The levels of Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and ultimately the quotas for Ireland in 2013 will be determined at the December Council of Fisheries Ministers being held on December 18 and 19 in Brussels. The December Council will also decide on fishing effort, which determines days spent at sea, available for the Irish fleet in the Irish Sea and off the north-west coast for 2013.
The European Commission proposals for 2013 are based on formal advice received from ICES (the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas), and also on the views of the STECF (the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries). The process of preparing for the Council is well under way with the publication of the European Commission’s proposals for TACs and quotas of key stocks of interest to Ireland. Since the publication of the proposals I have conducted a number of bi-laterals with the EU Commission, a number of Member States and the Irish fishing industry. I have also formally commented on the Commission proposal in advance of negotiations.
I have had an assessment of the impacts of the Commission proposal on internal TACs through the preparation of a Sea Fisheries Sustainability Impact Assessment which is provided for in the Programme for Government. I presented the results of this Impact Assessment to the Dáil on 6 December. The Impact Assessment acknowledges that while many stocks in which the Irish fleet have an interest are not in a healthy biological state, there has been an improvement in 2012 on the state of the resource base in relation to pressure and state indicators. It agrees with the need to cut quotas for some of the stocks in 2013, though the level of these cuts is queried in some cases, while in others there is clear scientific data to suggest that the level of cut is unwarranted.
I have repeated many times my belief that decisions on setting TACS should be informed by the science available and I stick to that. I am opposed to blanket rules on so called “data poor” stocks requiring automatic reductions, even where the quantitive information available shows that the stock is being fished sustainably and where the biological indicators are positive. The non-agreement at the Coastal States talks on mackerel, blue whiting and atlanto scandian herring aligned to the inconclusive second round of bilateral negotiations between the EU and Norway, now means that some stocks where Ireland have an interest including mackerel , horse mackerel, blue whiting, ling & saithe will be subject to provisional quotas at the December Council. Coastal States negotiations on blue whiting and atlanto scandian herring will resume on December 14 in London. The discussions with Norway are scheduled to reconvene in Clonakilty on the 16th January; it is expected that final quotas will be determined early in the Irish Presidency.