NI: No celebration following Brussels negotiations Published: 20 December, 2007
“The best that could be achieved on haddock was a 5% increase”
THERE is no celebratory mood in ports around the Irish Sea, following the outcome of the December Fisheries Council, according to the Anglo-North Irish Fish Producers Organisation Ltd (ANIFPO Ltd).
In advance of the Council meeting, the UKs three priorities for the area were to resist the proposed 25% reduction in days at sea, seek a 15% increase on Irish Sea haddock and secure a rollover of the herring quota. However, even before the negotiations started, it became clear that with regard to days at sea, the UKs priority had changed from resisting any reductions, to minimising reductions, says ANIFPO Ltd.
The result was a 10% reduction in days at sea for the prawn fleet (to 184 days) and a 18% reduction in days at sea for the whitefish fleet (to 135 days), which during 2007 had comprised two trawlers in the UK a reduction from over 40 trawlers eight years ago.
On the quota front, the best that could be achieved on haddock was a 5% increase, giving the UK an additional 28.2 Tonnes in 2008. The 2007 quota for herring was secured again for 2008 at 4,800 tonnes.
In the midst of this, it was confirmed that the temporary spring spawning area closure in the western Irish Sea would be continued for a ninth year in 2008 and the pioneering Data Enhancement Programme that had been proposed by the industry would continue for at least another twelve months, with the reward of additional days at sea for those trawlers volunteering to be part of the scheme.
What came as a major surprise, continues ANIFPO Ltd, was the level of cuts on other quota species. While it had been anticipated that Irish Sea cod would be cut in accordance with the science, the 18% reduction in the TAC was higher than had been anticipated. What came as a shock was that the UKs quota for Irish Sea cod in 2008 will be cut by a total of 33%, the additional amount resulting from the refusal by the Republic of Ireland to swap back to the UK the amount surrendered by UK fishermen to their Irish colleagues as a result of the application of the Hague Preference in the Irish Sea.
In addition, while the TAC for Irish Sea Plaice was rolled over, the UKs quota has been cut by 5% because of the application of The Hague Preference Regime and Irelands failure to swap fish back to the UK.
In brief, concludes ANIFPO Ltd, the Northern Ireland and UK teams (officials and industry) representing Irish Sea interests did achieve two out of their three objectives for the Brussels negotiations, albeit with a very modest increase on haddock. The negative impact of the Hague Preference, especially with regard to cod has been a “major failure”. In terms of devolution, Northern Irish fishermen are already asking the question where the alleged cross-border co-operation between both parts of Ireland fits into the new equation, when it is the Republic of Ireland and not Brussels that imposes further cuts upon Northern Irish and all UK fishermen in the Irish Sea.
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