EU ministers strike deal on 2013 fish quotas

Thursday 20 December 2012 23.21
The European Commission had pushed for reductions in quotas on 30 fish stocks associated with the Irish fleet
The European Commission had pushed for reductions in quotas on 30 fish stocks associated with the Irish fleet

European Union fisheries ministers have concluded a deal on fish quotas for 2013 after two days of talks which continued until 6am.

Under the plan, Ireland's quota for prawns will increase by 6%, however there will be reductions in the amount of cod and sole taken from the Irish Sea.

Agriculture, Food and Marine Minister Simon Coveney described himself as “very pleased” with the outcome given a strong push by the European Commission to reduce the quota on 30 fish stocks associated with the Irish fleet.

Mr Coveney had warned before the talks commenced that the negotiations would be very tough and Ireland faced significant losses in quotas, which could result in hundreds of job losses.

This morning he said some of the demands by the European Commission for cuts in quotas had been reversed due to strong arguments put forward by Ireland based on science.

The minister said the prawn industry is worth €40 million a year to the economy and is Ireland's most important white fish.

"We were facing a cut to the prawn quota of 12%. We are now getting an increase in that quota of 6%. And that's because of the fantastic work of the Marine Institute, in terms of actually taking underwater camera footage of the state of the stock for the last two years.

"We managed to make a very persuasive scientific argument to the Commission to actually reverse that decision," Mr Coveney said.

However, he accepted that there would be cuts to cod and sole quotas in the Irish Sea, as well as a 15% cut to haddock, significantly lower than the proposed cut of 50%.

There is a proposed increase in the mackerel and blue whiting quota, but this will have to be finalised in January.

Mr Coveney said the deal will support Ireland’s fishing industry over the coming year.

He said it is sustainable in terms of the fish stocks on which it is dependant.

The Irish Fish Producers' Organisation described the outcome of the negotiations as "a mixed bag of news".

Spokesman Sean O'Donoghue of the Irish Fish Producers' Organisation said in overall terms, the quota deal is neutral when it comes to jobs in the sector, and in financial terms could leave the industry in Ireland slightly ahead.

He added: "It certainly could have been worse. It was a very bad situation going into the council. Coming out of it, it is a much better situation.

"We're obviously not entirely happy with everything but there were some very important gains made by the minister in this council that will make for viable, particularly white, fishing for us next year."

But he said the Irish fishing fleet will be disappointed with the 15% cut to the haddock quota.

Mr O'Donoghue said the reduction simply did not make sense.

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