Fate of Irish fishing industry remains inextricably linked to Brexit negotiations
The Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) has said that this week’s Council of Fisheries Ministers annual meeting in Brussels has delivered a reasonable overall result on certain key stocks but has upheld misguided proposals on others.However, its CEO, Seán O’Donoghue, said at the end of Council that this is almost certain to be the last December Fisheries Council in this format with the looming withdrawal of the UK from the EU. This was the metaphorical calm before a potentially devastating storm with the long- term future of the industry very much in the balance as the UK and EU negotiating teams assess and mould Britain’s exit plan from the EU.
Commenting on the conclusion of talks which entered a third day, Mr O’Donoghue said that TACs and quotas had been set at sustainable levels.
"The Commission’s unworkable proposals for cod and whiting in the Celtic Sea were changed to setting appropriate by catch and catch levels for these species and a range of workable technical conservation measures to avoid a vast array of sustainable fisheries being closed. There were significant sustainable increases in a number of species such as 41% increase in mackerel, 23% and 30% increases respectively in haddock in areas 6a and 7b-k, a 7% increase in monkfish area 7 and a doubling of small sole quota area 7gf. The reduction in nephrops our second most important economic stock was not unexpected but none the less it will have an affect on the demersal fleet. The 30% reduction in monkfish in area 6a and the 40% reduction in pollack areas 6 are disappointing as they are based on dubious science. In the overall context of all stocks of Irish interest there has a small increase of 1%.” He added; I wish to thank Minister Creed and his team of officials for achieving a reasonable sustainable outcome in difficult circumstances.”
“A no-deal Brexit really cannot be what people want but it still is a possibility on 1st January 2021. The situation would be uncontrollable with almost 3,000 kilometers of a ‘water border’ to be policed and the potentially devastating consequences for fleets which would have to be tied up.
“Ultimately, it would be the death knell for many coastal fishing communities, with the demise of the Irish seafood sector to the tune of between 30% and 50% and projected job losses of between 30% and 40% in the fishing industry here. The reliance we have on UK waters for species such as mackerel (60%) and nephrops (40%) is staggering, these are two main money “spenders” for the industry. It’s very hard to get one’s head around the fact that waters, to which we have enjoyed access, could be out of bounds on 1st January 2021 with no physical wall nor barrier in place."
“It is imperative that no stone is left unturned to protect the Irish seafood sector in the future trade negotiations which, last year alone, was valued at €1.25billion, employing more than 14,300 people predominantly in rural, coastal locations. Michel Barnier and Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan will play key roles, along with our Government, to negotiate the retention of the close linkage between fisheries and the wider trade relationship in order to maintain existing access to fishing waters and existing resource allocations. This linkage is absolutely critical."
“Whereas fish are mobile and know no borders nor bear any nationality, our trawlers don’t have this luxury and must obey boundaries and exclusion zones. We must do absolutely everything in
our power to deliver a reasonable solution in terms of access to waters and resources thereby avoiding a ‘no-deal’ Brexit and the ramifications which this would have for our sector,” concluded Mr O’Donoghue.
Darker Brexit shadow hangs over talks, post-UK election
The Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) has expressed its concern ahead of the annual meeting of the Council of Fisheries Ministers. It believes that an industry already in a state of heightened anxiety regarding Brexit could now face further serious challenges and potential hardship particularly with the Commission’s cod and whiting proposals in the Celtic Sea. The negotiations to set Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas for 2020 take place in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday next (December 16th and 17th).
Seán O’Donoghue, CEO of the KFO said: “Brexit will now become a reality with the resounding Tory victory in last Thursday’s UK election. Along with our European colleagues, we have worked night and day for the last three and a half years to mitigate against the seismic ramifications on our €21billion industry, of this defining moment in modern political history.
“It is imperative that might and main are moved to protect the Irish seafood sector in the future trade negotiations which last year alone, was valued at €1.25billion employing more than 14,300 people predominantly in rural, coastal locations. Michel Barnier and Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan will play key roles along with our Government, to negotiate the retention of the close linkage between fisheries and the wider trade relationship in order to maintain existing access to fishing waters and existing resource allocations. This linkage is absolutely critical.
“However, we must also keep our eye on the ball in the short-term and the Commission’s remedial measures, published as part of its TACs and quotas proposals 2020 for cod and whiting in the Celtic Sea are ‘unworkable’. These would have dire impacts on a whole range of fisheries in the area with the early closure of these fisheries, should these measures be adopted in their present form. Fishermen cannot countenance these unworkable measures in the Celtic Sea that would lead to early closures of a vast array of sustainable fisheries in the area with the loss of jobs as well as putting the viability of the demersal fleet in jeopardy.
“The Commission’s proposals also contain some significant reductions in a number of key Irish stock such as the 15% reduction in nephrops, 30% reduction in monkfish and 40% reduction in pollack. I question the justification for these reductions both on a scientific basis particularly for monkfish and pollack and also most importantly that the Commission’s proposals take no account of the socio-economic obligations enshrined in the CFP. The proposals only take account of the sustainability principles. If the socio-economic obligations had been taken into account, the proposed cuts in some of our key stocks would almost be eliminated or significantly reduced. I fully expect Minister Creed to take account of these missing factors from the Commission’s proposals during the Council next week.”
There are some stocks not yet included in the Commission’s proposals such as mackerel and blue whiting. These have now been agreed at Coastal States level with mackerel up 41% and blue whiting up 2%.
“In recent years, errors in the scientific advice has also led to me publicly expressing concern that ICES does not have a fit-for-purpose quality assurance system in place. In this regard, it is imperative that ICES expediates the putting in place a quality assurance system across its entire process to enable all stakeholders have confidence in its advice,” concluded Mr O’Donoghue.
The KFO expects, as in previous years, after the usual battles that ‘The Hague Preferences’ - which see Ireland and the UK getting elevated quotas for a number of key species when reductions are proposed - will be delivered. The KFO will be meeting Minister Creed and his advisers in Brussels ahead of the talks beginning and subsequently, on a regular basis during the Fisheries Council negotiations. We will support his endeavours to deliver the best deal possible in terms of sustainable and economically-viable fishing opportunities for Ireland for 2020.
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