‘Serious question marks’ over report

COMMERCIAL fishermen yesterday expressed disappointment at the report on drift netting for salmon, saying there were “serious question marks” over the scientific advice on which the recommendations are based.

TDs have also voiced reservations and Fianna Fáil deputies from coastal areas are to discuss the matter at a meeting with marine minister Noel Dempsey today.

Mike Fitzpatrick, of the Irish South and West Fishermen’s Organisation (IS&WFO), said: “Our members are extremely disappointed with the recommendations contained within this report. However, we are not surprised as the terms of reference which were set by Minister Browne for the group to work within did not even allow them to consider the debate on whether drift net fishing should be continued. There are serious question marks over the scientific advice and the mixed stock argument on which the recommendation to end drift-netting are based.”

He said his organisation had submitted a proposal based on a voluntary buyout but that it appeared not to have been considered.

“In the UK several years ago there was a voluntary buyout scheme and in the Faroes and Greenland there is a voluntary set-aside scheme which is negotiated on an annual basis. Why were none of these possibilities considered here?”

The issue of a voluntary buyout was also raised by local TDs. Deputy Denis O’Donovan from Cork South-West said he and his Fianna Fáil colleagues would be expressing their concern to the minister about the implications of the report. He said that there should be a voluntary buyout rather than a compulsory end to the fishery.

“I believe that if this approach were adopted up to 70% of fishermen, at least in southern areas of which he knew, would accept the situation.”

The IS&WFO said it was also disappointed with the valuation of the fishery.

“The compensation scheme proposed in the report is based on average catches from 2001 to 2005 during which time the fishermen’s quota was reduced by 60%,” said Mr Fitzpatrick.

TP Ó Conchuir, spokesman for fishermen in Ballydavid, Co Kerry, said that an enforced ban on drift netting would mean devastation for the industry. “My advice to the Government is to make this voluntary, leave the quotas for those who want to stay and give €14,000 minimum to those willing to leave.”

He added that a management plan should then be put in place for all inshore fishing where scientists can work with fishermen.

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