Pelagic fishermen in Killybegs face 20% reduction in 2019 quota

The EU, Norway and Faroes have today (29/11) signed a tripartite agreement in Bergen, Norway, setting a Total Allowable Quota for mackerel in 2019 at 653,438 tonnes, down 20% reduction on the current TAC.

While the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) is disappointed with the outcome, it is not surprised, given that scientific advice issued at the end of September recommended a much larger reduction of 61%.

The organisation is highly critical of the scientific advice that not only calls for the 61% reduction but also states the stock has been in decline since 2011:

“I am very concerned that ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Seas) does not have a fit-for-purpose quality assurance system in place. This must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

“There have been far too many mistakes over the last number of years and it is undermining confidence in the scientific advice,” remarked Sean O’Donoghue, chief executive Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation.

A positive outcome of the talks however it says is that ICES has agreed to carry out a re-evaluation of the mackerel advice in early 2019.

“At least they’ve decided on a common-sense approach to take the reduction over a two-year period,” O’Donoghue said, adding he was confident phase two would not be required as the scientific advice was incorrect.

“I look forward to the outcome of re-evaluation by ICES in early 2019 which I expect will confirm the industry view there is a still a very healthy mackerel stock in the North East Atlantic. This has been evidenced — not only by the Irish pelagic fleet but also by other pelagic fleets that have encountered large shoals of mackerel over the entire distribution area.”

Based upon these observations, the KFO believes the stock size has greatly increased, and is not confined to one area or has been observed by only one fleet.

“This is contrary to ICES stated view that the stock is declining since 2011.”

O’Donoghue contends this is “yet another major mistake” in the mackerel advice, not forgetting “the mistakes made in 2017 and again in 2018” on Atlanto Scandia herring.

This is the final year of the 2014 Three Parties Agreement (EU, Norway and Faroes) however the three parties have agreed to extend the agreement for a further two years.