FISHERIES Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA visited the marine research vessel, Corystes, at Belfast port today (Tuesday 2nd August).
The R.V. Corystes is operated by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and carries out an extensive marine science programme on behalf of DARD and other Government departments. The Co. Down fishing ports on Portavogie, Ardglass and Kilkeel provide a significant backbone to the coastal economy.
Following a tour of the ship, the Minister said, “Last month I attended the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels when the European Commission presented its proposals for reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. I had hoped that the proposals would mean greater regionalisation of decision-making.
“We need to exploit the knowledge of our local scientists, fisheries managers and the fishing industry more in regional arrangements for the design of future fisheries management measures. The reformed CFP will have a wide impact on the local fleet in the incoming years. I want to give the fishing industry more certainty about their future through the development of long-term management plans. But these measures must be taken forward with the active participation of local scientists and the industry to be credible and effective.”
She added, “It is against this backdrop, that the work of AFBI is crucial to providing sound scientific evidence to my argument, when I’m negotiating fishing opportunities for the local fleet at the December Fisheries Council negotiations. This has been an important visit for me as I have had a detailed briefing on the latest scientific assessment of the main Irish Sea stocks, and gained a clear understanding of the importance of science to the sustainability of our marine fish resources.
“During my tour of the Corystes today I was very impressed by the facilities and equipment on the ship and crew member’s high levels of technological expertise and professionalism. The integrated science programme, delivered by AFBI and Corystes, directly supports the key policy objective of my department of sustainability of Irish Sea fisheries. It also contributes to the development of an ecosystem approach to fisheries management, as required by the European Commission.”
The Minister said, “Today’s visit has helped me to understand further the issues behind the requirements of the local fishing sector and the more technical side of fish management in the North. I have also learned how the comprehensive data on fish stocks and the marine environment provided by Corystes are also allowing AFBI to investigate how climate change may impact ecosystem processes and through this fish stocks.
“I wish to thank the Corystes’ crew for the opportunity today to tour the ship, I now have a more complete understanding of the research work which we regularly undertake to defend the best interests of both our fishing sector and marine environment alike.”
Down News spoke to fishing industry cheifs recently and they were clearly not happy with past scientific evidence of fisheries presented to the EU Fisheries Commission. In the Irish Sea the prawn and herring stock have been underestimated and now scientists are working with fishermen closely to establish better and more accurate data.