18th October

Aquaculture to play a major part in providing seafood security under the next fisheries policy

Dr Peter Heffernan, MI; Commissioner Maria Damanaki; Minister Simon Coveney; Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn and Jim Fennell, MI.

Dr Peter Heffernan, MI; Commissioner Maria Damanaki; Minister Simon Coveney; Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn and Jim Fennell, MI.

Outlining Common Fisheries Policy reform proposals to Irish stakeholders in Dublin recently, EU Maritime Commissioner Maria Damanaki said the new policy must preserve stocks in a responsible, science-based way. 

She spoke bluntly about the status of fish stocks throughout European waters: “If nothing changes, only eight out of 136 stocks will be at sustainable levels by 2022.”

Not only would small-scale fisheries be affected but jobs would be lost across processing, transport, port infrastructure, packaging and retail.

She noted however the crucial role that aquaculture could play in reducing the amount of seafood imported into Europe:

“Ireland’s fish-farming industry, worth €100m, deserves proper funding to help produce the excellent salmon, trout and shellfish that it farms and consumers expect,” she said.

“I will be establishing an “open method” to allow national authorities to exchange best practices “to ensure business security.”

Looking ahead
Commissioner Damanaki said her vision of the future centred on the principles of sustainability, efficiency and coherence:

“We need to bring all stocks to sustainable levels by 2015. We have to manage each stock in a way that we can get maximum financial gain while still keeping the stocks sustainable.”

She added that fish discarding must also be eliminated. “It is morally and environmentally unacceptable…Consumers are becoming more and more concerned with sustainability issues – and quite rightly, in my opinion.”

She warned however this would have to be done on a phased basis, by combining better gear selectivity and with industry support to implement the changes.

Regarding economic sustainability, the Commissioner said the decision-making process had to be changed to improve efficiency:

“I want to decentralise from micro-management in Brussels. I think we made a huge mistake in the past by not involving the industry sufficiently; we have not taken full advantage of their immense expertise and know-how.

“If [Brussels] sets a long-term plan for prawns in the Irish Sea, Member States …should be able to implement measures themselves: Ireland could decide to use specific gear; the UK could limit the days-at-sea or close the fishery for two months. What counts…is not how you achieve the objective, but only that you do achieve it.”

Regarding transferable quotas, Commissioner Damanaki realised this was a “sort point” for Ireland but said that fleets would adjust to the available resources much better than with subsidies:

“Fishing concessions also give operators flexibility to reduce discarding and adapt to quotas. I believe I have a system of safeguards that will work for Ireland – for both small and large-scale fisheries.

“First, transfers are limited to the national level. Second, only fishermen can acquire fishing concessions. Third, Ireland can exempt small-scale fleets from the system. Fourth, your government can set additional safeguards to avoid excessive concentration and ensure a real economic link between the Irish quotas and the coastal communities that depend on them.”

Commissioner Damanaki added that fishermen must be given more than monthly quotas, to provide longer security, and gave Denmark as an example:

“Five years after introducing transferable concessions, the Danish pelagic fleet slimmed down by 50% and increased its income by 10%. During the same period in Sweden, without transferable concessions the pelagic fishermen were earning 25% less.

“This is a difference of 35% – who would not want 35% more money in their pockets? Transferable fishing concessions will also offer financial security to those who want to leave the sector. This is what I call social sustainability,” she explained.

Simon Coveney, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, however warned there was a “real risk” to this proposal:

“We fear that large European conglomerates, registering in Ireland, would buy up our quotas and increasingly land them abroad. This would cost us thousands of jobs… and would starve our growing seafood processing industry of raw material.  At this point, we can see no safeguards that could be built into the proposals which would prevent this happening.”

Regarding coherence, Commissioner Damanaki said that all facets (market organisation, external dimensions, aquaculture subsidies etc) must be in line with the first two principles of sustainability and efficiency.

She said that proper labelling is an “essential aspect” of this reform whereby consumers can make informed purchasing choices, and noted the ‘Responsible Irish Fish’ label.

“Coherence also means that our actions at international level must match our domestic goals and commitments. Our fleet working in the high seas under fishing agreements must be a model of sustainability, legality and good governance. And finally coherence means financing the transition to a more sustainable way of fishing.”

In a closing remark, Commissioner Damanaki looked to James Joyce and quoted:  ‘I am tomorrow what I establish today.’

“This is true,” she said. “If we want a better tomorrow for Ireland's fishing industry and coastal populations, then we need to embrace the change now. There is a lot in it for Ireland and for the Irish fishing industry in this reform and rather than scaremongering fishermen about their future, we need to be truthful and present them the facts.”

Also on the agenda was a roundtable on Maritime Policy in Ireland with particular focus on innovative industries and research in renewable energy, deep-sea mining and algal bio fuels. Irish stakeholders also tabled their views on the upcoming Atlantic Strategy under the Integrated Maritime Policy.

Brendan Price of the Irish Seal Sanctuary called on the Commissioner to close the Irish Sea to trawling on the grounds it faced collapse in the absence of full regulation.

“The Commissioner claims to put the environment and people at the heart of the CFP reform. To do so she must appreciate and assess the scale of the problem. No fishery has eluded assessment and defied comprehension as much as Irish Sea,” he claims.

He suggested this could be addressed by implementing special measures that could be a template for a sustainable multi-species fishery and facilitate stock recovery.

“The Commissioner has warned of an automatic reduction of 25% in the Irish Sea TAC in the absence of scientific evidence and progress to MSY (Maximum Sustainable Yield) by 2015. This would inevitably mean a closure of the Irish Sea to all but a prawn fishery in a very few years, if not addressed immediately.”

He suggested that a “fully regulated observer fleet” was required to gather the necessary data on which to establish sustainable fisheries in the Irish Sea. “This is infinitely preferable to closure or collapse,” he warned.   

He has welcomed Commissioner Damanaki’s commitment to end discarding which he says is worst in the Irish Sea.


The Galway Declaration

  • To ensure that recognition is taken at Member State and European
  • Community Level of:
  • the crucial role of the oceans in climate, carbon cycle and Life on Earth
  • the major contribution maritime industries can make to the achievement of the objectives outlined in the Lisbon Agenda
  • the essential role of marine science and technology in generating the knowledge needed to fuel this economic achievement in harmony with the environment
  • the critical role the European Research Area / 7th Framework Programme must play in supporting world class excellence in marine science & technology  



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