Fishermen to net €20m from new EU haul quotas

IRISH fishermen are confident of hauling in an extra €14 million to €20m in 2007 following annual quota-fixing talks in Brussels which ended early yesterday.

The industry was boosted by increases in the three most important commercial species — monkfish (+7%), hake (+20%) and prawns (+17%) — which will contribute significantly to projected landings totalling about €250m next year.

The stage is now set for a complete restructuring of the Irish fishing fleet on foot of the review due to be published early in January when the total number of vessels is expected to be reduced from 250 to 150.

However, environmentalists were furious with some of the decisions reached by the EU’s marine ministers, especially the agreement to cut cod quotas by just 14% compared to the original 35% proposed by the European Commission.

The World Wildlife Fund said it would put the future of traditional fish-and-chips in jeopardy as they forecast the disappearance of cod from European waters.

Junior Marine minister John Browne said he was very pleased with the outcome of the three-day talks, after negotiations ended at 4am yesterday.

“Irish fish landings deliver €230m directly to fishermen in our coastal communities each year. The increased quotas delivered at this council will add €20m to this figure,” he said.

The Federation of Irish Fishermen were also pleased with the outcome. “It was one of the better council meetings,” said spokesperson Jason Whooley.

The 17% increase in prawns is worth €6m annually to fishermen. The increase in whitefish is worth about €7m and in pelagic species is worth an estimated €7m also, he said.

They are very pleased with the 23% average increase in haddock, which is particularly significant for the Rockall area where it means a 10-fold increase, while the quota remains the same for those fishing in the south-west.

There was also agreement on long-term measures to control the use of deep water gill nets, including banning their use in waters deeper than 600 metres and restricting their length and the amount of time they can be left in the water in line with scientific advice.

Mr Whooley defended the new quotas saying they were based on scientific advice. Ireland, he said, was to the forefront in developing alternative and effective strategies with the recently-established Regional Advisory Councils.

Getting a better share for Irish fishermen was easier now the Irish fleet made up less than 1% of the total in a 27-country EU, he noted.

More in this section