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Minister Calls for More Regional Control of Fisheries

NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - Fisheries Minister Michelle ONeill stressed the need for more regional control for local fisheries under a reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) at the first annual dinner of the Anglo North Irish Fish Producers Organisation.

She said: We are now well into a process of negotiation from which will emerge a reformed Common Fisheries Policy. We simply have to move away from the one size fits all mindset that has served fisheries and indeed Irish Sea fisheries so badly. The current policy has become over-centralised, bureaucratic and highly regulated. Instead we are advocating an approach which would allow Member States with an interest in a fishery to discuss multi-annual plans and detailed measures with stakeholders, proposing draft plans and technical measures to the Commission.

We dont yet know what will come out of the CFP reform negotiations. We know what we want, which is to have a bigger say in the management of the fisheries so that these can be exploited sustainably for the benefit of our economy and our coastal communities. This is an aim that government and the fishing industry here share.

We must recognise that the Irish Sea is a mixed fishery and we must better understand how impacts on one stock affect another and the consequences that management interventions have for the fleet. Future management approaches must take that fully into account but this can only be achieved through close working between industry, scientists and my Department in collaboration with our colleagues in the South.

The Minister informed that audience that she has recently raised in Brussels the issue of the Irish Sea Herring catch. This had been cut by 10 per cent for 2012 because the Commission classified the stock as data poor due to a full stock assessment not being available. This scientific evidence for this stock was the subject of an in-depth independent review by international scientists from ICES in February this year.

The Minister explained: We have not yet seen the official results of that but I understand that ICES has developed a full analytical stock assessment. At a meeting this week I pointed out to Director General of DG MARE Lowri Evans that this fishery takes place in September and in those circumstances the Commission should restore the TAC. While she indicated that she would look at this positively if the scientific evidence supported the case, she pointed out that there was a fairly lengthy administrative process involved and the timing would have to be a consideration.

Minister ONeill said that she was pleased that the local prawn fleet would next week begin trials of more selective fishing gear. She said: I want to be able to provide a report to the Commission at the beginning of June which will demonstrate that the Nephrops fleet can deploy gear which avoids killing cod and as a result can be exempted from the days-at-sea restrictions.

I am grateful to the local industry for its support and the leadership from its representatives in taking forward this project. The Commission have welcomed the collective efforts that were being made to deliver a successful outcome. We simply must succeed if we are to be able to make a credible and effective argument for greater regional management for fisheries and the freedom to develop fishing gears which meet fisheries conservation objectives but which are best suited to the fleet.

Lucy Towers

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