The Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) has expressed its concern ahead of the annual meeting of the Council of Fisheries Ministers.
It believes that an industry already in a state of heightened anxiety regarding Brexit could now face further serious challenges and potential hardship particularly with the Commission’s cod and whiting proposals in the Celtic Sea.
The negotiations to set Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas for 2020 take place in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday next (December 16th and 17th).
Seán O’Donoghue, CEO of the KFO said: “Brexit will now become a reality with the resounding Tory victory in last Thursday’s UK election. Along with our European colleagues, we have worked night and day for the last three and a half years to mitigate against the seismic ramifications on our €21billion industry, of this defining moment in modern political history.
“It is imperative that might and main are moved to protect the Irish seafood sector in the future trade negotiations which last year alone, was valued at €1.25billion employing more than 14,300 people predominantly in rural, coastal locations. Michel Barnier and Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan will play key roles with our Government to negotiate the retention of the close linkage between fisheries and the wider trade relationship in order to maintain existing access to fishing waters and existing resource allocations. This linkage absolutely critical.
“However, we must also keep our eye on the ball in the short-term and the Commission’s remedial measures, published as part of its TACs and quotas proposals 2020 for cod and whiting in the Celtic Sea are ‘unworkable’. These would have dire impacts on a whole range of fisheries in the area with the early closure of these fisheries, should these measures be adopted in their present form. Fishermen cannot countenance these unworkable measures in the Celtic Sea that would lead to early closures of a vast array of sustainable fisheries in the area with the loss of jobs as well as putting the viability of the demersal fleet in jeopardy.
“The Commission’s proposals also contain some significant reductions in a number of key Irish stock such as the 15% reduction in nephrops, 30% reduction in monkfish and 40% reduction in pollack. I question the justification for these reductions both on a scientific basis particularly for monkfish and pollack and also most importantly that the Commission’s proposals take no account of the socio-economic obligations enshrined in the CFP. The proposals only take account of the sustainability principles. If the socio-economic obligations had been taken into account, the proposed cuts in some of our key stocks would almost be eliminated or significantly reduced. I fully expect Minister Creed to take account of these missing factors from the Commission’s proposals during the Council next week.”
There are some stocks not yet included in the Commission’s proposals such as mackerel and blue whiting. These have now been agreed at Coastal States level with mackerel up 41% and blue whiting up 2%.
“In recent years, errors in the scientific advice has also led to me publicly expressing concern that ICES does not have a fit-for-purpose quality assurance system in place. In this regard, it is imperative that ICES expediates the putting in place a quality assurance system across its entire process to enable all stakeholders have confidence in its advice,” concluded Mr O’Donoghue.
The KFO expects, as in previous years, after the usual battles that ‘The Hague Preferences’ – which see Ireland and the UK getting elevated quotas for a number of key species when reductions are proposed – will be delivered.
The KFO will be meeting Minister Creed and his advisers in Brussels ahead of the talks beginning and subsequently, on a regular basis during the Fisheries Council negotiations.
We will support his endeavours to deliver the best deal possible in terms of sustainable and economically-viable fishing opportunities for Ireland for 2020, added the spokesman.