Donegal's Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue has welcomed the agreement reached at the EU Council of Fisheries Ministers in Brussels overnight to set quotas for fish stocks for the first three months of 2021.
The Minister said, “Our fisheries sector has faced unprecedented challenges during 2020. We have the uncertainty relating to the potential severe impacts of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU that has been hanging over our heads since 2016. In addition, of course this year, the sector has had to cope with the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic on our seafood markets.”
The Minister added, “There is still no agreement to date with the UK on a future relationship, including fisheries, and therefore no agreement on the how we collectively manage our shared stocks. In the absence of such an agreement, we need interim arrangements to ensure continuity of fishing by our fleets in the early part of the New Year. The issue was to get those arrangements in place to allow us to open our fisheries on 1 January. In addition, for a small number of key fisheries, I secured arrangements taking into account that a high proportion of the fishery occurs in the first quarter of the year. “
Fisheries Ministers agreed to set interim Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas for the first quarter of 2021 based on a “rollover” of 25% of the 2020 TAC levels for the majority of stocks. A higher rollover has been applied to certain migratory stocks that are fished mainly during the first few months of the year and are of particular importance to Ireland.
Minister McConalogue said, “I supported this common-sense approach which will ensure continuity for our fishing industry without prejudicing the outcome of the ongoing negotiations on the future relationship with the UK. It was vital to me that the percentage rollover for those stocks that we traditionally fish in the early part of the year were sufficient. I am very pleased that this was achieved for the early season or migratory stocks of mackerel, blue whiting and horse mackerel.”
The Minister went on to say that, “Commissioner Sinkevičius understood that the quota made available in the important prawn fishery in the Porcupine Bank would not be adequate to support the planned fishery. The Commissioner committed to work with me during January to deliver an amendment that will allow this fishery to continue under its normal pattern. This was a very important issue for me and will ensure that our fishermen can plan in the normal way for the early part of the year.”
The Minister thanked the Commissioner for his constructive approach to the negotiations “Commissioner Sinkevičius and the German Presidency listened to the concerns which I set out in relation to the issues facing Irish fishermen during these difficult times. The agreement reached at Council today will ensure that our fish stocks are managed sustainably and that our fleets can continue to fish in the New Year.”
A further Council will be held to finalise the TACs for the remainder of 2021. This will take place early in the New Year, following consultations with the UK and Norway on shared stocks.
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