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Following a recent public consultation, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D., has adopted a pilot quota balancing policy for whitefish stocks. This pilot scheme has been developed at the request of, and with the assistance of, the Quota Management Advisory Committee.

It is intended that the pilot quota balancing policy for whitefish stocks will apply from 1 July 2019. A pilot scheme for pelagic stocks was introduced by the Minister on 1 January 2018 and will continue to be in effect.

Quota balancing applies where a vessel’s landings exceed that vessel’s catch limit for a fishery management period. Any fish landed in excess of a vessel’s assigned limit must be paid back by means of a deduction from a future allocation. Where the excess is greater than 10%, a higher ratio of payback applies to the full excess. As this is a pilot system applicable to whitefish stocks, quota balancing will apply to five main commercial stocks initially and further stocks will be subject to quota balancing on a phased basis. The pilot quota balancing policy is a conservation tool to support the industry in fully implementing the discards ban, or landing obligation, which means that fishers have to land all of the fish that they catch.

"The pilot quota balancing policy is a conservation tool"

Minister Creed while welcoming the full implementation of the discards ban, acknowledged the challenges facing the Irish fishing industry. The Minister said today “I fully appreciate that the discards ban has brought about a change of practice for many Irish fishers. I have worked with industry representatives to find a practical means to support the implementation of the discards ban. The pilot quota balancing policy promotes conservation of Irish fishing quotas and also supports coherence between the discards ban and the effective management of the quotas”.

A copy of the policy & information booklet is available on the Department’s website here 

The Quota Management Advisory Committee comprises fishing industry representatives from the catching and processing sectors, who make recommendations to the Minister as to the management of Irish fishing quotas.

A Quota Balancing system is being introduced to assist with the full implementation of the Landing Obligation (or ‘Discards Ban’ as it is also known), as provided for under Article 15 of Regulation (EU) No. 1380/2013. A quota balancing system is a conservation measure that will aid the Minister in matching available quota to actual catch so that incentives to discard are reduced.

Quota balancing means that any fish landed in excess of a vessel’s assigned limit must be paid back by means of a deduction from a future allocation. Where the excess is less than 10%, a payback ratio of 1 to 1 (1: 1) applies to the full excess. Where the excess is greater than 10%, a higher payback ratio will be applied to the full excess, ranging from a payback ratio of 1 to 1.2 (1: 1.2), up as far as a payback ratio of 1 to 2 (1: 2).

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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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#whitefish – Following 48 hours of intensive negotiations the Minister for the Marine, Simon Coveney T.D., said tonight that he was relieved that he had successfully managed to turn an extremely worrying proposal from the European Commission into a much improved outcome for the Irish whitefish industry.

The Minister said "The total €123m value of quotas secured for the whitefish fishermen amounts to a small increase from last year. This is a good result overall and is a long way from the original Commission proposals which would have resulted in very significant losses to our fleet". The original Commission proposal included a 20% reduction in whitefish quotas, involving a direct income reduction of €18m for our fishermen.

The Minster said "I am particularly pleased to have persuaded the Commission to reverse the proposed 14% cut in the prawn quota, the most important fishery for the whitefish fleet. We succeeded in getting the Commission to follow the scientific advice for prawns and apply a 3% increase in our quota for this extremely important €60m fishery. This was my number one priority heading into these negotiations and it took a lot of effort to convince the Commission of the merits of our arguments. I have also secured an 11% increase in the important hake fishery and maintained quotas for the economically important monkfish and megrim stocks. This involves a total landing value of €27million to the whitefish fleet operating in the Celtic Sea."

Other details negotiated include;

In the North West, a 20% increase in monkfish quota; a minor increase for the megrim quota, a doubling of the Rockall haddock quota and a 14 % increase in Donegal haddock for the ports of Greencastle and Killybegs
For the South and West coasts and the Irish Sea, a 3% increase in the €60 million prawn fishery which benefits the ports of Clogherhead, Howth, Union Hall, Castletownbere, Dingle and Ros a Mhil.
For the South West, a 11% increase in hake, no change in monkfish and megrim which together provide for a € 27m fishery, mainly important for the southern ports of Castletownbere and Dingle;
For the mixed whitefish fisheries off the South and West coasts, a 12 % reduction in haddock (down from a 41% proposed cut); a 13% cut in cod (reduced from the 64% proposed cut) and 12% reduction in whiting (from a proposed 14% cut).

The Minister explained "The most difficult area coming into these negotiations was the Commission proposal for cod, haddock and whiting in the Celtic Sea. I successfully resisted very substantial cuts in cod and haddock quotas following extremely difficult negotiations. We were able to bring to the table an Irish industry initiative to introduce new fishing gear in 2015 that will allow more young fish to escape and this assisted me greatly in getting the proposed severe cuts (-64% Cod and -41% Haddock) brought down to more manageable levels. This important initiative, it is estimated, will reduce discards of haddock and whiting in the Celtic Sea by some 4,000 tonnes each year - a 30% reduction in total discards of these stocks. It will assist greatly in providing a solid basis for the growth of these fish stocks in the Celtic Sea and should support quota increases in the coming years and the fishing industry should be commended for their initiative."

The Minister concluded "the package agreed for whitefish quotas for Irish fishermen in 2015 represents a successful outcome considering the depth of cuts proposed by the Commission at the start of these Council negotiations. We can face into 2015 having secured an increase for our vitally important prawn fishery and stability for many of our valuable stocks around our coast. This is a good outcome for the fishing industry and it also supports a sustainable approach to protecting our fish stocks"

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#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."

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About boot Düsseldorf: With almost 250,000 visitors, boot Düsseldorf is the world's largest boat and water sports fair and every year in January the “meeting place" for the entire industry. From 18 to 26 January 2020, around 2,000 exhibitors will be presenting their interesting new products, attractive further developments and maritime equipment. This means that the complete market will be on site in Düsseldorf and will be inviting visitors on nine days of the fair to an exciting journey through the entire world of water sports in 17 exhibition halls covering 220,000 square meters. With a focus on boats and yachts, engines and engine technology, equipment and accessories, services, canoes, kayaks, kitesurfing, rowing, diving, surfing, wakeboarding, windsurfing, SUP, fishing, maritime art, marinas, water sports facilities as well as beach resorts and charter, there is something for every water sports enthusiast.

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