Fishing groups welcome €266m deal on quotas

Fishing groups have given a broad welcome to the annual deal struck by the EU on fish quotas worth €266m for next year.

Negotiations at the council of fisheries ministers concluded in Brussels yesterday at 7.30am with Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed revealing that 40,168 tonnes of whitefish quotas had been agreed, worth €152m, alongside Ireland’s quota for prawns which amounts to 10,729 tonnes, valued at €83m.

The minister said the whitefish quota represented an 8% increase in value from last year and a 3% increase in volume, with a 15% increase in prawns, worth over €10.6m directly to the Irish fleet. He described it as “the biggest single increase in over a decade”.

Mr Creed said the rebuilding of cod and haddock stock had been due to successful conservation measures carried out over recent years.

“The rebuilding of many of our stocks is also demonstrated by a 34% increase in our whitefish quotas off the north-west coast and a 64% increase in the Irish Sea compared to five years ago — both areas where stocks were depleted.”

In the North-West, there will be a 20% increase in monkfish, a 21% increase for horse mackerel and a 26% increase in haddock for the ports of Greencastle and Killybegs, while the 15% rise in the prawn quota, worth €10.6m, will benefit Clogherhead Co Louth, Howth Co Dublin, Union Hall Co Cork, Castletownbere Co Cork Dingle Co Kerry, and Ros a Mhíl Co Galway. Castletownbere and Dingle will also benefit from the 13% rise for albacore tuna.

Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation, said the industry recognised the role of the minister and his officials in “working closely with us, taking on board our concerns to try and achieve the best possible outcome under the Restrictive relative Stability Policy in 2018. The estimated return for our fishing industry is close to €270m.

“We welcome the increases achieved on Celtic Sea demersal stocks such as cod, haddock, whiting and nephrops as well as Celtic Sea herring that was potentially going to suffer a massive cut of 62% but under the precautionary management plan sees this cut reduced to a significant 30%,” he said.

He said a number of proposed reductions, in advance of the negotiations, on some key stocks had been unjustifiable and arbitrary.

“We give credit to the negotiating team after hearing this has been corrected and instead of cuts we see increases of 15% for our nephrops, cod, increases in haddock and monkfish in the North-West and in horse mackerel, blue whiting and albacore tuna are welcome.

“However, all the news is not so positive, the mackerel fishery sees a cut of 20%, a huge cut is seen in our whiting of 19%, coupled with a 11% cut to our haddock ... 7% cut to our hake fishery,” he said.

The Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation welcomed the outcome as generally positive but CEO Sean O’Donoghue said Brexit would “cast a long shadow”.

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