Committee gains assurances from Fisheries Commissioner
South Down Assembly Member Willie Clarke, who is a member of the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development, was part of a delegation that travelled last week to Brussels. During the visit with senior officials, they received assurances from the EU Commissioner for Fisheries, Mr Joe Borg that he will consider any new evidence on the strength of the prawn biomass in the Irish Sea.
Describing the meeting as ‘positive’ Cllr Clarke said Members of the Committee outlined the impact the proposed cut in the prawn quota would have on an already beleaguered fishing industry.
“We stressed that what might appear as a small decision in the European context could have major repercussions in the six counties.
“The Commissioner accepted that there is a conflict in the scientific evidence available in respect of prawn stocks and asked that the Committee bring forward any additional evidence showing that the fishery is stronger than originally believed.
“The Committee also pointed out the socio-economic consequences of the proposed cuts in respect of the traditional rural communities that have established themselves around our fishing villages and he agreed that it was important that he is provided with this information.
“We have therefore asked the Committee support team to urgently liaise with the Department, scientists and, very importantly, the industry so that we can present a comprehensive and collective argument against the proposed 15% cut in the nephrop quota.
“I am also delighted to say that the Commissioner has accepted a Committee invitation to visit the North of Ireland and get a firsthand experience of our fishing industry and the communities that it supports.”
This was one of a number of engagements undertaken by the Committee during their two day visit to Brussels, which also included them being formally welcomed to the European Parliament by Members of the EU Agriculture Committee during their monthly meeting.