Minister welcomes 8% rise in value of whitefish quotas for Irish fleet

Fianna Fáil marine spokesman warns of impact of Brexit on fishing industry

Quota deal: overall package is worth €266 million to the Irish fleet. Photograph:  Annie Sakkab/Bloomberg

Quota deal: overall package is worth €266 million to the Irish fleet. Photograph: Annie Sakkab/Bloomberg


Ireland’s fish quota deal is better than anticipated, with a three per cent increase by volume and eight per cent increase by value in whitefish quotas.

Unusually, this year’s December EU fish council reached a final compromise at 7.40am after a record 47 hours of discussions, due to protracted arguments over European eel and sea bass and some Mediterranean stocks.

The overall package secured is worth €266 million to the Irish fleet, according to Minister for Marine Michael Creed.

Key outcomes welcomed by Mr Creed include a 20 per cent increase in monkfish, a 21 per cent increase for horse mackerel and a 26 per cent increase in the haddock for the fleet in the northwest.

A 15 per cent increase was secured in the prawn quota, worth €10.6 million, while recovery of the Irish Sea cod stock has seen a “trebling of the quota”, he said.

The Irish Sea haddock quota has also increased by 55 per cent, while a 13 per cent increase for Albacore tuna will benefit southwest ports.

Mr Creed said that for the mixed whitefish fisheries off the south and west coasts there will be a two per cent increase in cod, a “roll over” in monkfish, an 11 per cent reduction in haddock, and a 19 per cent reduction in whiting, “all in accordance with the scientific advice”.

The European Commission had sought a complete ban on angling for sea bass for six months of the year. Mr Creed said he “successfully argued for an all-year-round ‘catch and release’ fishery ” instead.

Cut in mackerel

Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) chief executive Sean O’Donoghue welcomed the overall result, while saying he was disappointed at a 20 per cent cut in mackerel which was the outcome of pre-council negotiations.

Fianna Fáil marine spokesman Pat the Cope Gallagher issued a guarded welcome but both he and Mr O’Donoghue warned of the impact of Brexit .

The Government must ensure that fisheries are linked to trade as part of the second phase of negotiations between the EU and Britain, Mr O’Donoghue said.

“We are 60 per cent dependent on access to British waters for mackerel, and 40 per cent for prawns, and overall we take a third of our catch in British waters,” Mr O’Donoghue said.

“Britain will be seeking a greater take of stocks overall...and is also opposed to linking fisheries to trade as it knows it would then have to compromise,” he said.

Next December’s council will also be challenging for a separate reason , as January 2019 is the deadline for final roll-out of the “landing obligation”, or ban on discarding fish at sea.

Sustainable limits

Mr O’Donoghue said he believed Brussels had not fully faced up to the practicalities of this.

Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation Patrick Murphy said credit was due to the Irish negotiating team, in spite of “mixed results”.

Birdwatch Ireland said while “some progress has been made in efforts to set quotas at sustainable fishing limits”, the pace of progress towards meeting 2020 targets was too slow.

Meanwhile, EU Maritime Affairs commissioner Karmenu Vella said the outcome of this year’s all-night pre-Christmas quota negotiations has ensured that 53 stocks will be fished at sustainable fishing limits, compared to 44 in 2017.

In 2009 only five quota stocks had catches set at what is known as “maximum sustainable yield”, he said.

Mr Vella said he wished to pay “particular tribute to our fishermen, who year by year undertake considerable efforts”.

Earlier this week, the first phase of a marine spatial plan for Ireland was announced by Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy and his colleague Damian English in advance of a 2021 deadline set by Europe.