Anger within industry over EU fish deal

Whitefish fleet’s survival described as “insurmountable”

Coastal communities face up to 350 job losses and regulatory discards of fish will increase as a result of the deal concluded by EU fisheries ministers in Brussels, the Federation of Irish Fishermen has warned.

The industry, which has enjoyed a good relationship with Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney, has reacted angrily to the outcome of Tuesday night’s negotiations on the 2014 share-out.

A 9 per cent cut in the quota for prawns – the second most valuable fishery around the Irish coast – is “not justified”, federation chairman Francis O’Donnell has said, predicting it would cost the economy €15 million.

A 33 per cent cut in the haddock quota is “in effect a charter for discards” of fish, and is “contrary” to the spirit of the revised Common Fisheries Policy, Mr O’Donnell said.

The impact of the haddock cut would be exacerbated by reductions in cod and whiting share-out for the south coast, given that all three are caught in the same fishery, he pointed out.

The federation has welcomed a 49 per cent increase in the hake quota, a 20 per cent increase in megrim in the northwest, and a 15 per cent increase in the monkfish quota for the southwest, but says that losses on prawns, haddock, cod and whiting together will result in an 8 per cent overall reduction in income within the whitefish fleet.

Increases secured in some key pelagic (mackerel/herring) stocks were offset by a 28 per cent cut in the horse mackerel quota, Mr O’Donnell said. He described the European Commission’s decision to agree on “totally unacceptable” shares of the migratory mackerel stock with both Iceland and the Faroe islands as “rewarding their reckless and irresponsible behaviour”.

The Irish South and East Fish Producers’ Organisation said the cuts would “make it virtually impossible for Irish vessels to fish and work in their own waters”, and described whitefish fleet survival as “insurmountable”.

Mr Coveney has defended the deal, pointing out that the initial proposed cuts were much worse – a 75 per cent drop in the haddock quota and a 24 per cent cut in prawns.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times