Gildernew listens to concerns of fishing industry
Fisheries Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA has met with representatives from both the prawn and whitefish sectors to listen to their concerns about the future of the local industry.
The Minister said: “There is no doubt that our local industry is operating in an extremely challenging business environment with rising input costs and poor prices. It is clear from scientific advice that there would be further cuts imposed by the European Commission this December on fishing opportunities for cod and it was likely that cuts would also be proposed in the quota available to the prawn fishery."
Referring to recent stock assessments by fisheries scientists, which confirmed that the Irish Sea prawn stock was stable, she added: “We will be making strong representations to Europe to have this latest data factored into the consideration of the Total Allowable Catch, and I will be vigorously resisting proposed cuts to the prawn quota."
Whitefish fishermen spoke of the devastating effects of the Irish Sea Cod Recovery Plan, which meant year on year cuts in the cod quota and the days that can be spent fishing. This comes on top of 10 years of decline in the white fish sector which has resulted in EU restrictions.
The Minister said: “The Cod Recovery Plan was a bad deal for the local industry and that I did not support the approach being taken. But despite the arguments put forward, this had been agreed last November by the British government and other Member States. It is clear that with this mandate, the Commission is determined now to push through this plan. Nevertheless I will continue to argue strongly on your behalf and articulate your concerns at every opportunity with the Commission. But the fact remains that scientific evidence is not indicating that cod stocks are recovering.”
The meetings also discussed the possibility of future decommissioning schemes, backed by the European Fisheries Fund, to permanently remove vessels from the fleet to have a better match between its size and the fishing opportunities on offer.
Minister Gildernew said: “Decommissioning is a subject that generates strong debate and a robust sector-wide business case will be needed to enable the funding for such a scheme to be secured and I want to hear the Fisheries Forum views also in order that progress can be made in this critical area.”