Herring debate for inshore fishermen
Herring allocation proposals for Area 6A South “not enough” say Donegal inshore fishermen
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine McConalogue recently launched a consultation process on the review of the 2012 Herring Management Policy, in relation to the quantity of herring set aside for the Herring 6A South quota for inshore vessels that are not part of the ring- fenced group - with final submissions due in Friday of this week (March 10th).
The longstanding 2012 Herring Policy (6A South):
• 95% of the available quota is made available to vessels 10 metres or over in length overall, who form part of a ring-fenced group with qualifying track record as set down in June 2012;
• An open fishery for up to 5% of the area 6A South quota is made available to vessels under 20m overall, that are not part of the ring-fenced group. Draft ring net fishers are accommodated under this allocation.
Case for change
According to the Minister, the 5% allocation for the inshore fleet will provide an allocation of 86 tonnes in 2023. (This assumes no adjustment to initial quota.)
This 5% for the period 2006 to 2010 fluctuated from 752 to 426 tonnes and from 2011 to 2014 it fluctuated between 265 and 97t.
The 5% provision for 2023 is a low allocation and the fact that it is based on a percentage allocation means that this part of the fleet is strongly impacted when the quota set is low.
The commercial quota is set for 2023 for the first time since 2014 at a conservative level and, while ICES advice shows uncertainty, the biomass index has increased from 36,707t in 2016 to 189,856t in 2021 which should give a positive message about the current state of this stock.
The Minister states that the review is being carried out to support amending the 2012 Herring Management Policy to increase the allocation for the inshore fleet from the Herring 6A South stock while Ireland’s quotas for the stock is low.
Options on the table
Option 1: No change in Policy – management of quota to be applied per the Minister’s 2012
• All vessels that have access to this quota under the existing policy will continue to have access to the quota.
Option 2: Where Ireland’s initial 6A South herring quota is set less than 7,000t, the 2012 Policy will be modified, and a set quantity of herring will be made available for the inshore fleet at a level of 350t.
Where Ireland’s initial 6A South herring quota is greater than 7,000t, the quota to be allocated in accordance with the existing 2012 Herring Policy, with 5% set aside for the inshore fleet. This set allocation to be restricted to inshore vessels, (length to be determined) that are not members of the ring- fenced group.
Option 3: Where Ireland’s initial 6A South herring quota is set less than 5,000t, the 2012 Policy will be modified and a set quantity of herring will be made available for the inshore fleet at a level of 250 tonnes.
Where Ireland’s initial 6A South herring is greater than 5,000t, the quota to be allocated in accordance with the existing 2012 Herring Policy, with 5% set aside for the inshore fleet. This set allocation to be restricted to inshore vessels, (length to be determined) that are not members of the ring-fenced group.
Reaction and counter proposals
While it appears that the industry definitely welcomes a review and possible amendment of the current 6A South herring policy, the general feeling is that the proposals do not go far enough to address the problems facing the inshore fleet.
In this regard several opinions have been voiced, including that the minimum amount of the TAC reserved for the inshore sector for the future should be no less than 11% of the overall TAC, citing that there is precedent for this in the management arrangements of the Celtic Sea Herring Sentinel Fishery.
Inshore fishermen also believe that in any calendar year where the TAC drops below 7,000t, a minimum threshold of 770t should be reserved for the inshore sector and, that it is critical that the inshore sector should be defined as fishing vessels of 12m (and not 10m) in length or less with a valid sea fishing licence.
The issue of Monthly Catch Limits has also been raised as part of the submissions for this review with many strongly believing that monthly limits should not control this fishery.
This is not a new argument and with, not just herring but all demersal species too, no one can ever understand why any particular species should be limited to a small quantity in a set amount per month when fishermen could benefit to a much greater extent if they were allowed catch their target species during a period when this species is more abundant or, for certain whitefish species, be allowed target a species when marketplace demand and therefore prices are at a premium.
This has been yet another layer upon layer of regulation which, at the end of the day, has been mainly a disadvantage rather than a benefit to fishermen.
As long as each vessel stays within its annual quota (TAC) for the species then why not have the system allowing for maximum benefit to the fishermen, processors and retailers rather than force a ‘drip-fed’ flow of catch which is only taking advantage of the market demands for one fifth of any calendar year?