Mr Tony Killeen T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has welcomed the final package of measures agreed at the EU Fisheries Council in Brussels.
[ClickPress, Wed Dec 16 2009] Emerging from almost 36 hours of intensive negotiations at the annual ‘Fish Quotas’ meeting of the EU Council of Ministers, Minister Killeen expressed satisfaction that Ireland had, in the end, secured a package that provides a balanced and fair outcome for Irish fishermen. The preparatory meeting on Sunday night between the Federation of Irish Fishermen (FIF) and other industry representatives was enormously beneficial in setting Ireland’s priorities and Minister Killeen ensured regular meetings and contacts over the period of the negotiations to keep industry informed and to gain an understanding of the impacts of proposals on Ireland’s industry as they emerged.
An ongoing disagreement between the EU and Norway in respect of mackerel fishing overshadowed this year’s meeting and made the job of setting quotas for EU fishermen even more difficult than normal. Minister Killeen had to fight all the way to the end of the two day marathon to ensure that the lack of agreement between the EU and Norway did not adversely impact on the mackerel fleet.
Minister Killeen said: “Without an EU/ Norway agreement there was a real danger that the Irish mackerel fleet would be severely limited in terms of the amount of the mackerel quota it would be permitted to fish. I secured a provisional quota of 65% of the 2009 for them which is available for fishing from the start of the year. I also secured assurances from the Council that any new agreement will be fairer in the benefits and costs it delivered for all Member States”.
In the past Ireland contributed more in the transfer of fishing quotas to Norway than it gained from access to fish stock in Norwegian waters. On the whitefish stocks Minister Killeen fought the now annual action to ensure that the commitment of Ireland’s hard pressed fishermen – the Hague Agreement – was fully honoured by his European counterparts. This was particularly important this year as major reductions in the total allowed catch (TAC) of a number of key stocks were proposed by the EU Commission. Stocks of cod, haddock and prawns – amongst the most important to the whitefish fleet – were all in line for big reductions.
Minister Killeen explained: “In the case of prawns, I accepted the need for change to ensure the long term sustainability of this important stock but successfully gathered support amongst my colleagues in the council for a plan, proposed by the FIF that will see a seasonal closure off the south west coast in the summer months when it is most vulnerable to over-fishing. On the basis of this plan I was able to substantially reduce the TAC cut of 50% recommended by International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) to 9%. This is the most important stock for our whitefish fleet and I am satisfied that I have delivered both necessary conservation measures where these are required and a realistic quota for the prawn stocks where the science shows that the stock is healthy.”
The Minister also secured commitments for a review and early amendment of the restrictions on whitefish fishing off Donegal introduced at last December’s fisheries council. In addition a proposed cut of 54% for the haddock TAC was cut to a more reasonable 25%. Minister Killeen commented: “Whilst accepting a reduction in the total catch of haddock off Ireland’s north west coast on scientific grounds I effectively argued for a more balanced approach that will see the scale of reductions lessened, a new long term management plan for the haddock stock agreed and a full review during early 2010 of the harsh restrictions put in place last year with the aim of making changes as early as possible in 2010.”
The Commission also proposed a 25% cut in the very important Celtic Sea cod TAC. However, Minister Killeen successfully argued that Ireland requires new and better data on the state of this stock which fishermen argue is in better shape than other cod stocks around the coast. He added: “At council I secure a rollover of the 2009 TAC to reflect recent catches. We need fishermen and scientists to work together in partnership so that we have improved knowledge that will support any necessary actions in order that this stock does not need a harsh recovery plan like we have in the Irish Sea and off Donegal”.
Finally, Minister Killeen paid tribute to the work of Irish fishermen that lead to the recovery of the important Celtic Sea herring stock. Fishermen in the south west working together with the marine Institute scientists developed a long term plan for this stock.
“This is effectively an Irish stock as we have the bulk of the quota and it was facing collapse two years ago. Fishermen had the courage to take the very difficult decisions required to rebuild the stock and I am delighted such positive results with a TAC increase of 71%. This is a fine example of how working together and taking strong action can pay dividends”, concluded Minister of State Killeen.
Notes to Editor:
- High-resolution images of Tony Killeen, Fianna Fail TD for Clare, and Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, with special responsibility for Forestry, Fisheries and the Marine, may be downloaded from www.dunphyprimages.com
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