Coveney unhappy with fishery plan

 

Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney has pledged that Ireland will “stick with the science” during the annual EU fish talks which are continuing today in Brussels.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Coveney said that he would “challenge anyone to say we are not sticking with scientific advice”, but urged the European Commission to recognise this.

“There’s a lot that we are unhappy about in the current European commission proposals,”he said.

The commission is recommending cuts in certain stocks which could translate into a €60 million to €65 million loss in earnings for the Irish fleet. Negotiations are expected to continue tonight.

Irish officials have calculated a potential €16 million loss for the Celtic Sea fleet, a €5.3 million loss for the Irish Sea fleet and a cut of over €1 million  in the north-west.

“EU maritime affairs commissioner Maria Damanaki thinks she can present an approach of applying up to 25 per cent cuts in stocks where they don’t have data, and yet we have very credible data prepared by the Marine Institute to back up our case,” Mr Coveney said.

“For example, we have identified boarfish as a potential stock which should expand, but the commission wants to apply a reduction which makes absolutely no sense,” he said. Boarfish is a deepwater species which is said to be abundant on the edge of the Continental Shelf.

“You have another situation where the European Commission is recommending a 60 per cent increase in the total allowable catch for Celtic Sea herring, whereas the industry is seeking 30 per cent as a more responsible approach,” Mr Coveney said. “So this shows it is not true to say that fishermen are irresponsible, as some would suggest,”he said.

Mr Coveney says he is not happy over the fact that the Irish Sea prawn fleet must tie up till February, in spite of having quota in credit, while the British and Northern Irish fleets continue to work the grounds.

“Britain appears to be interpreting the rules very differently, and we have told the commission we won’t tolerate this,”he said. “We’ve applied the regulations and we expect to benefit from that.”

Industry representatives who are working with Mr Coveney’s negotiating team have said that a “discredited” Irish Sea cod recovery programme involves a further 25 per cent cut in available fishing days for 2012, and this must be resisted.

The Federation of Irish Fishermen said that EU ministers must support more selective fishing methods to reduce discards in the Celtic Sea, as advocated by the industry.

The Irish environmental pillar’s marine group have said that “overfishing is a disgraceful legacy which cannot continue”.

Coastwatch spokeswoman Karin Dubsky, who is part of the pillar, said that the talks “must address the problem and help stock recovery”.

“We are supporting Mr Coveney in his strong and logical intention presented to the Dáil to keep within the advice of our own Marine institute,”she said.

“The Marine Institute stock book and marine atlas are a credit to our Irish scientists and advances in scientific research paid for by the tax payer. It is time to listen to science,”she said.