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The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney T.D. early this morning (Wednesday) announced that he has secured 36,886 tonnes of whitefish quotas for Irish fishermen at today’s EU Fisheries negotiations. This is a 10% increase on last year.

The deal was agreed at 1.30am after 2 days of intensive negotiations.

The whitefish quotas agreed amounted to a value of €131m, an increase of €10m on the 2015 figure.

For the third consecutive year, the values of whitefish and prawn quotas available in 2016 show an increase. The overall 8% increase in quota for prawns, one of Ireland’s most valuable fisheries, includes a quota uplift to support the introduction of the discards ban.

Minister Coveney said, “We are currently rolling out the most radical reform ever agreed under the Common Fisheries Policy. The phasing out of discards is a challenging policy for the fishing community to implement and is being supported by the introduction of quota uplift for fisheries affected. A discards ban will apply to prawn, whiting, haddock and hake fisheries in 2016. Fishermen are being given additional quota to cover the increased landings with an 18% overall increase for these stocks with an additional value of €9m, if more selective fishing methods are used to avoid juvenile catches.”

Minister Coveney added, “The new CFP also introduces a policy that sets quotas at the highest level possible while ensuring the sustainability of the stock (Maximum Sustainable Yield or MSY). This will result in increased quotas and stability for the fishing sector in the coming years.”

In some cases, moving towards MSY will result in short term reductions in quota as we rebuild stocks and we can see that reflected in the 4% reduction in cod in the Celtic Sea and a 13% reduction in the haddock stock in the Celtic Sea. However, the benefits of the policy are visible in the Celtic Sea where we now have an increase of 26% in the whiting stock which is now being managed at MSY levels.

The quotas secured at Council are important for ports around the coast;

- The prawn fishery is Ireland’s most important whitefish fishery and was facing a 10% cut going into Council. The final quota outcome is an 8% increase, an additional €4.8m in value terms over last year for the prawn fleet.

- North West – Greencastle and Killybegs; whitefish quotas have increased by 20% with notable increases in megrim ( 26%), monkfish (20%), north west haddock (42%) and rockhall haddock (25%).

- South and West – Ros a Mhil, Dingle, Castletownbere, Union Hall and Dunmore East; total whitefish quotas have increased by 7%. Notable increases are whiting (26%), Megrim (5%), and Hake (21%).

- The Irish Sea haddock quota is increased by (40%) which is important for the ports of Clogherhead, Howth and Kilmore Quay.

- Other notable increases are the 48% increase in the large horse mackerel quota for the pelagic fleet in the north and west coast and the 3% increase in the albacore tuna for the south west tuna fleet.

In relation to herring off the West and North West coast, further scientific advice is being sought with a view to establishing a small commercial fishery later in the year.

Finally, the Council agreed to strengthened conservation measures for the endangered sea bass stock, including the introduction of a catch and release recreational angling fishery for the first half of 2016, with a one fish bag limit for the second half of the year. This is important for the bass angling tourism business.

Concluding, Minister Coveney said, “Overall, this is a very positive and balanced package for our fishing sector. I am confident this deal for 2016 will support further growth in the seafood sector while underpinning the long term sustainability of fish stocks.”

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The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, today expressed concern at proposals for some of Ireland’s key fisheries quotas, ahead of annual EU Fisheries negotiations in Brussels next week. The Minister said that the rolling out of the new discards ban for a number of Irish stocks added to the complexities of this year’s negotiations.

Minister Coveney said today that “Some of the proposals for stocks of great importance to Irish fleets are unnecessarily restrictive in my view and do not reflect scientific advice. We must set quotas that support sustainable fish stocks and I will support cuts where the scientific advice is clear that that is the right thing to do. The Commission is proposing a 43% and 27% cut to our cod and haddock quotas in the Celtic Sea, these stocks are stable and cuts of this magnitude are not justified. Other serious cuts are proposed for our very valuable prawn quota which is not supported by the scientific advice and for whitefish quotas in the Irish Sea. We must set quotas that support sustainable fish stocks and I will support cuts where the scientific advice is clear that that is the right thing to do. I will be making a strong case next week to Commissioner Vella to make significant changes to these quota proposals. ”.
The Minister added that “There is an added complexity to this year’s negotiations as the new landing obligation for certain stocks will apply from the 1st of January 2016. During the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, brokered by Ireland, I was a strong advocate of a phased introduction of discards ban to end the wasteful practice of discarding high volumes of fish at sea. As part of that Reform, it was also agreed that quotas would be adjusted upwards for stocks covered by discards ban to take account of the new situation that all catches must now be landed. It is vital that this ‘uplift’ in quotas is fully applied to the stocks that come under the discards ban in 2016, to support its practical implementation.”
In 2016 Irish fisheries covered by discards ban include prawns, whiting in the Celtic Sea and Haddock in the Irish Sea and the area west of Scotland.
Minister Coveney concluded by saying that “I am meeting our industry representatives this evening in advance of Council and I also intend to meet other stakeholders on margin of the Council to get a full understanding of priorities. During the Council I will keep the industry representatives and other stakeholders fully up to date on progress and developing issues.”

The Annual Fisheries negotiations to decide on quotas for 2016 takes place on the 14th and 15th of December in Brussels.

Published in Fishing

#whitefish – The Minister for the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, took part in 'very difficult' fishing meetings yesterday on the deep cuts to white fish quotas proposed by the Commission which continued late last night.

Early morning meetings continue on difficult negotiations on quota allocations.

The Minister is insisting on a fair deal for Irish fishermen and a responsible science based deal for fish stocks.

The Minister stated that he is refusing to compromise on protecting the livelihoods of fishermen, when there is strong science to back up the Irish position.

There may be agreement late this afternoon / early evening but it is too early to accurately predict according to the Minister.

Published in Fishing

#whitefish – Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney TD., has expressed his serious concern at the major threat to Irelands' whitefish fleet, ahead of the upcoming EU Fisheries negotiations in Brussels. The Minister said that the Commission had produced a devastating and unnecessary set of the most severe whitefish quota cuts.
Minister Coveney said today that "If the Commission's quota proposals remain unchanged, we are facing an overall 20% cut to our whitefish and prawn quotas for 2015. In the Celtic Sea, the Commission wants to dramatically cut the key whitefish stocks on which our fleet are dependant".
The Commission's proposal is to cut Cod by -64%, Haddock by -41%, Pollack by -20%, Skates & Rays by -20%, Whiting by -14%, Monkfish by -12% and Hake by -4%. Minister Coveney said "There are also a number of other stocks where cuts of up to 20% are proposed without an acceptable justification. These levels of cuts are not justified and are not acceptable".
The Minister added that "I presented the scale and implications of these cuts to the joint Oireachtas Committee last week. (The Whitefish Fleet is facing a loss of 5,500 tonnes of whitefish quotas if the Commission's proposals are not modified at Council). The level of cuts proposed for the whitefish fisheries are extremely worrying. What is really unacceptable to me is the fact that many of these cuts are based on a very narrow interpretation of the available scientific advice and are, in my view, completely unjustified. I can accept reductions to quotas to protect the long term sustainability of our stocks but I will not accept scientifically unnecessary cuts that would undermine the sustainability of our fishing communities."
The Minister went on to say "I am frustrated with the Commission's whitefish quota proposals and I will, with the support of our industry representatives, other stakeholders and our scientists be arguing forcefully throughout the Council for a rational application of the scientific advice."
The Minister added that "I find it especially unacceptable that, in the context of the new Common Fisheries Policy and in particular the impending ban on discards, the Commission are taking such a rigid approach to the setting of quotas for 2015."
The Minister explained that " I am committed to setting quotas in accordance with Maximum Sustainable Yield (fMSY) but, in line with the agreement I brokered on the new Common Fisheries Policy, we must phase it in where it's immediate application would seriously jeopardize the social and economic fabric of the fishing fleets impacted. The Commission proposals assume its immediate application irrespective of the socio economic implications. This is not acceptable"
The Minister will attend the EU Fisheries Council in Brussels from the 15th to the 16th of December, where quotas for the Irish fleet for 2015 will be determined. The proposals put forward from the Commission impact the Irish white fish sector in particular with severe cuts in many stocks of vital importance to Ireland. The Commission has proposed cuts to pelagic stocks such as herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and boarfish. The Minister, working with our industry, is willing to accept these cuts on the basis they are justified on the available scientific advice.
Concluding, Minister Coveney said "This is my fourth December Fisheries Council and each year it seems to get more difficult. This year looks like being the most difficult one yet. I am extremely worried that despite our collective efforts we will be presented with a fait accompli of the worst set of cuts to our quotas in recent years. I will work as hard as I can with industry and other stakeholders, as well as important Member States such as France, the UK and Spain, to try and avoid that outcome. I am however very concerned that this will be an uphill task given the scale of the whitefish cuts being proposed."

Published in Fishing

#FISHING - A Wexford fisherman has defended the free giving away of monkfish to the public yesterday morning after exceeding an EU quota.

RTÉ News reports that Seamus O'Flaherty, owner of the trawler Saltees Quest, handed out the fish to hundreds of passers-by at Kilmore Quay rather than have the surplus catch thrown back into the water.

The vessel's skipper Jimmy Byrne defended the move as a protest against an EU rule that requires over-quota fish to be discarded at sea.

According to The Irish Times, officers with the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, who observed the monkfish giveaway yesterday, have prepared a file for submission to the Director of Public Prosecution.

The authority said it found a large quantity of monkfish retained on the vessel which had been logged as having been discarded - and emphasised that catches landed that are not declared as discards are still counted against the national quota.

Byrne, meanwhile, described the practice of discards of dead fish as "crazy" especially when many people in Ireland are "going hungry".

He commented: “I have a certain quota of fish to catch and the monkfish end up getting caught. There’s more monkfish in Ireland than ever before. I can’t tell the monkfish not to go into the net."

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Fishing

#FISHING - Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney briefed the Irish Skipper Expo in Galway last weekend on a new initiative promoting the use of selective conservation fishing nets, which allow young fish to escape.

Under the initiative in the Celtic Sea, additional quotas of up to 25% will be made available by the minister to skippers of Irish fishing boats which use an escape panel in their nets, allowing young whiting and haddock to escape.

The escape panel, developed by the Irish industry, has been endorsed at EU level and is expected to be a mandatory requirement later in the year.

Minister Coveney said on Saturday: “The use of this panel will significantly reduce discards of juvenile whiting and haddock in the Celtic Sea, allowing juvenile fish to grow and mature and contribute to increased stock size and returns for fishermen in future years.

"I believe that this offers an example of a practical approach to dealing effectively with the discards problem and retention of a flexible quota allocation system that we should take forward in the context of the Common Fisheries Policy Review."

In other news, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) announced €1.5 million in grant aid for the Irish fishing industry at the expo.

A spokesperson for BIM confirmed to the Galway Independent that the funding will be available to industry through a variety of schemes including fleet safety, seafood environmental management, lobster V-notching and coastal action groups.

Over 100 companies displayed their products and services to fishermen at the Irish Skipper Expo International 2012, held at the Galway Bay Hotel on 24-25 February.

Published in Fishing

Irish Fishing industry 

The Irish Commercial Fishing Industry employs around 11,000 people in fishing, processing and ancillary services such as sales and marketing. The industry is worth about €1.22 billion annually to the Irish economy. Irish fisheries products are exported all over the world as far as Africa, Japan and China.

FAQs

Over 16,000 people are employed directly or indirectly around the coast, working on over 2,000 registered fishing vessels, in over 160 seafood processing businesses and in 278 aquaculture production units, according to the State's sea fisheries development body Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

All activities that are concerned with growing, catching, processing or transporting fish are part of the commercial fishing industry, the development of which is overseen by BIM. Recreational fishing, as in angling at sea or inland, is the responsibility of Inland Fisheries Ireland.

The Irish fishing industry is valued at 1.22 billion euro in gross domestic product (GDP), according to 2019 figures issued by BIM. Only 179 of Ireland's 2,000 vessels are over 18 metres in length. Where does Irish commercially caught fish come from? Irish fish and shellfish is caught or cultivated within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but Irish fishing grounds are part of the common EU "blue" pond. Commercial fishing is regulated under the terms of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983 and with ten-yearly reviews.

The total value of seafood landed into Irish ports was 424 million euro in 2019, according to BIM. High value landings identified in 2019 were haddock, hake, monkfish and megrim. Irish vessels also land into foreign ports, while non-Irish vessels land into Irish ports, principally Castletownbere, Co Cork, and Killybegs, Co Donegal.

There are a number of different methods for catching fish, with technological advances meaning skippers have detailed real time information at their disposal. Fisheries are classified as inshore, midwater, pelagic or deep water. Inshore targets species close to shore and in depths of up to 200 metres, and may include trawling and gillnetting and long-lining. Trawling is regarded as "active", while "passive" or less environmentally harmful fishing methods include use of gill nets, long lines, traps and pots. Pelagic fisheries focus on species which swim close to the surface and up to depths of 200 metres, including migratory mackerel, and tuna, and methods for catching include pair trawling, purse seining, trolling and longlining. Midwater fisheries target species at depths of around 200 metres, using trawling, longlining and jigging. Deepwater fisheries mainly use trawling for species which are found at depths of over 600 metres.

There are several segments for different catching methods in the registered Irish fleet – the largest segment being polyvalent or multi-purpose vessels using several types of gear which may be active and passive. The polyvalent segment ranges from small inshore vessels engaged in netting and potting to medium and larger vessels targeting whitefish, pelagic (herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting) species and bivalve molluscs. The refrigerated seawater (RSW) pelagic segment is engaged mainly in fishing for herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting only. The beam trawling segment focuses on flatfish such as sole and plaice. The aquaculture segment is exclusively for managing, developing and servicing fish farming areas and can collect spat from wild mussel stocks.

The top 20 species landed by value in 2019 were mackerel (78 million euro); Dublin Bay prawn (59 million euro); horse mackerel (17 million euro); monkfish (17 million euro); brown crab (16 million euro); hake (11 million euro); blue whiting (10 million euro); megrim (10 million euro); haddock (9 million euro); tuna (7 million euro); scallop (6 million euro); whelk (5 million euro); whiting (4 million euro); sprat (3 million euro); herring (3 million euro); lobster (2 million euro); turbot (2 million euro); cod (2 million euro); boarfish (2 million euro).

Ireland has approximately 220 million acres of marine territory, rich in marine biodiversity. A marine biodiversity scheme under Ireland's operational programme, which is co-funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and the Government, aims to reduce the impact of fisheries and aquaculture on the marine environment, including avoidance and reduction of unwanted catch.

EU fisheries ministers hold an annual pre-Christmas council in Brussels to decide on total allowable catches and quotas for the following year. This is based on advice from scientific bodies such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. In Ireland's case, the State's Marine Institute publishes an annual "stock book" which provides the most up to date stock status and scientific advice on over 60 fish stocks exploited by the Irish fleet. Total allowable catches are supplemented by various technical measures to control effort, such as the size of net mesh for various species.

The west Cork harbour of Castletownbere is Ireland's biggest whitefish port. Killybegs, Co Donegal is the most important port for pelagic (herring, mackerel, blue whiting) landings. Fish are also landed into Dingle, Co Kerry, Rossaveal, Co Galway, Howth, Co Dublin and Dunmore East, Co Waterford, Union Hall, Co Cork, Greencastle, Co Donegal, and Clogherhead, Co Louth. The busiest Northern Irish ports are Portavogie, Ardglass and Kilkeel, Co Down.

Yes, EU quotas are allocated to other fleets within the Irish EEZ, and Ireland has long been a transhipment point for fish caught by the Spanish whitefish fleet in particular. Dingle, Co Kerry has seen an increase in foreign landings, as has Castletownbere. The west Cork port recorded foreign landings of 36 million euro or 48 per cent in 2019, and has long been nicknamed the "peseta" port, due to the presence of Spanish-owned transhipment plant, Eiranova, on Dinish island.

Most fish and shellfish caught or cultivated in Irish waters is for the export market, and this was hit hard from the early stages of this year's Covid-19 pandemic. The EU, Asia and Britain are the main export markets, while the middle Eastern market is also developing and the African market has seen a fall in value and volume, according to figures for 2019 issued by BIM.

Fish was once a penitential food, eaten for religious reasons every Friday. BIM has worked hard over several decades to develop its appeal. Ireland is not like Spain – our land is too good to transform us into a nation of fish eaters, but the obvious health benefits are seeing a growth in demand. Seafood retail sales rose by one per cent in 2019 to 300 million euro. Salmon and cod remain the most popular species, while BIM reports an increase in sales of haddock, trout and the pangasius or freshwater catfish which is cultivated primarily in Vietnam and Cambodia and imported by supermarkets here.

The EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983, pooled marine resources – with Ireland having some of the richest grounds and one of the largest sea areas at the time, but only receiving four per cent of allocated catch by a quota system. A system known as the "Hague Preferences" did recognise the need to safeguard the particular needs of regions where local populations are especially dependent on fisheries and related activities. The State's Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, based in Clonakilty, Co Cork, works with the Naval Service on administering the EU CFP. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine and Department of Transport regulate licensing and training requirements, while the Marine Survey Office is responsible for the implementation of all national and international legislation in relation to safety of shipping and the prevention of pollution.

Yes, a range of certificates of competency are required for skippers and crew. Training is the remit of BIM, which runs two national fisheries colleges at Greencastle, Co Donegal and Castletownbere, Co Cork. There have been calls for the colleges to be incorporated into the third-level structure of education, with qualifications recognised as such.

Safety is always an issue, in spite of technological improvements, as fishing is a hazardous occupation and climate change is having its impact on the severity of storms at sea. Fishing skippers and crews are required to hold a number of certificates of competency, including safety and navigation, and wearing of personal flotation devices is a legal requirement. Accidents come under the remit of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, and the Health and Safety Authority. The MCIB does not find fault or blame, but will make recommendations to the Minister for Transport to avoid a recurrence of incidents.

Fish are part of a marine ecosystem and an integral part of the marine food web. Changing climate is having a negative impact on the health of the oceans, and there have been more frequent reports of warmer water species being caught further and further north in Irish waters.

Brexit, Covid 19, EU policies and safety – Britain is a key market for Irish seafood, and 38 per cent of the Irish catch is taken from the waters around its coast. Ireland's top two species – mackerel and prawns - are 60 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, dependent on British waters. Also, there are serious fears within the Irish industry about the impact of EU vessels, should they be expelled from British waters, opting to focus even more efforts on Ireland's rich marine resource. Covid-19 has forced closure of international seafood markets, with high value fish sold to restaurants taking a large hit. A temporary tie-up support scheme for whitefish vessels introduced for the summer of 2020 was condemned by industry organisations as "designed to fail".

Sources: Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Marine Institute, Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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