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Minister Killeen meets EU Commissioner Joe Borg

In a meeting with European Commissioner Joe Borg at today's Fisheries Council in Luxembourg, Mr. Tony Killeen TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food with responsibility for fisheries, outlined for the Commissioner the current issues facing the industry.

The Minister highlighted the current problems where we are again seeing rising fuel costs at the same time as the price of fish at the quayside is falling for many of the important stocks including hake & prawns. "The economic viability of the fishing sector has again come into question" he said. "Ireland would like to put back on the table its submission for an emergency aid package for discussion with the Commission. These proposals, based on a restructuring package for the fishing fleet & involving the provision of additional EU funding are now needed to assist the industry. I asked that in the current circumstances we reconsider the need for an EU funded package of measures. I also asked that the EU Commission ensure that imports of fish into the community respect all appropriate rules & that we do not increase the volume of fish imported at reduced or zero tariff levels."

The Minister raised issues in relation to the Cod Recovery Plan in the Irish Sea & in the North West. He asked for changes that would maximize the available fishing effort for the Irish fleet by allowing Ireland to choose the reference years to be used to establish the effort for each individual fishery.  The Minister also asked for other practical changes to the rules that would help alleviate the impacts on the fleet particularly in the North West & in the Irish Sea.

Minister Killeen also highlighted his concern about the impact of recent developments in Norway and Iceland on the mackerel fishery, saying that "The mackerel fishery is very important economically for Ireland and we must ensure that all parties involved in the fishery act in a responsible way and respect the agreed Total Allowable Catch which was established to take account of scientific advice.  The establishment of additional quotas by both Norway and Iceland this year is not acceptable and I made this clear to Commissioner Borg."

Finally, the Minister outlined to the Commissioner difficulties with the proposed Recovery Plan for Celtic Sea Cod. "This is a very difficult issue for Irish fishermen. The effort restrictions introduced in Area VI and the Irish Sea have substantially reduced fishing opportunities and fishing grounds for our fleet. We consider that we need to use other means such as more environmentally friendly fishing gear & closed areas to protect spawning grounds as the most appropriate tools to rebuild the stock." he said.

FISHERIES COUNCIL MEETING

At the Council meeting, Fisheries Ministers had a policy debate on proposals to establish a Community control system for ensuring compliance with Common Fisheries Policy rules. The Minister emphasized the need for a range of actions that promote a level playing field on control across the community. 

Ministers also gave their backing to Commission plans to promote the European aquaculture industry through targeted report. They requested that the Commission prepare a programme of action to include support for innovation, young entrepreneurs in the aquaculture industry, promoting exports and a consumer communications campaign.

Ministers also had a first look at the Commission's working method for establishing TACs for 2010 later this year. Minister Killeen stressed the need to take into account the wider economic difficulties that fishermen are facing and emphasized the need to deal with the problem of discards, which Ireland has consistently raised with the Commission. 

Date Released: 23 June 2009