Having put this issue on the agenda of the EU Fisheries Council, which took place in Brussels (19 - 20 March), the Minister explained to EU counterparts that "This mackerel crisis is about four issues: jobs, economics, sustainability and fairness. The EU cannot accept the Faroe Islands’ and Iceland’s unjustifiable and unsustainable fishing of mackerel stocks."
The Minister received strong support from Commissioner Damanaki and other impacted Ministers for his call for the EU to fast track the adoption of effective trade sanctions against Iceland and the Faroe Islands for continuing unsustainable fishing practice.
The Minister also said: "For the record, Ireland is a strong supporter of Icelandic accession to the European Union. As another island in the north-east Atlantic, I see Icelandic and EU interests being best served with Iceland as a member of the EU. That said, I find it difficult to accept that we could move ahead in good faith in opening a fisheries chapter in the EU's accession negotiations with Iceland while this issue remains unresolved."
The Minister also welcomed the approach agreed between member states today on tackling the problem of fish being discarded at sea. The Minister said: "Ireland has taken a strong and constructive approach to dealing with the discards issue. We want to see the legacy of this reform of the Common Fisheries Policy being a very significant step change in dealing with the problem of discards. We have identified today a series of approaches to drastically reduce and eliminate the discarding of fish."
The Council had a constructive debate on strategies for tackling discards in the CFP reform process. Commissioner Damanaki set out a series of actions that the Commission will support including:
- a fishery by fishery approach
- the development of tailored approaches for each fishery
- an increased role for developing scientific advice
- creating a scientifically based list of species with high survival rates that can be returned to the sea alive
- more funding in the new CFP for pilot projects on the use of selective fishing gear
- help for producer organisations in the new CFP to incentivise best practice
- development of quota incentives to support early introduction of new pilot projects
- agreement to do nothing that would add to the market for the human consumption of juvenile fish