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In a move to protect dwindling fish stocks, the European Commission recently took decisive action by significantly reducing Spain's mackerel quotas over the next few years as a result of over-fishing. This over-fishing of mackerel by the Spanish has been of major concern to the Irish fishing industry and was brought to the attention of the Commission by the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) and other bodies.

Spanish fishermen landed almost twice as much mackerel in 2010 from the Cantabrian Sea, in the southern part of the Bay of Biscay, as they were permitted. Through their investigations, the European Commission discovered that the mackerel catch exceeded Spain's quota in the year 2010 by 19,621 tonnes. The European Commission has now passed a regulation reducing Spain's future quotas to account for the excess catches. Spain is obliged, in the period between 2011 and 2015, to return twice the amount of mackerel wrongfully caught.

In order to help combat over-fishing the SFPA operates a round the clock monitoring and surveillance programme to ensure the effective control of fish catches and landings. To promote a culture of compliance with National and EU legislation, landings by Irish, EU and Third Country vessels are inspected by the SFPA in Irish ports. Sea-Fisheries Protection Officers engage in a range of at-sea inspection programmes including both inshore and offshore patrols in conjunction with the Naval Service and Joint inspection patrols with other Member States operating in Irish waters and in those of other Member States.

The SFPA will work with Member States and with the Community Fisheries Control Agency (CFCA) based in Vigo, Spain, when a specific control and inspection programme for pelagic fisheries in Western Waters of the North East Atlantic is established - this is expected to be adopted in the near future. This will allow for the co-ordination of joint control, inspection and surveillance activities by Member States for these pelagic fisheries.

Peter Whelan, Chairman of the SFPA said: "The recent decision by the EU to impose sanctions on Spain for over-fishing and to protect the valuable mackerel fishery is significant. There is a need for all Member States to work together and to comply with the Common Fisheries Policy's rules in order to ensure the sustainable development of fisheries. The role of the SFPA supports profitable, sustainable, managed fisheries at a time when the fishing industry faces many challenges. Effective monitoring and control systems safe-guards the good reputation of Irish food producers in the international marketplace and protects Irish taxpayer from the threat of large fines being imposed when non-compliances with the Common Fisheries Policy are encountered. The SFPA will continue with our aim of working with other Member States to promote a uniform standard of monitoring, control and surveillance."

Published in Fishing
Page 2 of 2

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