Following a meeting of the Northern Ireland Fishing Industry Task Forum, Minister of Fisheries, Michelle O’Neill, said the local fleet was keen to become “less reliant” on the nephrops fishery.

DARD 2016 quotas

Fisheries Minister Michelle O’Neill with fisheries representatives: Front Row: Alan McCulla (ANIFPO); Sam Warnock (NIFPO); Daniel Whittle (Kilkeel Seafoods). Back row: Trevor McKee and Leslie Girvan (NIFPO); Jack Cowden (Kilkeen Seafoods) and Sam Mawhinney (Denholms Fishselling).

“We had constructive discussions on developing a more diverse and sustainable mixed fishery in the Irish Sea,” she said.

But she warned that the negotiations would be complicated because of the fish landing obligation which applies to some species from January 1.

“This means that fish previously discarded will have to  be landed and some fish quotas will have to be increased appropriately. Our prawn  fishermen will have to land all marketable prawns in 2016, and whitefish vessels in the Irish Sea will have to land all catches of haddock.”

The landing obligation already applies to pelagic fish (herring and mackerel) and will apply to all species by 2019.

“Our fishing fleet has played a leading role in developing fishing gear that selects our unwanted fish, and my department is commited to working closely with the fishing industry to further improve selectivity,” she said.