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MINISTER COVENEY WARNS OF EXCEPTIONALLY TOUGH NEGOTIATIONS AT EU FISHERIES COUNCIL

Commission Proposals threaten losses of €70million to Irish fishing industry

The Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD will attend the EU Fisheries Council in Brussels from the 16th to the 18th of December, where quotas for the Irish fleet for 2014 will be determined. The proposals put forward from the Commission impact the Irish white fish sector with severe cuts in many stocks of vital importance to Ireland.

This year’s negotiations will also be heavily impacted by the lack of progress on the annual talks on fisheries opportunities for 2014 between the EU & Norway and between the EU, Norway, Faroes, and Iceland. This lack of progress means that the Council will only be able to discuss provisional quotas for Mackerel, Blue Whiting, and Atlanto Scandic Herring for 2014.

Minister Coveney said “I have considered the scientific advice available on fish stocks carefully. In some cases the advice is firm and it is clear that quota reductions will be required. However, I am not convinced that the proposed level of cuts is justified in certain cases. The total financial impact of the proposed cuts would, according to BIM, amount to over €70million. I accept that some reductions are inevitable to protect the health of stocks, but I also believe that the Commission’s interpretation of the scientific advice in some cases is excessively precautionary and will only result in increased discarding of fish at sea. I do not wish to see the Council taking decisions which could result in an increase in quota driven discards. In such cases, I will be making a strong case for a more reasonable approach to the available advice, especially in mixed fisheries”.

The Minister went on to highlight some of the proposals where he is especially concerned about the potential negative effect on incomes in Irelands coastal communities. “The Commission is proposing a 24% cut in the hugely important prawn fishery. I do not consider that this proposal is justified and I am working with my UK colleagues to convince the Commission to adjust its approach. In the Celtic Sea, I am extremely concerned about the proposals to cut Haddock by 75%, Cod by 33% Whiting by -22%, Megrim by -20% and Sole by 20%.  Other proposed cuts in stocks of particular concern include Pollack (-20%), Haddock and cod in the Irish Sea (-20%), and Sole in the Irish Sea (-33%) as well as Horse Mackerel (-40%) and Monkfish in the North West (-20%)”.

On the matter of the international negotiations on certain fish stocks of importance to Ireland, Minister Coveney said “The failure to make progress on the EU/ Norway negotiations has compounded the stalemate in the Coastal States negotiations on Mackerel, Blue Whiting and Atlanto Scandic Herring. I am supporting an overall balanced agreement on these very important stocks. I do not support the current Commission proposal, granting Iceland and the Faeroes an excessive share of the mackerel stock, which is of such vital importance to Ireland. Mackerel is our single most valuable fishery and I will again be insisting that the Commission work closely with Norway on securing a fair and proportionate sharing agreement”. 

Concluding his remarks in advance of the Council, Minister Coveney stated “Every December Fisheries Council is difficult, but I think that this year’s could be one of the most difficult for some time and we should not underestimate the immense challenges facing us in trying to obtain a fair and rational, biologically and economically sustainable outcome for Ireland. I have worked closely with industry and other stakeholders to prepare for these extremely tough negotiations and will continue to do so in the challenging days and nights ahead. There will be cuts to some quotas important to Ireland, in the white fish sector, but there will also be some positive news, particularly for some pelagic species. I will be devoting all my efforts to reducing the scale of those cuts, taking account of the scientific advice. I will work with other Member States such as the UK and France and with the European Commission to try to achieve an acceptable outcome”.

Date Released: 16 December 2013