Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Questions (581)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

581. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his policy in relation to the landing of fish caught at sea by non-Irish vessels at Irish ports; the steps being taken to encourage more vessels to land catches at Irish ports; the regulations currently in place including SFPA inspections; the changes that have been made to these regulations recently that have resulted in a reduction in the number of non-Irish vessels landing fish here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9856/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Some 1.2 million tonnes of fish are caught in the waters around Ireland on an annual basis but at present, only approximately 200,000 tonnes of this is landed into Ireland. An Bord Iascaigh Mhara is working to address this issue, particularly as oil prices increase and the cost of sending trawlers full of fish to Spain, France, Scotland and Norway becomes less economical. With the increase in the Blue whiting quota for 2013, it is anticipated that there will be increased levels of this stock landed into Ireland by foreign vessels. I understand that negotiations are ongoing between representatives of the French fishing industry and Irish processing interests, with a view to increasing French landings into Ireland. A pilot initiative was developed between BIM, Irish processors and French industry during late 2012. All concerned are seeking to build on the success of this initiative in 2013.

In relation to official controls carried out by the SFPA these are done in order to discharge Ireland's obligations under the Framework for the control of the Common Fisheries Policy in EU Waters as set out in Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009, establishing a Community control system to ensure compliance with the rules of the CFP and Council Regulation (EC) No 1005/2008 establishing a Community system to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Detailed rules for the implementation of the control regulation are set out in Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 404/2011, and I have implemented these in national law through Statutory Instrument 320 of 2012 as amended. This is the regulatory EU framework against which the SFPA carries out its inspection regime.

These regulations contain an explicit default obligation requiring that all fish be weighed by operators at the point of landing. In order to ensure a reasonable balance between the burden of compliance and the practicalities of fish landing, SFPA has pursued and achieved approval for landings to Ireland to avail of various derogations. These allow, in particular for a sample weighing at landing, or a weighing after transport to an Irish premises. In the case of landings to a Member State for transport to another Member State before weighing, the EU Regulation is prescriptive in only allowing that to occur under the terms of a Common Control Programme agreed between the landing MS and the weighing MS. I am pleased to inform you that due to active engagement by the SFPA with their French counterparts as part of overall pursuit of a level playing field for fisheries control, the EU Commission has approved the Common Control programme between Ireland and France, and anyone landing to Ireland may transport their fish directly to France for weighing, provided they work within the terms of this approved CCP. The SFPA have engaged in a specific compliance programme including active dialogue with industry stakeholders, with view to discharging Ireland’s obligations in this regard.

At the request of the industry, I have recently added Castletownbere to the list of Irish ports at which third country landings can be processed and this is aimed to facilitate an increase in landings of Blue Whiting into Ireland by the Norwegian fleet. This is contained in S.I 367 of 2012 Sea-Fisheries (Illegal, Unreported And Unregulated Fishing) (Amendment) Regulations 2012.