Mackerel Initiative Receives Support At Fisheries Council

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
30 June 2010, at 1:00am

IRELAND - Sean Connick, the Minister of Fisheries has made a strong case at the EU Fisheries Council in Luxembourg today on two major issues of importance to the Irish fishing industry: unregulated mackerel fishing by Iceland and the Faroe Islands and the on-going Common Fisheries Policy reform.

Mackerel Management

Ireland requested to have this matter on the Fisheries Council agenda to make clear their serious concern that Iceland is operating in this fishery outside the international management arrangements for this stock. In addition, the Faroe Islands is threatening to do the same. Minister Connick pushed for urgent action by the EU Commission working with Norway to bring mackerel fishing activity by Iceland and the Faroe Islands under the formal UN Coastal States arrangements.

The Minister's initiative was welcomed and supported by all Member States who spoke on the issue - the UK, Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, the Netherlands and Spain. Commissioner Damanaki assured the Council that she welcomed, understood and supported Ireland's position. She undertook to bring Council's concerns to a bilateral meeting with the Faroes Minister and working with Norway, undertook to take a strong position on the approach by Iceland and the Faroes in the negotiations. The Commissioner also undertook to take the matter up with fellow Commissioners dealing directly with Iceland.

Minister Connick said: "Economically, mackerel is our most important fishery. Ireland's 2010 mackerel quota of 60,000 tonnes is less than half of the planned catch by Iceland this year. We cannot allow this situation to continue. As mackerel is now migrating into Icelandic waters, it can argue for a share of the TAC but certainly not anything in the region of 130,000 tonnes. We must have fair sharing arrangements that reflect the tradition of this fishery and that the stock is found mainly in EU and Norwegian waters.

"I also do not consider it acceptable that the Faroe Islands should attempt to more than quadruple its quota to 90,000 tonnes, equivalent to 150 per cent of the Irish quota. I pointed out that if Iceland and the Faroes are allowed to fish these huge quantities without effective constraint, in a very short time this stock will be over fished and in serious decline. Such a development would impact heavily on our mackerel fishermen and fish processing factories along the western seaboard. I urged the Commission to take strong and decisive action to address the current unacceptable situation so that Irish fishermens' interests are respected and protected."

Common Fisheries Review

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) Review is currently being reviewed. At the Council, Minister Connick dealt in detail with two critical issues in the CFP reform for Ireland - future decision making and quota management.

Minister Connick said: "I am seeking a regional approach to decision making under the new CFP. If the CFP is to work effectively the regions must take ownership of decisions for their waters. In this new regional model, stakeholders through the Regional Advisory Councils must be centrally involved and the concept of a Regional Forum of concerned Fisheries Ministers must be explored as a method of speeding up and improving decision making under the CFP".

The EU Commission has promoted the mandatory application of Individual Transferable Fish Quotas (ITQs) as a central pillar in the reform.

Minister Connick said: "Moves to introduce mandatory ITQs or any form of enforced transferable individual rights system will never be acceptable to Ireland. In our view such a system would lead to a concentration of ownership of Irish quotas in the hands of large scale European fishing companies who would have the financial strength to buy out our family owned vessels. These vessels would then operate as flag ships and would land their fish abroad.

"The experience within the EU of such systems confirms that these fears are soundly based. We estimate that the introduction of tradeable fishing rights will result in the loss of much of the value to our economy as our family owned vessels will be bought up and the large European companies would increasingly not land in Ireland. Under this system jobs would be lost not just on the boats but also in processing and services in the coastal communities".