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Opposition Mounts On EU December Fisheries Proposals
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SDLP South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has said the European Commission’s fishing quota proposals are flawed and illogical.

In the run up to the EC Fisheries Summit in Brussels in December, a battle royale is looming as the local Co Down fishing fleet demand viable quotas for prawns and fish for 2012.

Speaking following the publication of these proposals, Ms Ritchie said, “These proposals are unworkable and unrealistic, much like the proposals we see coming before the industry from the European Commission at this time each year.

“The suggested attack on the Nephrops (prawns) catch is illogical, as are the drastic cuts on haddock, plaice and herring. Furthermore these recommendations do not tackle the failed Cod Recovery Plan nor do they take account of the healthier stock levels in our species.

“These proposals will now be the starting point for the upcoming negotiations and we must have realistic quotas coming out of Brussels before Christmas. Without sensible quotas our local fishing industry will struggle to remain sustainable and our fish processing industry will also find difficult times ahead.

South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has backed Co Down fishermen in a bid to get improved fishing quotas.

“I will be meeting with the UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon MP in the coming weeks to discuss in detail the specific needs of the Northern Ireland fishing fleet and industry.”

Fishing Chief Hits Out at EU

Opposition is growing all over the UK and Ireland at the EU Commissions fishery proposals. In a hard hitting statement from Allan McCulla, Chief Executive of the Anglo-North Fish Producers’Association based in Kilkeel representing fishing vessels across the three Co Down Ports, said he was “dismayed but not surprised.”

Mr McCulla added, “We have come to expect a total lack of logic from the European Commission at this time of year when they announce their proposals for catch opportunities in the new year, and the EC’s proposals for fishing quotas in 2012 continue this tradition.”

Mr. McCulla’s comments followed the publication by the EC of their proposals for fishing opportunities in 2012.  For the Irish Sea, they include severe reductions in practically all fisheries, despite fisheries science for the majority of stocks being quite positive.

“The EC have once again proposed a zero catch of cod in the Irish Sea, against a background of increased abundance of the fish during 2011.  The EC continually preach that their proposals are based upon the ‘best available science’, but only a few weeks ago the EC’s own fisheries scientists concluded the EC’s own so-called long-term Cod Recovery Plan had not delivered on it’s objectives and did not have stakeholders’ support.    They went onto say that a plan which stakeholders support was more likely to succeed because the stakeholders’ actions are needed to contribute to it’s success.

“Yet the Commission’s response to their own science is to inflict another dose of their failed medicine, which in turn will increase discards of cod in the Irish Sea, along with a range of other species.

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales onboard the 'Boys Pride' chats with Alan McCulla OBE Chief Executive of the Anglo-North Irish Fish Producers Association in Kilkeel port during a visit with The Duchess of Cornwall. (Photo by Aaron McCracken/Harrisons)

“Even with Northern Ireland’s most important fishery, that for prawns, which the science says is at worst stable and at best increasing in the Irish Sea and around it’s wider management area, the EC have proposed a 17% cut in the Total Allowable Catch for 2012.

“With Irish Sea herring, where a 10% increase in the quota was secured for 2011, against a recommended increase of 30% over the past 2 years, the EC have now proposed a 25% cut for 2012, despite fisheries scientists describing herring as a stock that ‘has gone through the roof’ in the Irish Sea.

“This is the opening round in the annual quota negotiations and there is a long way to do before the final decisions are made.  We have learned not to get too excited about the EC’s proposals, because as well as being illogical, the reality the EC seem to work to is that if they ask for plenty of cuts, they’ll settle for something less, which in turn will be presented as a victory for all concerned.”

“We now look to Northern Ireland’s Fisheries Minister and her officials to present a rigorous case for Northern Ireland’s fishing industry and the fish stocks on which we depend that reflects reality and not the bleak fantasy land the EC seem continually live in.” said Mr McCulla.

MEP Dianne Dodds was also downbeat about the EU proposals saying if adopted they would herald “the end of some sections of the fishing fleet.” She has pledged to battle the corner of the beleaguered Northern Ireland  fishermen in Brussels. And DARD Fisheries Minister Michele O’Neill will also be talking with the Co Down fishing industry and her UK counterparts to try and ease a difficult situation facing the industry for 2012.

The debate over quotas is becoming intense as the Fisheries Summit draws closer, and fishermen will be watching to see if they have a future left in their industry. They already facing many other pressures such as rising fuel prices, the increase in technical measures by the EU, labour / crewing issues, environmental change and global warming, and the general state of the world economy making trading conditions more difficult.