Minister for the Marine Michael Creed has been forced to close the Celtic Sea herring fishery due to a virtual collapse of the multi-million euro stock.
The closure order, which has not yet been released publicly, was issued by Mr Creed 48 hours after the seasonal fishery opened.
The decision was taken due to the small size of fish landed into Ringaskiddy and Castletownbere, Co Cork, and Dingle, Co Kerry, earlier this week. It is thought another survey of fish size will take place in two weeks.
“There were no other choices, and the industry recommended this due to the juvenile fish being landed. It was a mature decision by the industry,” said the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation chief executive Francis O’Donnell.
The Celtic Sea herring fishery last year lost a valuable international sustainable fishery accreditation awarded by the Marine Stewardship Council. The council had accredited the fishery in 2012, and undertook a five-year review in 2017 which informed its decision to remove the certification last year. The accreditation had increased the value of the stock, much of which is exported to Europe for the roll-mop herring market.
This in turn, put pressure on the stock, with quotas falling from a peak of 30,000 tonnes to about 20% of that last year, as recommended by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. Just under 10,000 tonnes of herring, valued at €3m, on the pier was landed last year, with main export markets being Germany, the UK, Denmark, and Nigeria.
The closure comes just weeks after the European Commission gave Mr Creed’s department three months to conduct an inquiry into its ability to apply EU fishing rules. The commission said the inquiry must evaluate Ireland’s “capacity to apply the rules” which govern the management of fish catches in EU waters, and said its request arose from “the severe and significant weaknesses” in the Irish control system in an audit carried out in 2018 at Killybegs, Co Donegal.