Minister Smith advised the Council that he and Minister Tony Killeen had commenced a broad consultation with stakeholders in Ireland and will submit Ireland's position and proposals before the end of this year. Minister Killeen also announced the appointment of Dr Noel Cawley to oversee these consultations which will feed into Ireland's response to the CFP Green Paper before the end of the year.
Minister Smith advised the EU Council that he was committed to a wide-ranging consultation involving all stakeholders where every aspect of the policy is up for review. The Minister pointed out to his Ministerial colleagues that Irish fishermen have felt aggrieved at the share of fish stocks Ireland received when the first CFP was put in place. He pointed out that that this sense of grievence remains. He made it clear that there will need to be recognition of this reality as the background to this reform process.
In this initial debate in the Fisheries Council, Minister Smith set down key principles for Ireland in the review. He asked for new innovative policies which simplify and reduce the administrative burden. He pointed out that the reform must strengthen and support the industry's capacity to maximise employment in coastal communities dependant on fishing. He opposed the opening up the 12 mile coastal zone and indicated that there was a case to have this increased to the benefit of coastal states like Ireland.
A key national priority for the review will be the retention of national quotas remaining in public ownership and managed by the Member State. Minister Smith made clear that he opposes efforts in this review to advance a system of privatised transferable quotas that would lead to concentration of ownership in a small number of highly mobile multi-national fleet owners.
Minister Smith made clear that he was supportive of greater stakeholders' involvement in decision making and emphasised the importance of simplified decision making arrangements. He emphasised the importance of integrating aquaculture policy into the mainstream CFP with a view to focusing on delivering on the opportunities available for this sector to expand in Ireland.
Minister Smith said "I took the opportunity today to put down markers on key issues for Ireland. I pointed out the views of fishermen on the ground on the current CFP and made it clear that I expected this review process to be meaningful and to deliver real change for our fishermen around the coast."
"I believe that this review must be informed by the views of stakeholders. I am delighted that Dr Noel Cawley, who has the background knowledge of the seafood sector and the understanding of the situation of fishermen, has agreed to lead the consultation process with Irish stakeholders which will assist Ireland in developing an approach to CFP reform which maximises the benefits for employment and economic activity in our coastal communities." Minster Smith added.
Discarding of fish
The Fisheries Council also discussed the measures being taken to reduce discards in EU fisheries. Minister Smith made clear that he was disappointed at the slow progress being made to introduce effective measures to deal with this very serious issue. He urged Council and the Commission to take urgent and decisive actions that reduce discards across our fisheries.
Minster Smith said "We cannot postpone any longer taking actions that reduce substantially the high levels of discarding of fish, which we see in many fisheries. The discards are damaging both fish stocks and the livelihoods of our fishermen, now and into the future. I believe that we must identify fisheries where the problem is most acute and working with fishermen to bring forward specific proposals for each fishery.
This must commence immediately and I believe that we cannot wait until the CFP review is completed. The problem is pressing and needs urgent attention. I believe Irish fishermen, are more than willing to work on a suitable plan for key fisheries with the Commission and other relevant Member States."