Fishermen reject EU cuts concession


THE EU Fisheries Commissioner, Ms Emma Bonino, has suggested limited concessions on the proposed 40 per cent reduction in the size of the Irish fleet.

At a meeting with the Irish Fishermen's Federation (IFF) during her visit to Dublin this week, Ms Bonino suggested that there could be a compromise of a 30 per cent cut in the fleet over three years.

The Commission wants the EU demersal (white fish) fleet cut by 40 per cent to conserve fisheries stocks. Ms Bonino said the proposals were still under negotiation but was adamant that substantial cuts were needed in the EU fleet.

The IFF, however, has rejected the Commissioner's proposal and says that Ireland should be totally exempted from the cuts, which the organisation believes would "virtually wipe out" the Irish industry.

Ms Bonino said that she has excluded small inshore boats of under seven metres from the cuts. But Mr Tom Hassett, a spokesman for the federation, said that "none of Ireland's inshore fishermen make their living from white fishing." The coastal fishermen were involved in lobster potting and shell fishing, he said.

He said that even a 30 per cent reduction would "cut out half the fleet".

There were 1,400 registered fishing vessels in Ireland and 722 of them were under 12 metres. Only 125 Irish vessels were over 20 metres, he said, and the industry would be "virtually wiped out".

The federation's chairman, Mr Donal O'Driscoll, told the Commissioner that "Ireland has not been the cause of the overfishing problem and so should not be part of the solution". Ireland had 16 per cent of EU waters, just 5 per cent of the catch and "a mere 2.5 per cent of the fleet".

A spokeswoman for the Department of the Marine said that Ireland was "totally opposed to the cuts and our negotiations with the Commission are ongoing".

The recently formed Marine Council of the Irish Business and Employers' Confederation also met Ms Bonino during her visit and told her that the cuts in the Irish fleet were "a direct threat to the survival of the marine industry and to the livelihoods of those employed in it".