Recent scientific advice indicates that the improvements in the stock levels expected on foot of the plan introduced in 2004 for stocks, including in the Irish Sea and off the north west coast, were not evident and this resulted in the need to revisit and revise the objectives and measures required to deliver sustainable cod stocks into the future. The scientific advice also indicated that the Celtic Sea cod stock off Ireland's south coast was also in need of rebuilding. The Commission's proposal was mainly based on reducing the number of days vessels spend at sea in each of the areas.
Minister Killeen strongly argued at Council that this approach was not suited to the Celtic Sea fishery and that rebuilding measures based on the use of 'smart' fishing gear that reduced catches of cod at sea and targeted area closures, some of which had already been proposed by fishermen and implemented to protect spawning cod would be much more effective and better suited to the Celtic Sea fisheries.
"We will not countenance any suggestion of other pelagic stocks being used to balance the agreement"
Minister for Fisheries and Forestry, Tony Killeen TD
Minister Killeen said “Our consistent and firmly held belief that the approach put forward by the Commission was not suited to the Celtic Sea and would not effectively rebuild the cod stock was finally accepted. I am very pleased that Council supported and took on board my approach”.
Minister Killeen accepted the proposals for the recovery of cod in the Irish Sea and the in the northwest following important amendments to the original Commission proposal. The Minister is also pleased that the Commission committed to the continuation of closed conservation boxes in the Irish Sea. He believes that these are important for the recovery of the cod stock in the Irish Sea.
The Minister paid particular tribute to the input of fishermen's representatives who he met on a number of occasions during the course of the Council. He welcomed their constructive contributions in what was a difficult situation.
Minister Killeen also referred to the difficult issues that still exist in relation to the finalisation of the Bilateral Fisheries Agreement with Norway. His concern centred on making sure that mackerel was not transferred to Norway as part of the Agreement and that the quantity of blue whiting transferred from the EU to Norway should be reduced.
The Minister said “During the formal Council session I re-iterated in no uncertain terms Ireland's demand for a reduction in the level of blue whiting transfers to Norway and furthermore threw down a marker that we will not countenance any suggestion of other pelagic stocks being used to balance the agreement, particularly mackerel.”
On the question of the Strategy for the Sustainable Development of European Aquaculture, the Minister was appreciative of the opportunity for an exchange of views on the issues impacting future expansion of aquaculture in the EU. He stated “I am particularly pleased that the Czech Republic has put aquaculture forward as a key topic for it's upcoming Presidency.”