The Irish fishing industry is still waiting for further developments on Minister’s Fisheries Taskforce
Over two weeks after the Minister for the Marine, Charlie McConalogue announced the setting-up of a fisheries taskforce, representatives in the Irish fishing industry have not received any further notification on the proposed group.
When the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine was questioned on the proposed start date for the fisheries taskforce they replied:
“Minister McConalogue announced to the Dáil on 21 January 2021 his intention to set up a Task Force involving seafood industry representatives and representatives of other stakeholders to provide recommendations to him on the appropriate measures that will best support the seafood sector and the local coastal communities with the impacts of the quota cuts. The Minister will be ensuring a broad representation of our seafood sector, as it is important that there is full buy-in to the process.”
Without the immediate establishment of a taskforce, much needed funding from the Brexit Adjustment Fund could be delayed. The Irish fishing industry is coming to terms with the broken promises of the Brexit negotiations which leaves the fishing fleet set to lose €43m worth of quota share by 2026 and many in the industry are anxious to have a decision on their futures.
Speaking last at the Blue Deals Debate, Director General of DG MARE, Charlina Vitcheva said that it was up to the individual Member States to decide what to do with funding being received from the Brexit Adjustment Fund, but if the Irish Government decided to use the financial support to offer vessel owners a permanent cessation of fisheries scheme, then the Commission would give their backing to the initiative, but equally they would support whatever the Irish Government decides.
On the issue of whether decommissioning is to be offered DAFM said:
“The recently agreed EU/UK Trade & Cooperation Agreement, avoided a “No Deal” scenario which would have been highly detrimental to the Irish Fishing industry. The Agreement also secured continued access to UK waters which is particularly important for Irish Mackerel fishermen, who catch the majority of their Mackerel catch in UK waters. However, the Agreement did involve transfers of fish quota shares to the UK. Those quota share transfers are phased in over the period to 2026 with 60% of the reduction occurring in 2021. In the case of Mackerel the Quota share transfers will result in a 26% reduction in Irelands Mackerel Quota share by 2026.
“In the context of the Commission Proposal for a Regulation establishing a Brexit Adjustment Reserve, Minister McConalogue is exploring a variety of possible measures to support the seafood sector to mitigate the impacts of the quota transfers to the UK agreed under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
“Minister McConalogue announced to the Dáil on 21 January his intention to set up a Task Force involving seafood industry representatives and representatives of other stakeholders to provide recommendations to him on the appropriate measures that will best support the sector and the local coastal communities with the impacts of the quota cuts. The Minister will be asking the Task Force to immediately focus on arrangements for possible voluntary Fleet Temporary Tie-up Scheme, so that it can be ready to go live as soon as it is needed. He also expects that the Task Force will provide prioritised recommendations on a range of other appropriate measures that will allow our seafood sector and coastal communities to adjust to the impacts of the quota reductions.
Ms Vitcheva has claimed that the loss of quota in the UK will be offset by the increase in biomass in the remainder of EU waters but refused to grant struggling Irish vessels an increase in quotas in their own waters.
On the question regarding the Director-General’s comments, the Department said:
“It is understood that the Director General expressed a view that if fish stocks are fished in accordance with the provisions of the Common Fisheries Policy, the biomass of stocks will grow and lead to increases in the TACs and quotas available to Member States and as appropriate Third Countries. The Minister fully supports the management of fisheries in accordance with the provisions of the CFP including fishing at fMSY levels and having regard for relevant flexibilities where provided for, and in particular the North West Waters Multi Annual Plan. Significant progress has been made over recent years and an assessment of the state of stocks of interest to Ireland in relation to fMSY is set down in the Marine Institutes Stock Book (November 2020) – page 17.”