The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has commented on the outcome of the 2017 December Fisheries Council as a “positive result”.
A Department spokesperson said: “At this year’s Fisheries Council robust evidence was presented to confirm that most fish stocks in the Irish Sea are now performing well and are being fished sustainably. This has led to some significant increases in the fish quotas available to the local fishing fleet for 2018.
“Irish Sea herring will increase by 70%, haddock by 23%, and plaice by 63%. There was especially good news for Irish Sea cod which is now showing firm signs of recovery, resulting in a more than three-fold increase in the quota. The quota for Irish Sea prawns, which is our most important stock, will rise by 15% next year.
“These increases are the reward for the adoption of sustainable management measures in the Irish Sea and much hard work over a number of years by fisheries scientists at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) in partnership with the local fishing sector.
“Wide ranging fish conservation measures have been introduced to boost fish stocks, and partnerships between scientists and fishermen have improved the amount and quality of information on which stock assessments are based.
“This is a positive result which means that the Northern Ireland fishing fleet will have an estimated £3.6million worth of additional fish quota available in 2018.
“Prior to the Council, the Commission had proposed untested fishing net restrictions to try to reduce unwanted catches of whiting in the Irish Sea prawn fishery. However, it was agreed that Member State Regional Groups will work next year to develop an appropriate package of fishing whiting conservation measures for introduction in 2019.”
Ardglass based Councillor Dermot Curran welcomed the positive note in the improved quotas for the Irish Sea saying: “The fishing opportunities for our local ports are looking much improved on last year and I welcome this good news.
“I am delighted that there has been a substantial increase in the herring quota and that the nephrops (prawns) too have been boosted which will please our local fishing fleets into 2018. The cod fishery is recovering well too and this is another good sign that sustainable fishing methods pay off in the long run.”
The outcome of the annual fish quotas species allocations negotiations in Brussels was also welcomed by South Down SDLP constituency representative and former MP Margaret Ritchie said: “Following two long days and nights of prolonged and sustained negotiations at the Annual Fisheries Council, I am pleased that there has been a good outcome for our local fishing fleets in CountyDown which spells good news for sustaining our local economies in the fishing communities.