23rd October

Status quo for existing mackerel sharing arrangements

The Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation has welcomed the outcome of a ministerial review into mackerel quota sharing arrangements. ‘The Minister has decided to reject the formal request by the Irish South and West Fish Producer’s Organisation (ISWFPO) to have 100% of the additional 2017 mackerel quota allocated to it.

Killybegs1

Killybegs, Co Donegal, Ireland's pelagic stronghold

‘This means that the 10,859 additional tonnes will now be allocated in accordance with existing sharing arrangements of 87% to the Refrigerated Sea Water (RSW) fleet and 13% to the polyvalent segment,’ a statement reads.

The review followed a proposal by the ISWFPO for revised mackerel distribution between the RSW pelagic segment and the polyvalent segment of  Ireland's fishing fleet.

In a letter from the IS&WFPO to Minister Creed (10/2016), chief executive Patrick Murphy said its members believed that certain means existed within the remit of the department ‘to alleviate the current imbalance in the whitefish segment’.

The letter referred to EU Regulation No 1380/2013 which ‘requires Member states to put in place measures to adjust the fishing capacity of their fleet to their fishing opportunities over time, taking into account trends and based on best scientific advice with the object of achieving sustainable and enduring balance between them.’

An example would be the allocation of any increase in a species Total Allowable Catch (TAC) in the oncoming year. This could be implemented ‘on a pilot basis provided the correct set of circumstances present themselves.’

The ISWFPO proposed that the department would carry out a feasibility study ‘to see how vessels in the polyvalent sector with dual entitlements might be offered an incentive to forgo their whitefish entitlements for a year and in so doing receive an allocation of the increase in mackerel quota…’

Public consultation

Over 350 responses were filed with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, during a public consultation in January/February.

The Minister ‘carefully considered’ the submissions and issues raised ‘and having undertaken a detailed evaluation’, has published an amended policy on mackerel management, according to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Seán O'Donoghue, chief executive of the Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation, said he was 'pleased that the Minister made his decision solely on the facts, stakeholders’ submissions and analysis.

'He was not swayed by unfounded and distorted facts. All we had sought was that the existing percentage sharing arrangements be maintained which have shown to properly deal with year on year fluctuations in the national mackerel quota in a fair, transparent and balanced way,' a statement reads. 

'We have not gained additional fish, we have retained the existing percentage sharing arrangement which was in place due to the work we have put into building a pelagic industry in the North West. It is the correct decision and we welcome it even if has taken far longer than we anticipated. We had always maintained that this review was unnecessary.'

Clarification sought

A statement from Patrick Murphy however has called on Minister Creed and the department to clarify how they propose to address the current imbalance in the whitefish fleet:

Castletownbere2 (1)

Castletownbere, Co Cork, home port for the majority of Ireland's polyvalent fleet

'With the recent Advice for 2018 from our marine scientists is more severe cuts in the tiny Irish 2017 whitefish [quota] in our own waters, numbering a majority 17 of the 27 stocks, our polyvalent fleet are struggling to survive on. 

‘It’s this simple. The Minister has said in his opinion only 23 boats, the vast majority owned by companies with interests in processing factories are entitled to be gifted by 40% of Ireland’s earnings from fishing and on the other hand, 1400 + boats are to earn their living from 60% from Ireland’s earnings from fishing.

'We certainly do not agree with the decision and will seek advice on the matter.'

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