NI FISHERIES Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA attended the EU Council meeting in Brussels this week at which Ministers reached a final position on key reforms to the Common Fisheries Policy.
The final CFP Reform package is decided jointly by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. Last year the Council agreed a “general approach” and the Parliament had put forward its agreed position. Over the last number of months the Irish Presidency team led by Simon Coveney TD, has been engaged in negotiations with the European Commission and the European Parliament in order to work out a compromise deal.
Minister O’Neill said: “The objective of this Fisheries Council was to get political agreement from Member States to a final compromise package to enable Simon to bring those negotiations with the European Parliament to a conclusion. I am pleased to say that this was achieved after long and complex negotiations which concluded at 6.20am on Wednesday morning the Council gave him a mandate to do so.
“I together with fellow Fisheries Ministers in GB have pushed hard for meaningful regionalisation of fisheries management. I am pleased that his has been included in the proposed package because this will lead to co-operative working with the authorities in the south of Ireland and others to work on plans for the better management of fisheries in the Irish Sea.
“In the past fisheries managers and the industry have had to contend with detailed rules and technical measures that have been foisted on us from Brussels which often didn’t achieve the intended outcomes. Regionalisation of fisheries management under a reformed CFP presents us with a real opportunity to bring forward bespoke approaches that capitalise on local knowledge and involve the industry in the areas such as the design of fishing gears. We already have a positive experience of doing that over the last year in finding solutions that avoid catching cod.”
A key reform is a new obligation to land all catches to address the wasteful practice of discarding fish. Fish are thrown back for many reasons but generally the catch is unwanted because fishermen cannot land it legally or because there is little or no market prospects. New systems will be put in place to support the landing obligation which will be phased in from 1 January 2015 for different fish stocks and sea areas. The obligation will apply to the Irish Sea prawn fishery from 1 January 2016.
Minister O’Neill said: “Our best approach is to avoid catching anything that is not wanted. To help achieve this, my Department and its scientific advisors will work closely with fishermen to develop acceptable technical solutions. I will make financial resources available to do this and my Department, through the European Fisheries Fund will provide grants for replacement fishing gears that substantially reduce unwanted catches. I want to ensure that these solutions are available before the landing obligation takes effect.
“This has been a very significant week for fisheries and I hope that the CFP reform package, including the new Maritime and Fisheries Fund will be finalised soon.”