Coveney rejects drastic cuts to fish quotas

THE Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, today expressed his serious concern at the major threat to Irelands’ whitefish fleet, ahead of the upcoming EU Fisheries negotiations in Brussels.
The Minister said that the Commission had produced a devastating and unnecessary set of the most severe whitefish quota cuts.
Minister Coveney said today that: ‘If the Commission’s quota proposals remain unchanged, we are facing an overall 20 per cent cut to our whitefish and prawn quotas for 2015.
In the Celtic Sea, the Commission wants to dramatically cut the key whitefish stocks on which our fleet are dependant’.
The Commission’s proposal is to cut Cod by 64 per cent, haddock by 41 per cent, pollack by 20 per cent, skates & rays by 20 per cent, whiting by 14 per cent, monkfish by 12 per cent and hake by 4 per cent.
Minister Coveney said: ‘There are also a number of other stocks where cuts of up to 20 per cent are proposed without an acceptable justification. These levels of cuts are not justified and are not acceptable’.
The Minister added: ‘I presented the scale and implications of these cuts to the joint Oireachtas Committee last week (The Whitefish Fleet is facing a loss of 5,500 tonnes of whitefish quotas if the Commission’s proposals are not modified at Council).
‘The level of cuts proposed for the whitefish fisheries is extremely worrying. What is really unacceptable to me is the fact that many of these cuts are based on a very narrow interpretation of the available scientific advice and are, in my view, completely unjustified.
‘I can accept reductions to quotas to protect the long term sustainability of our stocks but I will not accept scientifically unnecessary cuts that would undermine the sustainability of our fishing communities’.
The Minister went on to say: ‘I am frustrated with the Commission’s whitefish quota proposals and I will, with the support of our industry representatives, other stakeholders and our scientists, be arguing forcefully throughout the Council for a rational application of the scientific advice’.
The Minister added that ‘I find it especially unacceptable that, in the context of the new Common Fisheries Policy and in particular the impending ban on discards, the Commission is taking such a rigid approach to the setting of quotas for 2015.’
The Minister explained: ‘I am committed to setting quotas in accordance with Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) but, in line with the agreement I brokered on the  new Common Fisheries Policy, we must phase it in where it’s immediate application would seriously jeopardise the social and economic fabric of the fishing fleets impacted.
‘The Commission proposals assume its immediate application irrespective of the socio economic implications. This is not acceptable’.
The Minister will attend the EU Fisheries Council in Brussels from the 15-16 of December, where quotas for the Irish fleet for 2015 will be determined.
The proposals put forward from the Commission impact the Irish white fish sector in particular, with severe cuts in many stocks of vital importance to Ireland.
The Commission has proposed cuts to pelagic stocks such as herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and boarfish.
The Minister, working with the industry, is willing to accept these cuts on the basis they are justified on the available scientific advice.
Concluding, Minister Coveney said: ‘This is my fourth December Fisheries Council and each year it seems to get more difficult.
‘This year looks like being the most difficult one yet. I am extremely worried that despite our collective efforts we will be presented with a fait accompli of the worst set of cuts to our quotas in recent years.
‘I will work as hard as I can with industry and other stakeholders, as well as important Member States such as France, the UK and Spain, to try and avoid that outcome.
‘I am, however, very concerned that this will be an uphill task given the scale of the whitefish cuts being proposed.’