Serious misgivings have been voiced prior to the annual meeting of the Council of Fisheries Ministers, which is in progress in Brussels.
The Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) believes that an industry already in a state of anxiety over the losses already incurred due to Brexit is left in a practically impossible situation while real decisions that will affect Irish fisheries into into year and beyond are being taken at separate negotiations between the EU and UK.
‘The Commission is likely to propose provisional TACs (Total Allowable Catch) and quota figures for next year,’ commented KFO CEO Seán O’Donoghue.
‘This is as a result of the fact that we are awaiting the outcome of EU/UK bilateral negotiations which affect 75 shared fish stocks, most of which are crucial to the Irish fleet. Based on past experience, I wouldn’t be holding my breath that these bilaterals will have wrapped up in time to give Council the necessary data with which to make final TACs and quotas for next year.’
He stated that the more probable scenario is that the Council will set provisional TACs and quotas.
‘This is totally unsatisfactory and caused a major problem for our fishing sector last year with the final figures published seven months into the year. Further compounding this, we had the huge impact of Brexit on our key stocks. It is of critical importance that what happened in 2021 is not repeated for 2022,’ he said.
‘Seasonal fisheries such as mackerel, horse mackerel, blue whiting and boarfish are predominantly worked in the first quarter of the year so instructing fishermen that they can only catch a certain percentage of their allocations during ‘peak season,’ is neither credible nor realistic. The KFO is also concerned in relation to a number of whitefish stocks given the scientific advice being presented to EU and UK negotiators and the impact the trilateral negotiations EU/Norway/UK could have on significantly decreasing the TAC for haddock in Northwest where an increase of 125% is expected.’
KFO has requested immediate action by the Minister and the Commission to urge Norway and the Faroe Islands to stop what is seen as massive overfishing of mackerel in the Northeast Atlantic, and which Irish fishermen see as jeopardising the sustainable management of the stock.
‘It is critical that the Council of Ministers act decisively against this irresponsible and reckless behaviour and I am calling on our Minister to ensure that this is dealt with at the Council,’ Seán O’Donoghue said.
‘The Council must be made aware that Minister McConalogue, our Commissioner and our Government as a whole, are unequivocally committed to delivering on ‘burden sharing’ among Member States post-Brexit to rectify the appalling vista whereby Irish fishermen were saddled with 40% of the EU’s fisheries loss to Britain. A recent fleet report from the Commission’s own Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee on Fisheries (STECF) has confirmed these figures are correct. The ball is firmly in their court now and we’re demanding urgent action on this issue.’
He added that KFO expects, as in previous years, after the usual battles that ‘The Hague Preferences’ – which see Ireland getting elevated quotas for a number of key species, will be delivered.