Written Answers. - Fisheries Protection.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

64 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the latest position with regard to access to the Irish Box; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10827/03]

The position with regard to access to the Irish Box remains the same as I have previously advised the House. This is in accordance with the consistent position of the Irish Government that the relevant Regulations 685/95 and 2027/95 governing the Irish Box continue in place and have full legal effect. Accordingly, the Irish authorities are continuing to monitor activity within the Irish Box closely. To date the level of activity by Spanish vessels in the Irish Box has remained below the 40 vessels at any one time threshold in the regulations.

The Deputy will be aware that the Commission has tabled a proposal providing for a new effort management regime in western waters. This proposal, presented in December to replace the current EU regulations, is unacceptable to Ireland and I completely reject it. I have made strong representations to Minister Drys, the Greek Fisheries Minister who currently holds the Presidency of the Fisheries Council to have Ireland's priorities reflected in a compromise text. I have also impressed on Commissioner Fischler, at a meeting with him in Strasbourg on the 12 March, that the current Commission proposal does not provide a basis on which to proceed. A different approach is clearly necessary in order to address the over-riding conservation objective in this sensitive biological area.

While Commissioner Fischler appeared to appreciate the case made, I am very concerned that recent soundings of the Commission's thinking are not satisfactorily addressing my priorities. Following further contacts last week with Commissioner Fischler, I have agreed a further meeting with him in the light of the lack of progress on this critical issue.