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Minister Creed's speech at IFPEA AGM, Herbert Park Hotel, 26 September 2018

Before I commence, I might just mark the fact that you recently lost a leading light in your industry with the loss of Michael Gallagher of Gallagher Brothers Killybegs in August and it would be remiss of us to commence today without remarking on Michaels passing.

1. Brexit

As you are all well aware we are entering a crucial stage in these negotiations. Last week was a difficult one and there remains a considerable degree of uncertainty. The Governments position , as part of the EU 27, is that we are continuing to seek a negotiated settlement with as close a trading relationship as possible with the UK and a legally operable backstop in place on the border with Northern Ireland.

  Ireland’s position on Fisheries, like that of the EU 27, is absolutely clear – we cannot accept any change in the current access and sharing arrangements to the detriment of our fishing communities.

We fully support the joint EU27 position on transition and the link between maintaining reciprocal access to waters and resources and a future overall agreement.  

Ireland’s contingency and preparedness planning is well advanced. The Government launched a new Getting Ireland Ready public awareness campaign last week which will provide information on the latest preparedness and support measures being taken by Government. This will include a series of outreach events across the country throughout October.

The Government as a whole is continuing to prepare for all eventualities. We have already taken important steps to prepare our economy, including the Action Plan for Jobs 2018, our Trade and Investment Strategy and Project Ireland 2040.

In January, in conjunction with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I launched a Brexit Loan Scheme worth €300 million, 40% of which is guaranteed for food businesses.  This is another option available for small to medium seafood enterprises, alongside funding available under the EMFF, which can be used to mitigate the impacts of Brexit. 

There is also a €25m Brexit Response Loan Scheme for the agri-food sector and additional supports for capital investment in the food industry and Bord Bia marketing and promotion activities, all amounting to over €50m in total.

Brexit will continue to remain challenging on a daily basis and the most important thing is that we stay united within the country and within the EU 27 to retain the maximum strength to get the best outcome for the Country and the Union. This approach is as true for Fisheries as it is in relation to any other aspect of Brexit.

2. Coastal States/Mackerel

As you will be aware, the first round Coastal Sate negotiations on mackerel, blue whiting and ASH will be taking place in London on the 8th  of October.

The scientific advice on Mackerel is very negative.  The advice is down - 40% on last year.  However, as the TAC was set higher than the advice for 2018, a worst case scenario could see a cut of up to -61% in the TAC.  That’s a loss of over 42,000 tonnes.

Under the Long Term Management Strategy there is a TAC fluctuation limit of -20%.  However, that doesn’t apply if the spawning stock biomass is below a certain benchmark level( B trigger) which it is according to the advice.

The mackerel agreement was for five years only and is due to expire at the end of 2018. Negotiations on a replacement agreement will be significantly more difficult, with a decreasing stock and because of Brexit as the UK will eventually become a Coastal State in their own right.  

We would ideally want all parties, including Iceland, inside any new arrangement with fair shares.  In addition , our concerns about the 2014 deal remain and we hold the position that the EU should  push for a claw back of some of the 2014 share lost to the EU. 

 However, Brexit concerns are now dominating consideration of this with the UK looking to the time when like Norway they will be an independent Coastal State in these negotiations. For this reason,  all EU Member States, with the exception of the UK , are thinking in terms of  an extension of the current agreement for a number of years with no changes to the share out. The objective is to work to tie in the UK on share in the medium term.

3. 6 Nautical Mile Limit ---Review of access for large Trawlers

This agenda item was requested by the IFPEA with regard to the IFPEA’s submission to the public consultation, received by the Department on 11th June.

The public consultation, which concluded on 11th June 2018, received over 1000 submissions.

All submissions, including the IFPEA submission, are currently being examined together with relevant issues.

Following due consideration, I will decide if any possible measures should be introduced for the proper and effective management of trawl fishing inside 6 nautical miles (and the baselines). I can’t go beyond this on this subject at this point.

4. The Atypical Worker Permission Scheme (Crew Member)

IFPEA has expressed concern with regard to the downgrading of Ireland by the US State Department’s annual Trafficking in Human Persons (TIP) Report, published in June last. Ireland has been downgraded from Tier 1 to Tier 2 in the 2018 Report. You have concerns about the market impact of this and I understand that.

The Atypical Workers Permission Scheme, which is referenced in the Report, was established by an inter-departmental task force in 2015 and is still a relatively young scheme. The scheme enables up to 500 non EEA  workers to be employed, under regulated terms and conditions,  in parts of the Irish whitefish fleet. There are currently 230 people employed on vessels under the Scheme. The scheme is currently being challenged in the Courts by the International Transport federation who are seeking its suspension. The European Commission has also raised some questions about the scheme.

The matters which have raised concern for the International Transport Federation and the European Commission relate to alleged non compliance by some employers with the conditions of the scheme and the employment terms of the workers brought in under the scheme. Any abuses or otherwise of the specified employment conditions of any non-EEA National in the Irish fishing industry are a matter for the relevant enforcement Agencies – the Workplace Relations Commission, the Marine Survey Office of the Department of Transport and other appropriate authorities of the State and these bodies are continuing their enforcement efforts in this area.

It is in the interests of the Irish seafood industry as a whole that the terms and conditions of the scheme are respected and that reputational damage is not done to the industry or that the scheme has to be suspended.

5. SFPA – need to service landing/processing needs on 24hr basis

I am aware that you have raised the question of the SFPA could extend the opening hours for pelagic landings during the pelagic season. The current position is that the SFPA, who are independent in the discharge of their functions, are governed by the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997.  The current position is that , landings of fish will, in the case of a working day, within the meaning of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 (No. 20 of 1997), be authorised between 08.00 hours and 24.00 hours or between 08.00 hours and 18.00 hours in the case of a Saturday or Sunday or a public holiday.

The SFPA holds a wide mandate across a range of functions and fisheries that must be provided for within current staffing and budgetary constraints. They will continue to keep this matter under review.

6. Control Regulation

A revision of the current Control Regulation is currently being proposed by the Commission.

It is proposed by the Commission that Article 61 of the existing Control Regulation be removed. The removal of this article would preclude national derogations for weighing away from the place of landing in specific circumstances, subject to approval of national arrangements by the Commission. Ireland is working with other MS to try and ensure that this facility for derogation be retained.

With regard to the proposal on CCTV, I note that there is no provision for Coastal state access to the resulting data. This is an issue that will need to be addressed given the obligation on Coastal Member States to control all fishing activity in their 200 mile zones.

The Control Regulation on this occasion will be decided upon by the Council and Parliament in co-decision and I don’t see this matter coming to full decision until after the new European Parliament is elected next year.

7.  EMFF

The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund is currently the subject of a proposal for the shape of that Fund after the expiry of the current funding round.

One of the key issues of concern in this proposal is Article 23 which would restrict EMFF aid for capital investment in aquaculture and seafood processing to financial instruments only. 

Currently such a restriction applies to large scale operators only.  The majority of our operators are small or medium enterprises. Depriving them of grant aid would have a very negative impact on our policy objectives to grow scale and add value in our processing and aquaculture sectors.

Thank You.