The Irish fishing fleet will secure some 233,500 tonnes of quota next year which is worth €280 million to the industry, Minister for Marine Michael Creed has said.
The industry has given a broad welcome to the deal - billed as a six per cent increase on last year’s share - which was agreed after overnight negotiations involving EU fisheries ministers in Brussels
The deal includes significant increases in three stocks caught by the Irish pelagic fleet - with mackerel up 14 per cent, blue whiting up 85 per cent and Atlanto Scandia herring up 104 per cent.
A proposed nine per cent cut in Irish share of prawns- this State’s second most important fishery by value after mackerel - was reversed, with a nine per cent increase.
However, the first taste of Brexit was felt, when Ireland was left without British support to secure additional share under the so-called Hague Preferences.
These conditions - dating back to 1976 - recognise the particular needs of coastal regions where populations are particularly dependent on fishing.
Ireland would normally have enjoyed Britain’s support in resisting annual efforts by other EU member states to attack the concession.
Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation chief executive Sean O'Donoghue and Irish Fish Producers' Organisation chief executive Francis O'Donnell paid tribute to Mr Creed for defending the Hague Preferences against an "onslaught" by four other member states.
Mr Creed, who was attending his first EU fisheries quota-setting council, noted that the €74 million prawn fishery benefits the ports of Clogherhead, Co Louth, Howth, Co Dublin, the west Cork ports of Union Hall and Castletownbere, Dingle, Co Kerry, and Ros a Mhil, Co Galway.
His team also secured a 9 per cent increase in hake, and a reversal of cuts proposed for monkfish - key stocks for Castletownbere and Dingle.
Celtic Sea stocks secured include a 21 per cent increase in whiting, a 7 per cent increase in haddock, and 15 per cent cut in cod - significantly reduced from the 68 per cent cut proposed.
In the Irish Sea, a 25 per cent increase in haddock and retention of cod and sole quotas was also agreed for the Irish whitefish fleet.
In the north-west, there was a 20 per cent increase in monkfish quota, a 9 per cent increase for the megrim quota, and a near doubling of the Rockall haddock quota. There were reductions in haddock in the north-west and megrim in the Irish Sea.
Mr O’Donoghue said a 20 per cent reduction in haddock in the north-west was “not warranted as the reduction is due to scientific error and changing the fishing mortality rate”.
Mr O’Donnell described the discussions as “very positive”.
“All in all I am satisfied with the outcome. It will still mean careful quota planning for certain stocks in 2017’,”he said.
Birdwatch Ireland's species policy officer Sinéad Cummins, who was also in Brussels, said that Mr Creed would "ultimately have to provide justification for postponing action to recover vulnerable fish stocks such as Celtic Sea Cod" and "the socio-economic arguments used to defend setting quotas above the science".
She said Mr Creed and his negotiating team “must take into account the longer-term impact on the sustainability of these stocks”, as “ultimately healthier fish stocks will better support coastal communities into the future”.
She also called for better transparency in the council negotiations. Non-governmental organisations had been asking for some time for the deliberations to be “live streamed”, as with other council discussions, to enable members of the public to “observe ministers’ opening remarks, at least”.
“Fisheries ministers must now explain what they have decided, why there are still fishing limits higher than the scientific advice, and how that is in line with the law,” she said.