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Coveney Looks Forward to Intensive Negotiations on New CFP Policy to Deliver Fair Deal for Irish Fishermen

Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, welcomes the publication of the EU Commission's proposals for the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy which were published today. The new proposals follow a lengthy consultation process where Ireland made a detailed submission in response to the Commission's April 2009 Green Paper, following full consultation with the fishing industry and other stakeholders.

The Commission's proposal is setting the framework for the Common Fisheries Policy for the period 2013 to 2022. The proposal covers the main policy aspects of the CFP involving access to waters, conservation and management of the resource, external fisheries policy, aquaculture, consultation mechanisms with stakeholders.

Minister Coveney said "I welcome this opportunity to reform the CFP and ensure that the policy is fit for purpose.   From my visits to coastal communities and my meetings with fishermen and other stakeholders it is clear to me that we need to aggressively reform the current policy. I welcome many of the new elements of the Commission's reform including the maintenance of the 12 mile coastal limit access restrictions, the commitment to the introduction of fisheries based multi-annual management plans, focus on improved data collection to improve scientific advice and strengthen controls, the commitment to promoting the aquaculture industry and particularly the strong commitment to dealing with discards."

Over recent months, the Minister has engaged strongly with Commissioner Damanaki and with fellow Ministers to make clear key priorities for Ireland in the reform and the justification for the policy positions taken. These policy priorities included the retention of the Hague preferences, maintenance of public ownership of quotas and eliminating discards.

The Hague preferences, agreed by Heads of State in 1976, give Ireland a bigger share of the traditional stocks around Ireland, if they are at low levels. They have become increasingly important to Ireland as quotas of fish that fishermen are allowed to catch have decreased. The retention of the Hague Preferences has been under sustained attack from several Member States in the Reform and their removal had been identified as a real risk with serious consequences for Ireland. Minister Coveney said "I very much welcome that the proposal legally recognise the "Hague Preferences" which give additional quota to Ireland each year for the key traditional stocks such as cod, haddock, sole and plaice in waters around Ireland. The retention of the Hague Preference has been and will remain a key priority for me."

The Commission proposal introduces the mandatory privatisation of fish quotas which under the provisions which must be transferable (tradeable) no later than 31 December 2013. The proposal provides that a Member State must give a minimum of 15 years advance notice if it wished to recall the quotas for re-allocation. Minister Coveney said "I am very disappointed that the Commissioner has decided to impose this scheme of mandatory privatisation of quotas on Member States. I have expressed my grave concerns that this policy, if adopted, will lead to the family owned fishing fleet here in Ireland being bought up by European international companies who have the capital to buy out our quotas. I have no doubt that this would lead to concentration of fishing into the hands of large fishing international companies without links to the coastal communities and these very large fishing vessels, in some cases factory ships, would no longer land into Ireland resulting in loss of jobs, closure of fish processing factories  and economic activity in our coastal communities. I intend to work vigorously over the coming months to make clear the real and substantial damage this policy would have on jobs and economic activity in our coastal communities. I will work with other Member States and stakeholders with similar concerns in order to have this aspect of the policy changed."

The Commission proposal involves the introduction of a ban on discarding of fish which will be applied incrementally over the period 2014 to 2016. Minister Coveney said "I fully support the strong focus on addressing the unacceptable practice of discarding of fish in this review. I fully agree with the objectives to eliminate discards but I differ on the approach that needs to be taken. I appreciate that Commissioner Damanaki is responding to pleas from the general public to have a ban introduced. While I fully share her concern but I consider that the introduction of a simple ban may be counter productive and not change behavior, but instead drive the practice underground. Working closely with industry, we need to put in place a programme of actions that eliminate discards with a focus on reduced catches of juvenile fish. I hope to be fully and constructively involved in the coming months, working closely with Commissioner Damanaki and fellow Ministers, on supporting a policy that will bring an end to the unacceptable practice of discarding of fish."

Minister Coveney will be setting out Ireland's position on the proposals at next week's EU Fisheries Council. Minister Coveney added "I will be working closely with the Irish seafood industry and other stakeholders over the coming months to protect Ireland's interests in the reform process."

Date Released: 13 July 2011