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Marine Minister Warns of Tough Negotiations at EU Fisheries Council

17th December 2012
Marine Minister Warns of Tough Negotiations at EU Fisheries Council

#fishing – The Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney T.D. will attend the EU Fisheries Council in Brussels tomorrow. At the negotiations, from the 18th to 20th December, quotas for the Irish fleet for 2013 and others issues of importance to the Irish Seafood industry will be determined.

This year's negotiations will be severely impacted by breakdowns of the annual fisheries talks for 2013 between the EU & Norway and between the EU, Norway, Faroes, and Iceland. Those breakdowns affect the ability to agree at Council, quotas for Mackerel, Blue Whiting, and Atlanto Scandic Herring for 2013 and affect where Irish Vessels and Norwegian vessels can fish from the 1st of January. In addition, Ireland is facing severe double digit cuts in almost 30 different fish stocks, which are vital to the Irish Fishing industry. The Council agenda will encompass a number of areas where agreement and consensus may be difficult to achieve, posing a particular challenge for the settlement of fishing arrangements for fishermen for the 1st of January.

Priority issues for Ireland will be:

Outcome of TAC (Total Allowable Catch) and Quota negotiations. The Minister will be seeking to deliver TACs that respect scientific advice, reduce the unacceptable practice of discarding fish at sea and are set on a rational basis. Minister Coveney said "The Commission Proposal could result in a net reduction in quotas for the Irish whitefish and prawn fishing industry of 21% by volume. In financial terms, this would amount to a direct income reduction, for the primary producers, the fishermen, of €16.9 million and the full cost(direct and indirect) when the effects on fish factories and others are factored in are in the order of €53 million with estimated significant negative impacts for between 450 - 550 full and part time jobs. I have considered the scientific advice and I am not convinced that the proposed level of cuts is justified. The Commission proposals have been fully evaluated in Ireland and where the level of cuts are not justified I will be making a strong case for a more reasonable approach, taking account of the serious potential effect on jobs and incomes at this time".

Minister Coveney added that "For some stocks such as the very important prawn stock, rather than the 12% cut proposed by the Commission I consider that an increase is justified. However, it will be difficult to reverse the Commission proposal. Similarly, I do not agree that the proposed 55% cut in the Haddock Quota in the Celtic Sea is justified and will I believe lead to increased discarding of fish at sea. I will be working to get a better outcome on this. I also believe that the proposed 32% cut in Hake, the 20% cut in Monkfish, the 48% cut in Haddock in the North West and the 40% cut in Megrim in the North West are too severe and not justified. In total, I am facing high double digit cuts in almost 30 different fish stocks important to Ireland and I will, over the next few days and nights have to negotiate these case by case, taking account of the scientific advice. "

Breakdown of Fisheries external fisheries negotiations: The failure of recent annual talks between the EU and Norway means that access for EU Vessels to EU waters and EU vessels to Norwegian waters will be closed from 1 January next. We will have to negotiate provisional partial quotas for the EU fleet at the Council to a range of important stocks covered by these talks. The withdrawal of access due to the breakdown will also affect the ability of Norwegian vessels to fish Blue Whiting off the North West and this will affect landings into our pelagic fish factories. Minister Coveney said "These are very worrying times for fishing fleet dependant on mackerel, herring and blue whiting. The breakdown of the EU/ Norway negotiations has compounded the breakdown of the Coastal States negotiations on mackerel, blue whiting and Norwegian herring. We are facing difficult discussions over the early part of the Irish Presidency to have agreements put in place, where possible. It is clear that Iceland and the Faroe Islands are not prepared to come to the table with reasonable demands for mackerel again this year. Without international agreement on the management of this stock, our industry is facing a bleak future because the persistent irresponsible fishing of the stock by Iceland and the Faroes will result in the depletion of the stock and substantially reduced fishing opportunities for all. We will be feeling the first results of this next year."

Speaking in advance of the Council Minister Coveney stated "This will be one of the most difficult Fisheries Council's in years. I do not in any way underestimate the considerable challenge posed by the range of issues before us at the Fisheries Council this year. It is essential to the future sustainability of our domestic fishing industry that we obtain a fair and positive outcome to these discussions from Ireland's perspective. This is particularly important given Ireland's imminent presidency of the EU and our strong desire to advance the wider Common Fisheries Policy reform agenda during that time. It is essential therefore that the industry and other stakeholders are fully aware of the huge challenges faced at this Council and of the range of difficulties faced in getting a satisfactory outcome for Ireland in the coming days."

Note: The Minister recently presented a detailed Sustainability Impact Assessment of the EU Commission proposals for TACs and quotas for 2013 to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine on 6th December. For details see

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