Fisheries Council set provisional quotas for period up to 31st July
As decided at the EU Council of Fisheries Ministers last December, Minsters have agreed to set an interim Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas for the first quarter of 2021, pending the outcome of the negotiations on a future relationship with the UK.
The European Commission, on behalf of the EU, has been engaged in consultations with the UK on setting fishing opportunities for shared stocks for 2021 since early February. While it is reported that progress is being made in these consultations, an agreement with the UK has not to date been reached, it was decided that setting provisional quotas for EU fishermen for seven months will provide some continuity for the fishing industry.
For Ireland‘s demersal sector there is some good news as these provisional scientifically-advised quotas agreed by the Council allow for increases Monkfish in Area 7 (+8%) and Nephrops in the Porcupine Bank (+25%), compared to 2020.
However, the news is less encouraging for the Irish pelagic sector with Ireland’s blue whiting quota reduced by 8%, leaving a quota of 35,373 tonnes.
The irony of a 35,373-tonne Irish blue whiting quota will not be lost on Irish pelagic fishermen who have seen Norwegian vessels take 48,000 tonnes of blue whiting in the last six days since gaining access to Irish (EU) waters.
Whilst declaring that the full twelve-month mackerel and blue whiting quota has been agreed by Council, the Minister failed to mention the exact mackerel TAC but said he was pleased with the outcome of the consultations with Norway in respect of blue whiting.
“ICES advice for a 20% cut in this stock is being followed and on this, the EU negotiated successfully to reduce the customary transfer of this stock to Norway and as a result the level of transfer of EU blue whiting to Norway for 2021 represents a recognition at EU level of the need to use every opportunity to improve the situation for our pelagic fleet,” he said.
The Minister added that he was hopeful that the negotiations with the UK will be finalised shortly, but even the best estimates would not have the full year quotas in place by the end of March.
The Minister welcomed the progress that had been made to date in the EU-UK consultations:
“It is encouraging that the UK are engaging in these consultations in a pragmatic and co-operative way. An agreement with the UK would provide much needed certainty to our fishing industry but it must be fair and balanced to provide a level playing field in order to protect the long-term sustainability of shared stocks and Ireland’s fishing industry.”