Fishermen angry at failure to press for EU policy review

 

THE Irish South and West Fishermen's Organisation has expressed "astonishment" that the Government does not intend to push its case for a review of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) during the Irish EU presidency.

Government commitments to improve Ireland's situation are "meaningless" if it is not making the issue a priority, Mr Tom Hassett, secretary of the organisation, said.

"Not three months ago, the Minister of State for the Marine, Mr Eamon Gilmore, had stated that the Irish presidency presented this opportunity.

"However, not one of seven informal ministerial councils deals with the marine sector", he said.

Seven ministers will host the so called "informals", which are to take place during the presidency in Dublin Castle, Kilarney and Tralee, Co Kerry.

The seven listed are on social welfare, enterprise and employment, environment, foreign affairs, finance, agriculture and justice.

There are also meetings and seminars for ministers of trade, culture, housing, and youth affairs.

The "informals" are not full council meetings, but the relaxed settings like Dromoland Castle, location for a crucial agriculture "informal" during the last presidency give the host state a special opportunity to influence debates.

The CFP is to be reviewed in 2002, and fishermen's organisations have lobbied for an improvement in Ireland's situation, whereby it has 16 per cent of EU waters, but only 4 per cent of the catch and faces increasing pressure on Irish stocks from other EU member states.

A spokeswoman for the Minister for the Marine said there was nothing significant in the absence of a marine informal. Host countries were restricted in the number they could hold, and Ireland was not going to reform the fisheries policy during the presidency.

The dominant issue this year was EU agreement on fleet size, over capacity and fishing effort, but Ireland would facilitate any preliminary discussions on the CFP review.

Ireland's reservations about the CFP, expressed in 1992, were "still on the table", the spokes woman said.

In the short term, the main issues would be technical conservation measures, catch reporting and better control and enforcement.

The British government has signalled that it intends to place a contentious marine issue flagships using other member states' registers to catch fish on the agenda, for the Inter Governmental Conference (IGC). Ireland will support Britain on, this, the Minister for the Marine, Mr Barrett, told his British counterpart, Mr Tony Baldry, in London last week.

Ireland would be working with Britain to improve control, of flagship activity, the Minister said.