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 (FIF) has warned.
A nine per cent reduction in the quota for prawns - the second most valuable fishery around the Irish coast - was “not justified”, FIF chairman Francis O’Donnell said early today, predicting it would cost the economy €15 million.
A 33 per cent reduction 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 (CFP), Mr O’Donnell said.
The FIF has welcomed a 49 per cent increase in the hake quota, and a 20 per cent increase in megrim in the north-west, and a 15 per cent increase in the monkfish quota for the south-west, but says that losses on prawns, haddock, cod and whiting together will result in an eight per cent overall reduction in income within the whitefish fleet.
Minister for Fisheries Simon Coveney has defended the deal, arguing that the overall value of fishing opportunities for fishermen next year is the same as 2013.
“If you add up all the plusses and minuses the fishing opportunities for next year are steady”, he said, at over €250 million.
"People need to look at the whole package. The Celtic Sea fishery dramatically increased in terms of extra quota over the last few years, so really this is bringing it back to where it was three or four years ago," Mr Coveney said at the end of two days of meeting s in Brussels.
“On the whole most fishermen will be relieved.There will be some of course, particularly affected by the Celtic sea mixed fisheries. The scientific advice is that this is under pressure, recruitment is not strong. There is a proposed 22 per cent reduction in whiting, though a provisional figure .. that is likely to come down by another 10 per cent in the new year, but haddock and cod both reducing by 33 per cent . The proposal initially was that haddock would be reduced by 75 per cent.”
Monkfish is up 15 per cent, and hake is also up significantly he said. In particular, he pointed to the good result in relation to prawns. “Fishermen were very very worried about a cut of up to a quarter, now there is only a 9 per cent reduction, effectively back to where we were twelve months ago.”
“Coming into this, many fishermen were predicting a catastrophe. That has not happened. In fact the overall value of fishing opportunities for fishermen next year is the same than it was this year. Considerably over a quarter of a billion euro in value. That in my view can keep the fishing fleet intact, and commercially viable, and also the decisions we have made are consistent with the new fisheries policy, and making the right decisions when we have to when stocks are vulnerable.”
No progress was made on the ongoing dispute between the European Union and Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Norway over mackerel fishing. Asked about the isues, EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki said that situation would be clarified at a meeting next month. * While an understanding had been reached with Iceland, no such understanding had been reached with the Faroe islands. "The situation will be clarified next month."