Written Answers. - Irish Fishing Catch.

Hugh Byrne

Question:

676 Mr. H. Byrne asked the Minister for the Marine if his attention has been drawn to the small catch allowed to Irish fishermen of all the main species of fish; if his attention has further been drawn to the proposal to decommission Irish fishing trawlers with a consequent loss of tonnage to the Irish fleet; the way in which this will effect the economy; if he will ensure that there are no further losses to the allowable catch to Irish fishermen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16395/96]

Fish stock levels are assessed annually by EU and international fisheries scientists. On the basis of this advice the Commission draws up annual proposals for total allowable catches (TACs) for the various stocks for decision by the Council of Fisheries Ministers each December. TACs are divided into national quotas allocated to member states in proportion to their relative historic catches prior to the introduction of the quota systems. The case for an increase in those quota allocations to Ireland is longstanding and remains on the table within the framework of the Common Fisheries Policy. In the overall context, however, of serious declines in EU fish stocks, the challenge of setting sustainable overall total allowable catches to allow stocks to build back up or even to prevent collapse has to be addressed together with the need to achieve a balance between fishing effort and fish resources through improved conservation and control and tackling global overcapacity in the European fleet. The action required must be fully proportionate and fully effective. My overall objective is to maximise fishing possibilities for Ireland while ensuring that conservation objectives are met and taking full account of the socio economic consequences for areas especially dependent on fishing. I have stated on many occasions that the Commission's current proposals on fleet capacity cuts are not acceptable in so far as they apply to Ireland's specific situation. That remains my position and I am working to ensure that the longstanding EU acknowledgement of the special needs and position of the Irish fishing industry is fully reflected in fisheries policy instruments including fleet policy.