With fishermen warning of a 45% cut in their income and the loss of 600 jobs if proposed cuts go ahead, Fisheries Minister Simon Coveney is hoping to gradually introduce the cuts over three years.
However, environmental group Greenpeace warns small fishermen are being forced out of work because of the way governments are handling fish quotas.
Mr Coveney met several of his colleagues from other EU countries yesterday in a bid to get their support for his proposals on the amount of fish the Irish industry should be allowed to catch over the coming year.
He accused the European Commission of ignoring the science in suggesting cuts of up to 65% to some fish species.
Prawns are the industry’s second most valuable product and all the evidence collected in photographs points to healthy stocks in Ireland’s fishing grounds, he said, but the Commission has suggested a 20% cut.
Massive cuts to the amount of cod, whiting, and haddock that can be caught in 2015 would wipe out a third of the Irish fleet, while if they were introduced over time, the effect would be less damaging, he said.
The industry has accepted the big changes in policy agreed last year, including landing all fish caught rather than discarding those they do not have a licence for over the next two years.
They have also accepted fishing to maximum sustainable yield — which means calculating how to take the maximum possible fish without damaging the resource — to be introduced by 2020 at the latest.
He argued that where the Commission does not have scientific evidence, it should rely on the catch rates which Ireland has had for the last 20 years. Stocks of pollack, skate, and ray have not been reducing over the past few years.
Ireland has agreed with France and Britain to introduce 120mm square mesh that they believe will cut juvenile catches by between 30% to 50% and he hoped the Spanish would adopt the same measures.
Greenpeace, which staged a major protest outside the building where the ministers were meeting in Brussels, said the over-fishing should end in 2015 as agreed.
Greenpeace EU fisheries policy director Saskia Richartz said: “Where fishing quotas are being reduced in line with scientific recommendations, fish stocks can recover, and if low-impact fishermen are supported, fishing communities can thrive for generations to come.”
The meeting continues today and is expected to reach agreement for fishing quotas for all EU countries.
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