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Minister Calls for Strong Fisheries Package

EU - Irish fisheries minister Tony Killeen has called for a strong package of EU-funded measures to address the current difficulties being experienced by fishermen across Europe and, particularly, in Ireland.


Irish Fisheries Minister Tony Killeen

Mr Killeen was supported by a number of other Member States in expressing the view that there was an urgent need for a pan-European approach to resolving the short and medium-term difficulties.

Minister Killeen said he was pleased with the support offered by a number of other Member States and with the response of the EU Fisheries Commissioner Borg, who has undertaken to come back to the next Council meeting on 15 July with definitive proposals, ahead of which Mr Killeen said he anticipated further progress could be made.

Apart from the lengthy discussion on the fuel issue, Minister Killeen said that he was particularly pleased with the progress made in a number of other areas of concern to Irish fishermen, which he had discussed on a number of occasions with the Federation of Irish Fishermen (FIF), including at a meeting with representatives of the FIF last night.

He said that today's meeting was positive in the areas of restructuring the industry, action to combat illegal fishing and a possible increase in access for Irish fishermen to Cod stocks in the Celtic Sea - all of which are issues of particular concern to Irish fishermen and which the Minister has been pursuing with the Commission.

Restructuring the Industry

Minister Killeen said that the proposals discussed today had to be seen in the context of the Government's initiative to implement a major restructuring of the Irish whitefish fleet.

"We are currently in the process of a major decommissioning programme to remove up to 35% of the larger whitefish vessels from our fleet and we issued offers worth €41 million last Friday to vessel owners under the scheme. Clearly the completion of the current planned decommissioning measure must be our first priority," said Minister Killeen.

The Minister also pressed the Commission to examine new initiatives at EU level to increase the return received by fishermen at the quayside and improved labelling to assure consumers.

He also asked the Commission to bring forward initiatives on research and innovation into ways to develop more fuel-efficient engines and fishing practices.

The Minister added that given the large scale programme of decommissioning that is underway, as recommended in the Cawley Strategy Report for the future of the fishing industry in Ireland, there is no funding available under the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) nationally for temporary tie-up measures as envisaged in the Commission's paper.

"We firmly believe that we must introduce short term measures to compliment the decommissioning underway in our fleet and address the immediate financial hardship faced by vessel owners and crew, we are seeking additional funding from the Community.

"There is a requirement for the Commission to source additional funding and we would urge the Commission to do so urgently to support the industry during this period of restructuring and put it on a firm and sustainable footing in the future.”

Illegal, Unreported Unregistered Imports

The Minister also described as "very significant", the agreement reached at Council on a new regulation to combat landings of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fish from within and outside the EU.

Minister Killeen said the estimated €1.1 billion of illegal imports annually in the EU was a cause of concern as it had the effect of depressing the price of fish within the Community as well as causing serious environmental damage.

He welcomed the speedy agreement on this proposal at Council and the commitment of the Commission to bring forward detailed rules to give effect to this regulation.

Increased Access to Cod in the Celtic Sea

On a further related issue of great concern to Irish fishermen and as discussed with the Federation of Irish Fishermen last evening, the Minister pressed the case for an increase in the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for Cod stocks in the Celtic Sea off the Irish coast.

He welcomed Commissioner Borg's commitment to examine new scientific information on increasing landings and to have the matter further discussed at the next Council on 15 July.

Minister Killeen said this was a positive response to his call for the EU Commission to re-examine new scientific knowledge on the level of Cod stocks and the possibility of a sustainable increase in access for Irish fishermen to Cod stocks to alleviate the pressure on incomes of Irish fishermen.

Aquaculture

Ministers also discussed with the Commission the need to develop a new EU strategy with the Commission for the expansion of the aquaculture industry to meet the growing demand for seafood in the EU market. During the discussions the Minister outlined a number of matters at EU level which need to be addressed at Commission level to get a co-ordinated EU effort to the development of this industry which is important for our coastal communities.

Ellen Hardy

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