands of families across Cork rely on the fishing industry for employment and their livelihoods with over 90% of Beara Penninsula and Castletownbere relying on the fishing industry for their survival.’
Last Friday a small protest against supertrawlers took place outside Minister Creed’s office in Macroom.
Members of a group called People Powered Change posted a video to Facebook on Friday afternoon, taken outside the constituency office. The small but vocal group were dressed as various TV detective characters – including Colombo, Kojak, Ironside and Sherlock Homes – as they ‘searched’ for the minister, who they claimed was ‘missing in action’.
‘We need you to go out to Europe and stand up for the fishing communities of Ireland and negotiate an end to the supertrawlers in our waters,’ said their spokesperson to the camera. The protest was in response to the screening last Thursday night on RTÉ1 of film director Richie O’Donnell’s documentary on supertrawlers, called Atlantic.