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Future of EU Common Fisheries Policy

IRELAND - The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food, Tony Killeen TD, today outlined Ireland's vision for the future of the Common Fisheries Policy at a meeting of Fisheries Ministers in Brussels.

The discussion by Ministers marked the start of the debate on the reform of the CFP which will see the new policy in place by 2012. Minster Killeen said that Ireland's priority will be to have an EU fisheries policy which results in a strong, sustainable and profitable seafood industry and most importantly which provides economic activity for our coastal communities, as set down for Ireland in the Cawley Strategy - Steering A New Course.

The Minister said: I hope that the debate on the CFP will lead to a simplified policy for all the stakeholders concerned. However, I will not support a policy which promotes the concentration of activity and benefits in the hands of a small number of large companies. Our aim is for a policy which maximises the development of all our coastal communities and for this reason it is vital that quotas and their management are retained under national competence and not moved to a market based mechanism. I was glad to have the opportunity to discuss this and other important current fisheries issues with the Federation of Irish Fishermen in Brussels today and I will continue to work closely with them as the reform debate continues.

The Ministers also discussed a proposal for cod recovery measures in Community waters at which Minister Killeen outlined Ireland's priorities. The Minister said: This is one of the main legislative priorities for the agreement in November and one which is of key importance to Ireland. The proposal would involve the introduction of a strict days at sea limitations for fishing vessels operating off the South and West coast. This would be in addition to the restrictions already in place in the Irish Sea and off the north-west coast. Minister Killeen said I strongly argued that restrictive days at sea were not necessary for the Celtic Sea south and west coast fisheries. I argued that alternative measures such as closed areas to protect spawning stock could be as effective. He added: It is clear that there is a growing acceptance at Council for a restrictive days at sea regime in the Celtic Sea. I have discussed this important matter with the Federation of Irish Fishermen in recent weeks and again today. The issue is critical for the whitefish fleet generally. I intend to work closely with the Federation over the coming weeks to develop the best possible solution for our fleet operating in the Celtic Sea in the context of the tough regime being proposed by the Commission.

Ireland also hosted a meeting in Brussels today on its initiative for a pilot project on eliminating discards in fisheries. The meeting brought together the European Commission as well as representatives of France and the UK. Minister Killeen said: This is one of my key priorities as discarding of fish at sea is an issue which needs to be tackled immediately and I am pleased that today's meeting advanced the proposal which I presented to Commissioner Borg recently. I am hopeful that the Commission will consider carefully the detail of our proposed scheme which seeks to work in partnership with industry on providing incentives to reduce the current unacceptable level of discards.

Ireland's submission seeking additional Community funding to implement the emergency fuel package agreed in July will also be discussed at a bilateral meeting with the Commission. Minister Killeen said: I used the opportunity at the discussion on the future of the CFP this morning to emphasise that the Commission must make available additional funds to those member States such as Ireland who are willing to adapt their fleet size and bring it into line with available resources. This will be emphasised at the meeting with the Commission tomorrow at which our submission for the additional funding will be discussed.