Both sides of the Christmas break have seen intense activity at Westminster as the Fisheries…
Fisheries Council’s Disappointing Outcome for Local Fleet
The disappointing result of the December 2008 EU Fisheries Council has not come as a surprise to the local fishing industry.
According to Alan McCulla from the Anglo-North Irish Fish Producers Organisation the tone of this week’s negotiations was set at the November Fisheries Council, when the European Commission forced the new Cod Recovery Programme through the Council. This confirmed the level of reductions on both the cod quota and days at sea at 25%.
As Conor Murphy MP, MLA, the Northern Ireland Minister who was present at the November Council said at the time;
“I strongly opposed this stance which I regarded as unacceptable to the local fleet. But the Commission would not move on this figure and it formed part of the overall package which was agreed unanimously by all 27 member states at the Council.”
On a more positive note, lobbying by various Northern Irish politicians resulted in Northern Ireland’s most important fishery becoming the UK’s number one priority at this Fisheries Council. Local Fisheries Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA was present throughout the Council and was ultimately responsible for ensuring that the proposed reduction in the Irish Sea prawn quota (Northern Ireland’s most important fishery) of 15% was mitigated to 2%. This compares to cuts of 5% in the prawn quota in other sea areas around the UK and Ireland.
In summary, for 2009 the Irish Sea cod quota has been cut by 25%, whiting has been cut by 25%, plaice has been cut by 23%, sole has been cut by 24% and nephrops (prawns) has been cut by 2%. Irish Sea haddock has been increased by 15% and the herring quota remains unchanged in the New Year. Overall, the reductions in the quotas could mean a loss in the value of fish and shellfish landed into Northern Ireland during 2009 of £2 million.
Issues surrounding the number of days at sea local trawlers will be able to work in 2009 still have to be clarified. Urgent discussions with officials on this issue have already been scheduled for the New Year.
Alan McCulla from the Anglo-North Irish fish producers Organisation said,
“As predicted, the December 2008 Fisheries Council has been particularly tough, with measures being applied that bring with them the most fundamental change to fisheries management there has been in decades.”
“There can be no doubt that Michelle Gildernew has represented Northern Ireland fishermen very well at these negotiations and we should thank her and the DARD team for their efforts. In the face of broader economic problems affecting fishing communities, the Minister highlighted the positive aspects of the fishing industry. However, it was the stubborn and petty approach by the European Commission that failed our fishermen.”
“The Minister realises 2009 is going to be a very different year for Northern Irish fishermen and we look forward to continuing our discussions with her as to how we can help the industry move forward.” concluded Alan McCulla