The outcome of the December Fisheries Council meeting which sets the fishing opportunities in EU waters for 2014, will increase regulatory discards and cause significant job losses, according to the Federation of Irish Fishermen.

Chair of the FIF, Francis O’Donnell, predicts employment will drop by 350 from the haddock and prawn fisheries due to quota cuts of 33% and 9% respectfully.

He said he “totally disagreed” with the 9% cut in quota for prawns, Ireland’s second most valuable fishery, given the 2013 fishery was the same as previous years. “There is no justification for this reduction that will cost the Irish economy €15m.”

Quotas will impact Dunmore East and other whitefish strongholds around Irish coast. Photo Gillian Mills

Quota cuts will impact Dunmore East and other whitefish strongholds around the Irish coast. Photo Gillian Mills

While the Commission’s proposal was for a 75% reduction in the haddock quota “we are extremely annoyed and disappointed” with the agreed 33% reduction” which in effect is a charter for discards and is contrary to what the Council and Parliament agreed in June in the revised Common Fisheries Policy.”

 He added it was “particularly irritating” given the efforts by both the Irish industry and their European counterparts to enhance conservation measures.

“This reduction will be further exacerbated with the reductions of 33% in cod and 23% in whiting for the south coast, given all three are prosecuted in the same fishery.

Welcoming the hake and megrim quota increase in the northwest of 49% and 20% respectively and monk of 15% in the southwest, “this unfortunately will not offset job losses” also in the cod and whiting fisheries.

The whitefish sector will as a result see economic losses in income of 8% in 2014, O’Donnell warned.

The “good news” of an increase in some key pelagic stocks was however diminished by the “significant but expected” reduction of 28% in horse mackerel, he said.

“The apparent willingness of the Commission to give away totally unacceptable shares of mackerel to both Iceland and Faroes is rewarding reckless and irresponsible behaviour.”

“Minister Coveney has continuously objected to the Commission strategy in relation to mackerel and has been the only minister to openly criticise Commissioner Damanaki’s approach,” he said.

Behind the scenes

The deal secures 270,077 tonnes of fish for Irish fishermen in 2014, representing a 2% increase on 2013, worth €260m to the fishing industry, according to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Overall, the package was a “good outcome” given the very serious cuts proposed, remarked Minister Coveney. He added that the negotiations were “extremely difficult but that important increases have been secured in specific stocks.

“While some of the whitefish quotas were reduced in the Celtic Sea, this reflected the scientific advice of poor recruitment,” he said.

Ireland also secured increased quota for herring mackerel, boarfish and blue whiting. Noting reductions however in some species based on scientific advice, Minister Coveney said the cut of 33% in haddock instead of the proposed 75% would align haddock and cod and avoid “quota driven discards”.

He added that the 22% reduction in Celtic Sea whiting would be reviewed and may be improved in the New Year and that the 9% cut in the prawn fishery reflected a more “balanced recognition of scientific concerns” against the proposed 24% cut.

“Overall, the two-day negotiations delivered a much better package” than predicted. I can assure you we have secured the maximum commercial value from fish stocks for the fishing industry while taking responsible decisions to protect vulnerable stocks where appropriate,” Minister Coveney said.

2014 increases

  • 49% hake 30% Celtic Sea herring (south coast)
  • 13% mackerel
  • 55% boarfish (south coast)
  • 36% blue whiting (north west cost)
  • 20% megrim (north west coast)
  • 22% haddock (Rockall)
  • 15% monkfish (south and west) 1
  • 14% albacore tuna (summer fishery off south coast)