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Strong Irish Position on Reform Talks Outlined

IRELAND - Simon Coveney, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has set down Ireland's position on key elements of the Common Fisheries Reform (CFP) at the EU Fisheries Council meeting on Friday.

The Minister set out his strong opposition to the Commissions proposals for the privatisation of national fish quotas through the introduction of individual transferable quotas. Working with five other Member States, the Minister also presented a model for the creation of more regional decision making under the CFP. The Fisheries Council is working to secure an agreed approach on the main contentious elements of the Reform package over a series of meetings that will form the basis of negotiations between the EU Fisheries Council, the EU Parliament and the EU Commission on CFP reform.

The Minister explained Ireland's strong opposition to the EU Commission's proposal for the introduction of Transferable Fishing Concessions (a form of Individual Transferable Quotas) across the EU. Minister Coveney said: "I have explained to Commissioner Damanaki and Ministerial colleagues the concerns I have that a system of transferable quotas would lead, in Ireland, to the buy out of our family owned fleet by well resourced international fishing companies without links to our coastal communities."

"Under such a system our whitefish fleet in the south and south-west and our mackerel and herring fleet in the north-west and west could be bought out and the increasingly internationally owned fleet would increasingly land fish abroad. I explained that this would result in loss of employment in our fishing fleet, processing and other fisheries related jobs in our coastal communities. While the EU Commission and the Presidency are maintaining this proposal, I received good support today from a number of other Ministers on the basis that each Member State should be permitted to decide on the quota management measures which are effective for their fleet, taking account of their own individual circumstances."

Minister Coveney continued: "I met Commissioner Damanaki bilaterally also to explain directly to her my concerns and she appears to now have a much better understanding of the reasons a TFC system would not work for Ireland.

He went on to say: Working closely with our industry, who are full square behind me on this issue, I hope that we are now convincing some of the key players - fellow Ministers, Commissioner Damanaki and key European Parliament members to consider again the imposition of mandatory Transferable Fish Quotas on EU states."

The Fisheries Council also examined options for the introduction of a regionalised structure for decision making under the Common Fisheries Policy. Minister Coveney said: "I consider that it is critical that the new CFP allows measures to be worked up and agreed at regional level with the full involvement of stakeholders through the Advisory Councils, which are already regionally based. I have worked with the Belgian, German, UK, French and Danish Ministers to jointly recommend an approach that gives responsibility to Member States with a direct interest in a fishery to agree in consultation with stakeholders conservation measures for that fishery. The measures would apply commonly to all vessels in the fishery under EU regulation and would be legally enforced on all fleets in shared fisheries. I am satisfied that this model would allow practical and effective conservation measures to be developed at regional level and be put in place in a timely and non bureaucratic manner."

The Danish Presidency is working to secure the general agreement of the Fisheries Council on a Reform Package over the coming months. This agreement would then be subject to negotiations with the EU Parliament to secure an agreed Reform of the CFP and these negotiations. Final agreement of a CFP Reform package are likely to fall into the Irish Presidency of the EU in the first half of 2013.

Lucy Towers

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