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Northern Ireland gears up for quota negotiations

Michelle O'Neil, Fisheries Minister of Northern Ireland. (Photo Credit: Sinn Fein/Frank Donovan/CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Friday, October 31, 2014, 23:50 (GMT + 9)
Northern Ireland Fisheries Minister Michelle O’Neill met with DEFRA Fisheries Minister, George Eustice MP and representatives of the fishing industry in Belfast to discuss their negotiating priorities for the forthcoming European Council of Ministers meetings, which will set limits on fishing opportunities for 2015.

"This is the second time this annual event has happened in the north of Ireland. The negotiations are a joint effort between Fisheries Ministers and this meeting gives us an opportunity to listen to the industry views and factor these into our priorities for Council," said Minister O’Neill speaking afterwards.

She stated that the European Commission’s initial proposals for some Irish Sea stocks, published earlier this week, would be studied closely.

"I’m disappointed that the Commission has proposed a cut in the Irish Sea haddock quota of 20 per cent because of the lack of a full stock assessment. I think a case can be made to minimise a cut. The haddock fishery provides a useful alternative for a few vessels and helps to take the pressure off the prawn stock. All fishing trips are scientifically observed and the vessels have been able to target haddock this year with cod by-catch less than 1.5 per cent. I also want to see the Commission to set aside a scientific quota for Irish Sea cod so that Member States can continue to carry out a meaningful assessment of the state of the stock," the Minister said.

She assured that nephrops (prawn) will be her number one priority, given the critical importance of this stock to the local fleet.

Minister O’Neill added: "Unfortunately, the nephrops scientific advice is not expected to be published until Friday 31 October 2014 and it may be some weeks before we get the Commission’s proposal for a Total Allowable Catch for 2015. I will be pressing hard for the best deal for our industry. I will resist strongly any proposals to diminish fishing opportunities in the Irish Sea, where these are not justified on scientific grounds." 

A Norwegian purse seiner. (Photo Credit: Odin Hjellestad/Copyright: FIS)
Mixed fishing opportunities proposed for 2015 in the Atlantic and North Sea
Wednesday, October 29, 2014, 22:10 (GMT + 9)
The European Commission (EC) has realeased its proposal for fishing opportunities for 2015 for the Atlantic and the North Sea, which includes increases or maintenance of the catch limits for 29 stocks in European waters - not agreed with international partners - and reductions for 40 stocks, in line with scientific advice. 
For many of the stocks shared with international partners, negotiations are still ongoing. The proposal, therefore, only includes figures for about half of the stocks at this stage. It will be completed once negotiations with third countries and within Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) have taken place.

The proposal sets levels of total allowable catch (TAC) and fishing effort both for stocks managed exclusively by the EU, and for stocks managed with third countries such as Norway or through RFMOs across the world's oceans.

For some EU stocks at MSY, such as anglerfish and horse mackerel in Iberian waters, sole in the Western Channel and Nephrops in the North Sea the Commission proposes to increase TACs. These stocks are success stories for both the fishing industry and the Member States concerned who have shown that managing stocks responsibly and taking decisions to achieve MSY delivers sustainable fish stocks and pays off financially for those employed in the industry.

At the same time, for some stocks in a poor state, the picture remains alarming. Cod stocks in the Irish Sea and the Kattegat continue to be in a dire state, and the poor data hampers managing these stocks. Sole in the Eastern channel is at extremely low levels. Advice for haddock and cod in the Celtic Sea demands also considerable TAC cuts, so that these stocks can be brought to MSY levels. Cod in the West of Scotland is a real problem with extremely high rates of discarding and is still at a risk of collapse.

For many of these stocks, more selective fishing techniques are urgently needed, so that young fish are not caught before they can reproduce and replenish the fish stocks. This is particularly urgent for fisheries in the Celtic Sea and the Western waters, where a big effort is needed to implement the selectivity measures advised by scientists. This will also help the EU fishing sector comply with the obligation to land all catches as of next year and to become more profitable in the medium term.

For stocks where data is not good enough to properly estimate their size, the Commission proposal reflects the advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) to adapt the TAC up or down by a maximum of 20 per cent. Following a Council decision last year on precautionary reductions, TACs are proposed at the same level as in 2014 for 26 of these stocks.

For a limited number of EU stocks, the scientific advice has been received only recently, or it will be released in the next few weeks. For these stocks, the advice needs to be further analysed before a TAC figure will be proposed, later in the autumn.

For fish stocks shared with third countries (Norway, Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland, Russia), the European Commission, on behalf of the EU, negotiates towards the end of each year with these countries on the quantities of fish to be caught the following year, based on scientific advice.

For the stocks in international waters and for highly migratory species, such as tuna, the European Commission, representing the EU, negotiates fishing opportunities in the framework of RFMOs. These must subsequently be transposed into EU law.
The proposal will be discussed by the Member States' ministers at the Fisheries Council on 15/16 December and will apply from 1 January 2015.


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