O’Neill pledges support for local fishermen
Fisheries Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA has pledged to do all she can to support the sustainability and viability of the local fishing industry and the processors and communities dependant on it.
Speaking during a visit to Kilkeel where she met local fishermen and representatives of the fishing industry, the Minister said: “Fishing has an important role to play in supporting the coastal communities in County Down, not only through direct employment on fishing boats but also in providing hundreds of jobs in fish processing plants and support services. These jobs are underpinned by the fishing opportunities available to our fleet and I will work with the industry and fisheries scientists to develop the fisheries sector in a manner that is sustainable and viable.
“Meeting with our local fishermen today I have heard of the challenges they face and their concerns about issues affecting the industry. I take on board the issues raised and will do my best to ensure that the needs of the local industry are strongly represented in dealings with DEFRA and the European Commission and that Irish Sea issues are given due importance.”
Commenting on the publication of the European Commission’s scientific advice on fish stocks for 2012, the Minister continued: “Today’s publication marks the start of the annual process of setting levels for next years’ Total Allowable Catches (TAC). With the help of our fisheries scientists and the industry, we will study this advice to determine what its likely impact would be for next years’ fishing opportunities. In the coming weeks I will meet with fisheries ministers from the devolved administrations to highlight the needs of our industry and agree our negotiating priorities. I also intend to meet with the EU Fisheries Commissioner and my southern counterpart, Simon Coveney TD, to win support so that by the end of the year we will have secured the best result possible for our local fishing fleet."Looking ahead to her attendance at next month’s Fisheries Council in Brussels and her priorities for reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, the Minister added: “Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is likely to feature highly on the agenda at next month’s meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council and I expect the Commission's latest proposals on CFP reform to focus on fishing at levels that will deliver Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). In my view, this is a desirable position, but given our dependence on mixed fisheries, flexibility is needed in the pace at which we move towards MSY for each stock within such fisheries.
“I also want to see greater autonomy to develop fisheries management solutions at regional sea level and an overhaul of the quota system to make it more transparent and give fishermen a greater incentive to protect their investment through responsible fishing.
“These and other issues within the reform of the CFP will raise significant challenges and, in the years to come, have a significant impact on fisheries here. We must work together to try to shape the new policy in the best way we can. I want to see a fisheries sector here which is sustainable and profitable and maximises its economic contribution locally and I look forward to working with industry representatives and other key stakeholders in working towards this.”
During the visit the minister also met representatives of the Fishery Harbour Authority and Kilkeel Development Association and visited Middleton Seafoods and the Nautilus Centre