The Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney met Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries during a visit to Malta today (Monday 9th November). The meeting covered the setting of fishing quotas for 2016, the introduction of the first phase of the discards ban for the whitefish fleet in 2016.
The Minister said “During my visit to Malta to meet the officers and crew of the LE Samuel Beckett, I held an informal and constructive meeting with Commissioner Vella. I set out some of the challenges facing our fishing industry in 2016, particularly for the whitefish and prawn fleets with introduction of the discards ban for some fisheries. The discards ban will directly apply next year to our important prawn fleet and our Celtic Sea whiting fleet. I made clear that I will be working at the December Council to achieve quotas that take account of this new situation where all catches in these fisheries must be landed. While I fully support the introduction of quotas that respect scientific advice, I pointed out that in line with the new Common Fisheries Policy, I will be looking for a phasing in of the new limits recommended by the scientific advice for some key economic stocks, which will be fished by the fleets which are becoming subject to the discards ban.”
Minister Coveney took the opportunity to brief Commissioner Vella on the issues highlighted by a recent report in the Guardian newspaper on illegal migrant workers on Irish fishing vessels. The Minister advised that the Irish Government has established a Task Force to examine the issues fully and to make recommendations on appropriate actions as a priority before the end of the year. Minister Coveney undertook to advise the Commissioner on the work of the Task Force and the Irish Government’s planned response.
The meeting also focused on the ongoing mackerel sharing arrangements involving the EU, Norway, Faroe Islands and the possible inclusion of Iceland and Russia under a new agreement. The mackerel fishery is economically the most important to Ireland and there are ongoing discussions under a Coastal States process to reach a long term agreement on the management of the stock.
Concluding the Minister said “Commissioner Vella undertook to work closely with us over the coming weeks in order to secure a balanced range of quotas for the Irish fleet”.