Fishing groups back new EU quota deal for Ireland

Fishing groups have welcomed the EU’s new deal for Ireland on next year’s quotas but said any short-term success at the negotiating table simply masks the need for “bigger battles” ahead.

Under the deal announced early yesterday, Irish fishermen secured 233,500 tonnes of quotas worth €280m for next year.

The deal, announced by Marine Minister Michael Creed following days of negotiations in Brussels, represents an increase of 17,390 tonnes compared with the quota allocated for 2016.

Highlights include a 9% rise in the €74m prawn quota and a 14% increase in the €86m mackerel quota. There were other increases, alongside reductions to haddock in the north-west and megrim in the Celtic Sea, which Mr Creed said was in line with scientific advice.

Both the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, based in Donegal, and the Castle-townbere Fishermen’s Co-Op in Cork gave a broad welcome to the new deal.

John Nolan of the Castletownbere group said: “Obviously, in our industry in Ireland and within the confines the minister is working at the moment, we consider he has done a very good job.”

Mr Nolan said any fresh deal given to Ireland is still affected by the legacy of the “disgraceful” quota allocated in the 1970s, the reversal of which was a “long-term battle”.

“I do believe our European partners have to accept that they rolled us over in the ’70s,” he said, adding that the quotas afforded to boats from France and elsewhere dwarf those afforded Ireland, which has to sustain coastal communities.

Mr Nolan said Brexit would increase the proportion of EU fishing grounds within Irish waters — a development which should result in a tougher negotiating stance in future.

“We should nearly be threatening that our industry is so important and so much was wrong [in the past] that we are considering leaving,” he said.

Mr Nolan said smaller boats of between 10m and 25m would still struggle to get by at a time when supertrawlers can land huge catches, something he described as “a joke”.

Specifics in the deal include:

  • For the south and west coasts and the Irish Sea, a 9% increase in the €74m prawn fishery;
  • For the south-west, a 9% increase in hake and reversal of cuts proposed for monkfish;
  • For the Celtic Sea fisheries, a 21% increase in whiting, a 7% rise in haddock, and a 15% cut in cod;
  • For the Irish Sea, a 25% increase in haddock, plus retention of cod and sole quotas;
  • In the north-west, a 20% increase in monkfish quota, a 9% increase for the megrim quota, a near doubling of the Rockall haddock quota and no change in whiting.

Mr Creed called the deal “a balanced package”.

He said: “I am satisfied that I have managed to turn an extremely worrying set of proposals from the commission into a much-improved outcome for the Irish fishing industry.”

Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation said it was “satisfied that Minister Creed has, for the most part, delivered on our call prior to the council to ensure that the commission’s proposed cuts for key Irish stocks are reversed at the Fisheries Council”.

However, the group’s chief executive, Sean O’Donoghue, said: “The 20% reduction in haddock in the north-west is not warranted as the reduction is due to scientific error and changing the fishing mortality rate.

“It is likely that this reduction will cause problems with possible early closures of fisheries during next year in the north-west as haddock is under the landing obligation.”


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