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Some positive quota news for fishermen

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Some positive quota news for fishermen thumbnailKilkeel Harbour

DECISIONS taken this month by the Fisheries Council should help fuel the recovery of the fishing industry in the area.

That is the hope for the fishing opportunities for 2017 which have been agreed after two days of negotiations in Brussels.

Alan McCulla, chief executive of the Kilkeel-based Anglo North Irish Fish Producers Organisation Ltd (ANIFPO) wasn't expecting the meeting to deliver a 'silver bullet' in terms of solving the problem but acknowledged progress.

“Nevertheless, the Minister listened carefully to the range of points that were made and as well as agreeing that existing rules need clarification, there was discussion about revisiting previous concessionary visa schemes for non-EEA crew on fishing boats," he said.

Meanwhile, South Down MP Margaret Ritchie welcomed the outcome which saw a 9 per cent increase in the quota for nephrops and haddock, but expressed disappointment in the cut for herring.  

“The nephrops catch forms an essential part of our fishing industry in Northern Ireland, and I am glad EU Fisheries Ministers recognised the positive scientific evidence on stock numbers in the Irish Sea.

“That said, I am disappointed at the 10 per cent cut to herring that while for now will stay in place until mid-next year at the earliest. I am urging and calling on the Fisheries Council to once again look at the evidence very carefully on herring stock in the Irish Sea and consider how a rise could be accommodated at the next council meeting," said Ms Ritchie.

The ANIFPO worked closely with local politicians in identifying the priorities and issues for the Irish Sea quota species and believe "overall the result has been a good one for the fisheries in the area".

“Against the background of Commission proposals for zero Total Allowable Catches (TAC) on Irish Sea cod and sole, the council agreed quota rollovers for these two stocks. Indeed, 2017 will mark the first time in 12 years that Irish Sea cod has not witnessed a year-on-year TAC reduction," an ANIFPO spokesman said.

“It should be noted that ANIFPO worked closely with the Northern Ireland MEP Diane Dodds, who was instrumental in delivering crucial amendments to the EU's long-term cod plan, which were critical in paving the way for this week's decision on the Irish Sea cod TAC.

“The annual House of Commons Fisheries Debate held at the beginning of the month provided an important opportunity for local MPs to set out the stall for Northern Ireland's fishermen to the UK's Fisheries Minister.

“As usual South Down's Margaret Ritchie MP emphasised the importance of cod, haddock, herring and nephrops during the debate and it was clear these arguments resonated with the UK Fisheries Minister George Eustice MP.

“A welcome 25 per cent increase in Irish Sea haddock, combined with the 9 per cent increase in the western hake TAC will allow for the continued redevelopment of a directed demersal fishery in the Irish Sea.

“Working alongside the UK Minister, Northern Ireland's Minister with responsibility for Fisheries Michelle McIlveen MLA secured a written statement from the commission and council confirming that many of the Irish Sea TACs will be further reviewed early in 2017 following an ICES scientific benchmarking exercise. One of the stocks included in this review is Irish Sea herring and there is optimism that the 10 per cent cut applied to this TAC at the council will be reversed in advance of the season opening mid-year."

The ANIFPO believes the most economically important fishery in the Irish Sea and for the Northern Ireland industry is nephrops.

“The increase of nearly 9 per cent in this TAC reflects another year of positive scientific advice on the stock and is clearly good news for the entire industry at sea and onshore.

“2016 has been a positive year for fisheries in the Irish Sea. The decisions taken at the December 2016 Fisheries Council should help continue to fuel the recovery of the fishing industry in the area, specifically Northern Ireland. It is further hoped that the ICES benchmarking exercise scheduled for early in 2017 will result in further TAC incentives for Irish Sea fishermen," said the ANIFPO.

Ms Ritchie MP said that she has been working hard to find a resolution to the Filipino crewing of vessels issue.

“These fishermen are highly skilled in their trade and are international seafarers. They are totally regulated by the Filipino authorities and remain on the fishing boats for about eight months and then return to their own country.

“Due to their skill, expertise, knowledge of the industry and hard work ethic, the local industry in Ardglass and Kilkeel value their contribution to the local fishing sector but also readily acknowledge the contribution they make to the fish processing sector.   Through their contribution to the catching sector they fuel the processing sector and ensure that the fish quota allocations for the various fish species are fully utilised."

Ms Ritchie met with senior officials with a view to revisit a previous concessionary visa scheme. 

“For my part, I will continue to work with the industry and to press the Home Office to come up with a workable solution that enables our fishing industry in the Co Down ports to be sustained," said Ms Ritchie.

Meanwhile, Mr McCulla said that it was a honour to meet the Filipino Consul General in the House of Commons and it was encouraging to hear positive feedback about the experience of Filipino nationals "who have been successfully posted to UK fishing vessels over many years".

“The Consul General agreed to relay these comments directly to the UK's Immigration Minister and we would hope this will go a long way towards addressing what are unfounded concerns about the treatment of non-EEA fishermen on board local fishing vessels," said Mr McCulla.

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