Tough talks in Brussels result in 9% cut in prawn quota
Michelle Gildernew, Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development said she was disappointed with the outcome of the December Fisheries Council in Brussels.
Speaking in Brussels she said: "As I had expected this was a very difficult negotiation. My main priority was nephrops (prawns) which is the most important species for our catchers and processers. The Irish Sea stock on which our industry depends is being fished sustainably and our scientists, together with their counterparts in the south of Ireland had provided evidence to the Commission to support that view.
“Despite this, the Commission initially proposed a 30% cut on prawn quota across all sea areas from the North Channel to the West of Ireland. I argued that this was not justified and told the Commission of the serious consequences this would have for our local industry. After lengthy negotiations the Commission agreed to 9%. However, given the strength of our scientific evidence I believe that there should have been no cut, but the Commission wouldn't move any further.
"I also pressed for an increase in the Irish Sea herring quota and again we provided scientific evidence to support the case. However the Commission was unsympathetic and the final package did not provide any increase.
"I am disappointed as I know the fishing industry will be at the outcome. But this annual round of haggling over fish quotas makes a difficult business more difficult because of uncertainties over future fishing opportunities. I am convinced that we must move to a different system which gives local fisheries managers and the industry greater say in the fishing and conservation of the fish stocks off our coast.
"I am committed to seeing the development of long-term fisheries management plans for Irish Sea prawns and for herring which we will develop in partnership with local marine stakeholders and the Commission. Those plans can build in the appropriate harvest levels that are best suited to the characteristics of Irish Sea stocks and will incorporate environmental objectives for these fisheries."
On other stocks there was the expected 25% cut in cod in line with the Cod Recovery Plan; no change for haddock; an increase of 14% for Irish Sea Plaice which demonstrates that this stock is maintaining a healthy condition; sole and whiting stocks remain depleted and experienced a cut of 25% each, but both are of little importance to the local fleet.