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Sinn Féin responds to DUP criticism of Fisheries Minister over EU negotiations

9 January, 2008


Sinn Féin Fishing Spokesperson, South Down MLA Willie Clarke has responded to DUP criticism of the Sinn Féin Fisheries Minister Michelle Gildernew after the DUP's Jim Well's accused Ms Gildernew of being too close to the Irish fishing delegation during quota negotiations in Brussels in December.

Cllr Willie Clarke said:

"The North's Fisheries Minister Michelle Gildernew MP has achieved, in the annual Brussels fisheries negotiations, the key priorities agreed with the fishing industry.

"Following intense lobbying and an all night negotiating session the Minister, in partnership with the industry, agreed the key priorities for the fishing fleet in the north. I was part of the delegation that travelled to Brussels in December and we achieved what we wanted thanks to a well planned approach to the negotiations. I believe this is the best possible outcome to what were very difficult negotiations.

"Based on the scientific evidence available we have secured an increase in haddock and maintained our prawn and herring quota. We have also limited the cuts that the Commission wanted to make to the number of days that our fleet can fish.

"A key issue for all fishing fleets is the number of days that they are allowed to fish. The Commission had proposed a 25% cut in the days for the Irish Sea fleet. Again we convinced the Commission that its proposals were too harsh and brought the cuts down to just a 10% cut in days at sea for the prawn fleet and an 18% for our small whitefishfleet.

"There is also the opportunity for the fleet to secure additional days. Although the Irish Sea is a mixed fishery our prawn vessels catch very little cod. Under the terms of the agreement with the Commission vessels that catch less than 5% cod will experience no cuts in their days at sea under certain conditions. DARD officials will be having further discussions with the industry early in the New Year about the details of this.

"This has been a tough round of negotiation and throughout Sinn Féin fought hard to secure the best possible deal for the industry. I believe we have achieved this in partnership with the industry representatives who have worked closely with the Minister and her officials over the past months.

"I also believe that if we are to maintain a viable fishing industry in the North we must work in partnership with our colleagues in the 26counties and adopt and all-Ireland approach to this issue.

"However, the results of the fisheries negotiation is tangible evidence of how having a local voice at the table makes a difference. Devolution has delivered for the fishing industry, their needs have been heard and met." ENDS

Note to Editors

The key findings are:

  • On prawns - 95% of the entire fleet fish for prawns upon which the fish processing industry depends. Quotas will be maintained for next year.
  • On haddock there is a 5% increase which is very significant achievement given that the Commission wanted to cut our quota by 15%.
  • The Commission proposed cuts of 8% for Irish Sea herring and a 6% cut in Irish Sea plaice. Existing quotas were maintained for 2008.
  • The Commission has been determined to protect cod stocks and had proposed a 25% cut in Irish Sea cod. This was reduced to an 18% cut.

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