THE Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD has announced 233,500 tonnes of quotas worth €280 million for Irish fishermen for 2017. This represents an increase of 17,390 tonnes over 2016.
The Minister secured the deal in the early hours of Wednesday morning following two days of intensive negotiations at the annual Fisheries Council in Brussels.
Commenting on the Commission package agreed by Member States, including Ireland, the Minister said, “This is a balanced package for the Irish fishing industry. I am satisfied that I have managed to turn an extremely worrying set of proposals from the Commission into a much improved outcome for the Irish fishing industry. I am especially pleased that the quotas agreed respects the scientific advice ensuring that the fish stocks in our waters will be managed sustainably.”
The Minister said, “The total €280m value of quotas, which represents a 6% increase on 2016, is a good result overall and is a long way from the original Commission proposals which would have resulted in very significant losses to our fleet. The original proposal included a 19% reduction in whitefish quotas.
“I am particularly pleased to have persuaded the Commission to reverse the proposed 9% cut in the prawn quota, the most important fishery for the whitefish fleet. We succeeded in getting the Commission to apply the appropriate scientific advice for prawns resulting in a 9% increase. This was my number one priority heading into these negotiations and I am very happy with the result”.
The specific quota details negotiated by Minister Creed include:
For the South and West coasts and the Irish Sea, a 9% increase in the €74 million prawn fishery which benefits the ports of Clogherhead, Howth, Union Hall, Castletownbere, Dingle and Ros a Mhil.
For the South West, a 9% increase in hake, reversal of cuts proposed for monkfish – important for the southern ports of Castletownbere and Dingle.
For the Celtic Sea fisheries: 21% increase in whiting (from a possible 27% cut); 7 % increase in haddock, 15% cut in cod (reduced from the 68% proposed cut).
For the Irish Sea, a 25% increase in haddock; retention of cod and sole quotas.
In the North West, a 20% increase in monkfish quota; a 9% increase for the megrim quota, a near doubling of the Rockall haddock quota and no change in whiting benefiting the ports of Greencastle and Killybegs.
Cuts in line with scientific advice were applied to haddock in the North West and megrim in the Celtic Sea.
The Minister added, “The most difficult area coming into these negotiations was the Commission proposal for cod and whiting in the Celtic Sea. The proposal was for a -68% cut on cod and a -27% cut in whiting. Whilst the scientific advice on cod in the Celtic sea is worrying, the scientific advice on whiting in the Celtic sea is positive. I am satisfied that the final outcome of a -15% cut in the cod quota and a 21% increase in the whiting quota was the most positive that could have been achieved. The impact of the cut in cod quota for Ireland, is substantially reduced through the application of the Hague Preferences”.
On Mackerel, the Minster said, “Overall I am very satisfied with the increase in the quota allocation for our single most valuable fishery, Mackerel, which will have a value of €86m in 2017.
“In 2017 we will now have a significant increase for our vitally important whitefish fisheries and stability for many of our valuable stocks around our coast. This will ensure the continued vibrancy of our industry and the long term sustainability of our stocks”.
Reacting to the announcement, Fianna Fáil Cork South West TD, Margaret Murphy O’Mahony said the quotas represent mixed news for Cork fishermen. “Thousands of families across Cork rely on the fishing industry for employment and their livelihoods. Therefore, the 9% increase in both the prawn and hake quota is a very welcome development for those fishermen locally who catch this stock. The increased mackerel quota is welcome also.” “However, while the actual reduction in the Cod quota is less than those initially proposed, a 15% cut will result in significant economic loss for those Whitefish Fishermen who rely on these stocks in these coastal communities. This is cause significant hardship for these fishermen and their families. We cannot allow the slide in fishing income to continue.” “Thousands of families across Cork rely on the fishing industry for employment and their livelihoods with over 90% of Beara Penninsula and Castletownbere relying on the fishing industry for their survival”.
Patrick Murphy, CEO of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation said, “Our Minister Michael Creed attending his first December Council met with IS&WFPO Chairman John D. O’Sullivan, Director Niall Deasy, I CEO and fellow Industry Representatives in the early hours. After two heavy and intense, mostly difficult days of negotiations he confirmed the valuable increases he and his team secured in important fish stocks that will mean substantial increases in our two main stocks Mackerel and Nephrops (Prawns) for 2017 season.
“The Minister acknowledged the contribution of the Industry leading up to the December Council negotiations and had a special mention for his experienced team of Irish Marine Civil Servants who helped guide him through the negotiations. It was visible to all present the tired but satisfied demeanour of the negotiating team showed this year was one where the cuts in some species were more than compensated by the substantial gains in other species.
“I, similar to the Minister, was attending my first December Council meeting and was delighted to view the figures presented to us, to see a net gain of 6% overall which we are confident will lead to the creation of more badly needed jobs in the most rural communities of our Island nation. We also wish to remind our Minister that it is very important that these increases must be distributed in an equitable manner in that the share of these increases are targeted to address the imbalance within our demersal whitefish sector which his team have identified within our nation’s fishing fleet.
“I, Patrick Murphy, CEO of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation on behalf of our Members wish to thank and congratulate our Minister Michael Creed, his team and our fellow Industry Colleagues for their work and determination to overturn what was a worrying proposed set of serious cuts to our National fish Quotas in the weeks leading up to this December Council and instead not only reduced these cuts but achieved some substantial gains in very important species to help not only sustain our Industry but assist it to grow and prosper,” he concluded.