Drawbacks for Northern Ireland from fish deal Published: 22 December, 2005
NORTHERN Ireland’s Fisheries Minister, Jeff Rooker said today that whilst some substantial gains had been made at the Brussels Fisheries Council on the Commission’s opening proposals, particularly in the quota gains for key commercial stocks and relaxation of proposed restrictions on fishing opportunities for the fleet, the overall outcome for Northern Ireland was disappointing.
The settlement reached will mean a significant increase in prawn quotas on the Northern Ireland fleet’s main fishing grounds, as well as an increase in Irish Sea plaice quotas. But reductions to Irish Sea cod and other whitefish quotas will seriously affect the whitefish fleet, which also faces a reduction of 10% in days at sea fishing allocations in 2006.
Acknowledging the value of the quota increases for Northern Ireland vessels, the Minister said: “Compared with the stringent proposals on the table at the start of this week, our negotiations have delivered a result which is in some respects more favourable than we might have hoped. The prawn quotas have increased across the board. This is good news for our fishing fleet, and also for Northern Ireland fish processors who depend on them for good quality raw material. The package of quota increases is worth over £2.5m in terms of first sales for the Northern Ireland fleet, and demonstrates European Fisheries Ministers’ confidence in the sustainability of this key sector of the industry.”
However, the Minister acknowledged the difficulty for cod and other whitefish stocks. He said: “The new effort limits agreed for 2006 will in effect set a ceiling on fishing activity by both the whitefish and prawn fleets. Although this will reduce pressure on cod, haddock and whiting stock, and contribute to improved reproductive capacity for these valuable stocks, it will cause major problems for our small whitefish fleet.”
He continued: “I am committed to renewed scientific efforts, in collaboration with the industry, to establish the impact of cod recovery measures and to support sustainable and profitable fisheries for the Northern Ireland fleet.”
The impact of the settlement for Northern Ireland’s fishing industry is as follows:
10% increase in Irish Sea prawns, worth over £1 m to our local fleet. This is a sustainable fishery and this result should give confidence to local scampi processors.
40% increase in West of Scotland prawns, worth another £1 m in potential landings by Northern Ireland vessels.
Further increases in prawn catches in the North Sea, in which a number of our vessels have an interest – worth £400k between both POs.
15% increase in Irish Sea plaice.
15% reduction in Irish Sea cod quotas.