#Fishing - Marine Minister Simon Coveney has outlined the major issues of importance for Ireland in the preparation for setting quotas for 2016 following the EU Commission presentation to Council of a policy document on its intended approach to setting fish quotas in 2016.
The Council of Ministers also agreed its position on the proposed regulations for the production and labelling of organic products at today's EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting (Tuesday 16 June). The next step is to secure the agreement of the European Parliament to these proposals.
Speaking earlier today, Minister Coveney welcomed the fact that the state of fish stocks generally is improving and reiterated his commitment that all fish stocks should reach the target of maximum sustainable yield (MSY) by 2020.
He pointed out that “building fish stocks to maximum sustainable yield levels will benefit both the fishing industry and the environment and help secure the future.
"The fishing industry is facing into a period of change with the new policies agreed under the reformed CFP in 2013 now being implemented. The setting of fish quotas in line with new scientific rules is being rolled out and the discards ban for whitefish stocks will commence on 1 January 2016.
"I am working to deliver these new policies on a rational and progressive basis over the next four years so that we deliver fully on the commitment for a new fully sustainable fishing industry by 2020."
The minister added: “We must not apply these new policies as a 'big bang' in 2016. What I am seeking from the EU Commission is a step by step approach which will give industry time to adjust to the new approach.
"If we look to 2020 and beyond I am confident that we will have moved the industry to a much stronger situation with fish stocks rebuilt and the unacceptable practices of discarding fish at sea ended. I made clear to the Commission that 2016 should be an important step on the path and TACs must be set on this stepwise basis, incrementally applying the new scientific rules by setting TACs so as to reach maximum sustainable yields by 2020.”
A discards plan for whitefish stocks in the waters around Ireland has been agreed by EU member states following intensive negotiations chaired by Ireland. The plan, which was developed in consultation with stakeholders, involves the phasing in of the discards ban over the 2016 to 2019 period.
“The first phase of the implementation of the discards ban which comes into effect on 1 January 2016 will require adjustment and changed practices by the fishing industry," said Minister Coveney. "To support operators, the Department [of Marine] and marine agencies will work with them in finding practical approaches to adjust to this new policy and I am making funding available to help them meet the new challenges.”
Referring to the agreement reached on proposed regulations for the organic sector, the minister said he is "delighted we have reached agreement in Council on the regulations for the production and labelling of organic produce.
"This is particularly important for Ireland in light of the numbers who have applied for the Organic Farming Scheme under our Rural Development Programme announced earlier today by my colleague Minister of State Tom Hayes. These regulations provide clear rules for the organic sector and a good basis for negotiations with the European Parliament.”