New EU fisheries deal aims to ‘protect future of fishing industry’

Critics say EU leaders ‘have failed abysmally to meet legal deadline to end overfishing’

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has said a new European fisheries deal will be worth €275 million to the sector and will “protect the future of the fishing industry”. File Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has said a new European fisheries deal will be worth €275 million to the sector and will “protect the future of the fishing industry”. File Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has said a new European fisheries deal will be worth €275 million to the sector and will “protect the future of the fishing industry”.

The deal, which was struck overnight in Brussels following two days of negotiations at the EU council of fisheries ministers, will see increased quotas for a number of stocks important to Irish fisheries, including mackerel, haddock and monkfish.

However, the Irish quota for prawns has been reduced by 15 per cent due to warnings over the decline in stock density in some areas. The council also agreed on the introduction of “significant additional safeguards” to rebuild Celtic Sea stocks of species such as cod and whiting, which are “in very poor shape”.

Michael Creed says he is “satisfied that I have achieved my twin aims coming into this fisheries council, which were to continue the progress we have made on improving sustainability and to protect key fisheries on which our coastal communities depend”.

However, environmentalists claimed it was not sufficient to end overfishing as promised by 2020.

Policy

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) had set a deadline of this year to end overfishing by setting total allowable catches in accordance with scentific advice.

The council, Mr Creed said, agreed quotas for 47 stocks of interest to Ireland.

The aim is to set quoatas at levels that ensure long-term sustainability for fish stocks. The total package of fish quotas agreed is 195,000 tonnes worth €275 million for the Irish fishing industry in 2020 – including mackerel (up 41 per cent), and haddock (up 30 per cent), and monkfish (up 7 per cent) and Megrims (up 3 per cent) in the Celtic Sea. Ireland’s second most important fishery, prawns, has been reduced by 15 per cent in accordance with scientific advice.

For four stocks of interest to Ireland, where the advice was for no fishing, Mr Creed said restrictive quotas had been set. Very small quotas were set for three depleted herring stocks, and precautionary quotas were set for eight other stocks.

Securing the rebuilding measures on the Celtic Sea stocks was among the most difficult aspects of the negotiations, Mr Creed said. “Council agreed measures that will deliver the necessary protections for cod and whiting while still allowing vessels to continue fishing in a sustainable way.”

These measures were trialled by our experts in Bord Iascaigh Mhara and the Marine Institute, working closely with our fishing fleet. By taking these necessary steps now, we can rebuild the stocks in our Celtic Sea fisheries and avoid the need for closures,” he said.

Criticism

Environmentalists welcomed the cod restrictions but criticised big increases in other species. On cod, Alec Taylor, head of marine policy at World Wildlife Fund for Nature, said: “This is a good decision, which we hope will offer this iconic but struggling North Sea cod population a much-needed chance of recovery. But it must be accompanied by supporting measures that are monitored and properly enforced.”

EU leaders “have failed abysmally to meet the EU’s legal deadline to end overfishing”, according to BirdWatch Ireland.

While a climate and environmental emergency had been declared the outcome “is just another example that EU leaders neither comprehend the scale of the existential crisis we face or have any intention of doing anything about it,” said BWI policy officer Fintan Kelly.

He added: “It appears that even the law, science and public opinion are not enough to shift the status quo. EU fisheries were reformed in 2013 on the basis that fishing negotiations would transition away from the annual ritual of horse trading behind closed doors.”

Despite a legal deadline to end overfishing by 2020 “EU fisheries Ministers like Ireland’s Michael Creed have again ignored the science, in favour of short-term profits”.

While Minister Creed would say meeting the 2020 deadline was too great a challenge due to the poor state of many stocks, “the reality is that he has played a significant role in creating the situation”, he added. Ireland had one of the worst records in the EU at driving overfishing with positions taken in previous negotiation resulting in vulnerable stocks collapsing.

There were eight fish stocks important for Ireland where scientists recommend no fish should be caught in 2020. “The Celtic Sea herring fishery had to close this year due to the state of the stock and there are no signs it will open next year. While the minister has argued he has been fighting for the interests of the fishing industry the facts are that overfishing is costing jobs,” Mr Kelly said.