The Irish fishing industry praised Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney for his efforts over the two-day meeting, while conservationists were not as critical as in the past but still sounded a note of caution over the future of certain sensitive stocks.
Sean O’Donoghue of the Killybegs Fishermens Organisation said the outcome was very positive for the whitefish sector where many proposed cuts were averted.
“Not only will this have a positive impact on the fishing sector but it will safeguard employment and investment in the processing industry. I must congratulate Mr Coveney and his team, including BIM and the Marine Institute, for the huge effort they made,” he said.
However, Andrew Clayton of Pew’s Ending Overfishing campaign said ministers went beyond what the scientists consider safe, and they need to explain why they choose to jeopardise stocks.
The final agreement on whitefish quotas for Irish fishermen is worth €131m, a 10% increase on last year, worth an extra €10m.
Quotas for prawn — the country’s most valuable fish — were increased by 8%, including an extra amount to make up for the possible effect of the ban on discarding out-of-quota fish back into the sea.
For the first time, fishermen will be banned from throwing prawn, whiting, haddock and hake back to sea and instead they will be counted towards their quota.
To compensate, fishermen will have an additional 18% quota, worth €9m, provided they use fishing methods to avoid catching young fish.
The cod quota has been cut by 4% and haddock by 13% in the Celtic Sea under the maximum sustainable yield system to ensure there are sufficient fish left to rejuvenate stocks. Mr Coveney said these cuts were short term.
However, Greenpeace criticised the cod quota saying it was higher than the scientific advice and called on governments to give preferential quota shares to fishermen who use selective, low-impact fishing methods.
Mr Coveney said the benefits of this new policy can be seen already in the Celtic Sea where whiting stocks have increased by 26% because of maximum sustainable yield.
The number of species that can be fished at maximum sustainable yield has increased from five to 36 in the Atlantic, the North Sea, and the Baltic. New rules that will apply to anglers to save endangered sea bass will mean they must release any they catch for the first half of 2016, and they can catch a limit of just one for the second six months.
- North West: Greencastle and Killybegs: whitefish quotas up 20%;
- South and West: Ros a Mhil, Dingle, Castletownbere, Union Hall ,and Dunmore East: whitefish quotas up 7%;
- Irish Sea: Clogherhead, Howth and Kilmore Quay: haddock quota up 40%; North and West: 48% increase in horse mackerel;
- South-West tuna fleet: 3% rise in albacore tuna;
- West and North-West: further scientific advice being sought to establish a small commercial fishery later in the year — a move welcomed by the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation.