As negotiations get underway at the EU fisheries Council in Brussels, Ireland’s marine minister has warned that some of the proposals would impact the whitefish sector with “severe cuts” in many stocks of vital importance to Ireland.

And he added that this year’s negotiations will also be “heavily impacted” by the lack of progress on talks between the EU & Norway, and between the EU, Norway, Faroes and Iceland.

Whitefish ports such as Union Hall, Co Cork, would be severely impacted if proposed cuts in whitefish opportunities for 2014 are implemented

Whitefish ports such as Union Hall, Co Cork, would be severely impacted if proposed cuts in whitefish opportunities for 2014 are implemented

“This lack of progress means that the Council will only be able to discuss provisional quotas for mackerel, blue whiting and Atlanto Scandic Herring for 2014”.

According to BIM, the total financial impact of proposed cuts would amount to over €70m.

“I accept that some reductions are inevitable to protect the health of stocks but I also believe that the Commission’s interpretation of the scientific advice in some cases is excessively precautionary and will only result in increased discarding of fish at sea,” he warned.

Francis O’Donnell, chair of the Federation of Irish Fishermen said the proposed 23% reduction in the Nephrops quota, Ireland’s second most valuable fishery “has no basis whatsoever particularly given that ICES have clearly stated this stock is stable.”

He said FIF would be seeking a “rollover” of the TAC for this species “at a minimum. O’Donnell added that while there was some “good news” in terms of pelagic stock increases for mackerel, blue whiting, boarfish and herring, the absence of an agreement between EU and Norway on sharing agreements, “will likely result in fishermen only receiving provisional quotas” at the beginning of 2014.

He added that the Commission has not resolved sharing arrangements for mackerel with Iceland and the Faroes “and has acted in an appalling manner in its attempts to appeal both.”

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The Faroes have rejected Commissioner Damanaki’s deal which has put the mackerel sharing arrangements “on hold again”, according to Francis O’Donnell.

Norward had put forward a proposal (3 years only and a TAC set at 1.3 million tonnes) that would see Iceland and the Faroes getting 10% each with access to the Faroes only.  

“It is evident that Commissiioner Damanaki’s starting point has raised expectections and a deal will not be done this year,” warned O’Donnell.