An international lobby group for sustainable fishing has accused ministers across Europe of ensuring overfishing will continue as a result of the 2019 Annual Fisheries Negotiations which concluded early today.
The agreements reached in the small hours were welcomed by industry locally as Agriculture and Food Minister Michael Creed dismissed non-industry criticisms as ‘misinformed’.
Rebecca Hubbard, programme director of Our Fish said the setting of fishing quotas should have followed scientific advice.
“Instead, we saw another absurd all-night meeting behind closed doors where ministers haggled over fishing quotas like kids trading football cards,” Ms Hubbard said.
The organisation Our Fish works to end overfishing and wasteful discarding and challenges EU governments to deliver transparent, sustainable management of Europe’s fisheries.
She added: “By choosing to set fishing limits above scientific advice for many stocks, they have ignored European citizens and all of the evidence that shows ending overfishing will deliver healthy fish stocks, more jobs and security for coastal communities.”
Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation CEO, Seán O’Donoghue said the negotiations had generally positive outcomes and noted there was a workable solution adopted, to the landings obligation, thus avoiding the potential for early closures of a large number of fisheries.
The landings obligation, or discard ban, comes into play next year and will outlaw the practice of discarding juvenile fish at sea. It had led to fears that vessels with capacity for further fishing would be hampered due to meeting their full allowance of “choke species”.
A choke species is a term used to describe a species with a low quota that can cause a vessel to stop fishing even if they still have a quota for other species.
“The implementation of the landings obligation, as laid out in the Commission’s proposals, would have had large negative consequences for Ireland’s whitefish and pelagic sectors as the choke species' factor could have triggered the closure of most fisheries in the early months of 2019,” he said.
“I am glad to say the Council has adopted a workable solution to the 'choke' situation with the allocation of bycatch quotas to the Member States for the five stocks where a zero TAC [ total allowable catch] was set,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Creed described some of the commentaries on EU negotiations on fish quotas as ‘misinformed.’
He told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland some commentators would appear to prefer to see “rusting fishing trawlers tied up in ports,” and emphasised none of the concessions agreed was outside scientific advice.
By Joe Leogue
Agriculture and Marine Minister Michael Creed has described the deal struck at the 2019 Annual Fisheries Negotiations as a balanced outcome to what was a “challenging and complex negotiation”.
The final deal negotiated provides for maintenance of quotas year on year, with an increase in value to €260m.
A ban on the practice of discarding juvenile fish at sea will come into place next year.
“My primary ambition at these negotiations was to set quotas for Irish fishermen that will support the livelihoods of fishermen and at the same time respect the scientific advice for stocks,” Mr Creed said.
"Our fishing industry has been fully supportive of the new policy while seeking to find solutions that will allow fishermen to continue viable and sustainable fisheries,” he said.
The ban had caused concerns that it would cause difficulties for vessels that had hauled in its quota of species with a low allowance, or so-called choke species.
However, Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation CEO Sean O’Donoghue said the allocation of bycatch quotas to the Member States for the five stocks where a zero total allowable catch was set was a “workable solution”.
Also as part of the agreement:
“We knew coming into these negotiations that, in line with the scientific advice, some substantial cuts would be necessary to protect some of our key fisheries such as herring, mackerel and prawns,” Mr Creed said.
“To their credit, the Irish fishing industry accepted that these cuts were necessary. In the interests of sustainability, we accepted a cut to our prawn quota of 32%, which reflects the scientific advice.”