Fisheries Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA today attended the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels when the European Commission presented its proposals to Ministers for reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.
Speaking after Council the Minister said: “This has been the first opportunity for Member States to give their reaction to the reform proposals which were published by the Commission on 13 July. It is clear that there a lot of work to do to improve on the package of proposed measures. Like many others I had hoped that the proposals would mean greater regionalisation of decision making and a move away from the overly bureaucratic, centralised approach to fisheries management. We need to exploit the knowledge of local fisheries managers and the fishing industry more in the design of future fisheries management measures.
“I have concerns about the Commission’s proposals which would require Member States to introduce mandatory “transferable fishing concessions”. Ultimately this could lead to a consolidation of fishing rights in the hands of some of the more wealthy fishing fleets to the detriment of coastal communities which depend on fishing.”
The Minister also met with Lowri Evans, Director General of DG MARE. The Minister said: “I was glad to get this opportunity to discuss the Commission’s CFP reform package, the impact of the Cod Recovery Plan on our fleet and prospects for the vital negotiations on fish quotas which will happen in November and December. I also wanted to reinforce my commitment to take measures in Irish Sea fisheries to reduce discarding of unwanted fish and to explain how important local experience was in the development of anti-discard measures.
“My Department, in partnership with its scientific advisors and the local fleet, have successfully tested new fishing gears which have been found to be more effective than those currently specified in EU regulations. This new design would more than half the discards of small haddock and whiting caught by the Nephrops trawlers. We want to do further work on gear technology later this year. Where there are successful solutions I want to see that can be introduced with the minimum of fuss and bureaucracy.”
During her visit to the Agriculture and Fisheries Council the Minister also met with the Scottish Cabinet Secretary, Richard Lochhead and the South’s Fisheries Minister, Simon Coveney TD, to discuss the Commission’s CFP reform package and the approach to the annual quota negotiations.