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de Brún calls for support for Lough Neagh eel fishing industry

1 April, 2008

Sinn Féin MEP for the Six Counties, Bairbre de Brún has today urged Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Michelle Gildernew who is in Brussels to meet with Joe Borg, EU Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime affairs to help ensure a future for the eel fishing industry on Lough Neagh.

Calling on Minister Gildernew to ensure that her officials and their counterparts in DCAL (Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure) are moving forward with all speed in securing EU funding opportunities in relation to Lough Neagh, Ms de Brún made reference to her own approaches to Commissioner Borg with regard to help under the EFF.

Ms de Brún said:

"I presented a report to Commissioner Borg on the good work being carried out by the Lough Neagh Fishermen's co-operative when he visited the North some years ago and during a subsequent debate in the European Parliament on the recovery of the European eel, Commissioner Borg promised to take note of points raised by myself and other MEPs, including possible funding under the European Fisheries Fund.

'The Lough Neagh Fishermen's Co-operative has taken great care over the years to manage the fishery in such a way as to conserve stocks, avoid pollution and protect the future of the industry. This has included the purchase of elvers once it became clear that natural recruitment was in serious decline. Unfortunately this approach was not always matched elsewhere leading to a crisis in the European eel population.

'Maintaining sustainable stock levels is vital to providing for the long-term future of eel fishing. The conservation of the eel population in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe needs cemented.'

During the course of her discussions today at a Brussels briefing with Minister Gildernew, the Sinn Féin MEP also raised her concerns about the general state of the north's fishing industry.

Ms de Brún described the local industry as "facing terminal decline" and said that the combination of cuts in days at sea and the high cost of fuel was making fishing uneconomical for fishermen and for local processing facilities. This would ensure a scenario where fishermen from the north would be landing their catch in Scotland for processing.

"If our local fishing industry is to suffer anymore hits, there will be no industry left", said Ms de Brún.

The Sinn Féin MEP called on help to be given to fishermen to ensure savings in terms of fuel efficiency. Críoch

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