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Coveney sets down Ireland's priorities in the CFP Reform and progresses the case for increase in cod quota in the Celtic Sea

Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine today at the EU Fisheries Council set down Ireland's priorities for the CFP Reform. The Minister also made a strong case for an increase in the quota for cod in the Celtic Sea for this year.

Commissioner Damanaki published proposals for a reform of the Common Fisheries Policy on 13th July which sets down a framework for EU fisheries policy 2013 to 2022. Today's Council was the first opportunity for the Minister to respond to the Commission's proposals. The proposal covers all aspects of the CFP involving access to waters, conservation and management of the fish stocks, external fisheries policy, aquaculture, market organisation and consultation mechanisms with stakeholders. 

The Minister welcomed the opportunity to debate the proposals saying  "I agree with and welcome many of the objectives set down in the Commission's  proposals, in particular those regarding bringing fish stocks within sustainable levels, increasing the use of long term management plans, eliminating the wasteful practice of discards and the greater integration of science in the decision making processes".  However, Minister Coveney also pointed to aspects of the proposals where Ireland has strong concerns, “I have significant issues with the Commission’s approach in respect of the mandatory application of an Individual transferable quota system (ITQ), discards and regionalisation." 

Individual Transferable Quota (ITQs)

The Commission has proposed the mandatory introduction of an ITQ system for the management of fish stocks within each Member State.  Commissioner Damanaki argued that her proposal would restrict the transfer of quotas to within each Member State and that it involved the retention of quotas in public ownership. However, Minister Coveney said "I made it clear that I am very concerned that the Commission proposal will result in the effective privatisation of fish quotas and their concentration in the hands of multi-national companies without links to Ireland’s coastal communities. I consider that it will be very difficult to introduce safeguards that prevent transfer of quotas outside of the Irish family owned fleet and if the quotas are transferred to such international companies it will increasingly lead, in my view, to landings of Irish quotas abroad with the resultant loss of jobs in Irish coastal communities."

 Fish discards

The Commission proposal involves the introduction of a ban on discarding of fish which would be applied incrementally over the period 2014 to 2016.  Minister Coveney said "The discarding of fish makes no sense at any level and must be ended.  We need radical action to bring an end to this wasteful practice which is as abhorrent to fishermen as it is to the general public. The Commission proposal for a ban is too simplistic and is more likely to result in the concealment of the practice than a change in the behaviour.  I am absolutely committed to addressing the problem in a practical and progressive manner working directly with fishermen and scientists."

Celtic Sea Cod quota increase

Following the receipt of scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES), the Minister joined with his French colleague Minister Bruno Le Maire to seek an increase in the cod quotas for Celtic Sea cod. Minister Coveney said "we have received good news from the fisheries scientists that tell us that the abundance of cod in the Celtic Sea has increased substantially as a consequence of an exceptionally good 2009 recruitment.  As a result of the welcome upsurge in the abundance of the stock our fishermen cannot avoid catches in the mixed fisheries in the Celtic Sea and are being required to dump marketable cod".  On the basis of the scientific advice, Ireland and France sought an increase in the quota for the autumn and were supported by Spain and the UK. Minister Coveney said "Commissioner Damanaki advised that she is prepared to positively examine the case made. Our industry has presented proposals, which I am supporting, to the Commission for the introduction of escape panels in nets in the Celtic Sea whitefish fisheries to enable juvenile fish to escape. The Commissioner has made clear that she will want these or similar measures to apply to vessels of all countries in these fisheries before proceeding with an increase. I am confident that we will be in a position to agree a package of measures at Council this autumn involving an increase in the cod quota in the Celtic Sea combined with the introduction of measures to allow juvenile fish to escape from the net alive. This is a clear example of a practical industry backed initiative  working with the Marine Institute, the Department and other Member States helping to protect the stock and enhance our industries. Viability."

Date Released: 19 July 2011