Kilkeel Welcomes Northern Ireland Assembly Environment Committee

5th September 2012 in Domestic Fisheries Policy, Irish Sea

The NFFO joined ANIFPO in welcoming representatives of the Northern Ireland Assembly on 3rd September to visit the fishing industry in Kilkeel and explore the issues affecting it as the Northern Ireland Marine Bill progresses through the assembly.

The visit provided the opportunity to impress upon the Committee the scale and importance of the local industry to the County Down communities and economy. Part of the visit included a tour of Rooney Fish, processors and suppliers of the multiple species of shellfish that come through the port (photograph*).

ANIFPO Chief Executive, Alan McCulla said: “The visit underlined the importance of getting the planning of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) right if they were not to undermine the vitality of an industry that has turned adversity coming from restrictions on demersal species into great opportunities we see today in the prawn (nephrops) fisheries. These fisheries in the Irish Sea are already under potential threat from the encroachment of wind farms and existing MCZs proposed under the English selection process”.

NFFO Assistant Chief Executive said: “We understand the impetus for establishing a network of marine protected areas and Northern Ireland has its part to play in creating a UK network. However, they cannot come at the expense of undermining what are highly sustainable fisheries. There is no doubt that the rushed English process has not produced sensible proposals for sites which are located on the critical prawn fishing grounds of the Irish Sea. The potential for displacement and the adverse socio-economic effects resulting from that are only too apparent.”

“What has been missing is a specific and intentional requirement to account for fisheries displacement in the MCZ designation process. Dealing with this issue effectively is not only good for maintaining fishing livelihoods, but it is good for conservation as well. There is no point in displacing fishing from prime fishing grounds as the pressures that increase elsewhere will more than offset any conservation benefits gained within an MCZ.”

“The Department of Environment in Northern Ireland must not repeat the same mistakes that have occurred in the English process, and given the mistakes there, it is essential that the proposals on prawn grounds are re-evaluated through a process that is aligned with the Northern Irish timetable.”

* Pictured from left: John Rooney (Rooney Fish), Tom Elliott MLA, Simon Hamilton MLA, Gregory Campbell MP, MLA, Anna Loo MLA, Lord Maurice Morrow MLA, Dolores Kelly MLA and Andrew Rooney (Rooney Fish).