Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Questions (191, 192)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

191. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he continues to monitor fish stocks with particular reference to the degree to which particular stock in Irish waters have suffered a downturn in recent year by reference to comparisons over the past twenty years; if measures taken to date which have impacted severely on the Irish fishing industry are being fully honoured by all fishing interests throughout the European Union and outside; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21799/13]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

192. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the degree to which conservation measures already adopted in the context of the Common Fisheries Policy or otherwise continue to improve fish stocks in traditional Irish fishing waters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21800/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 191 and 192 together.

Details on fish stocks in Irish waters are monitored by the Marine Institute (MI) and published annually in their 'MI Stock Book' which is prepared by the Institute's Fisheries Ecosystems Advisory Services (FEAS) and presented to my Department in October each year. The publication also contains important up to date scientific advice on the state of fisheries resources which informs fishing opportunities for the following year. The Stock Book contains impartial scientific advice developed by the Marine Institute working with other international scientists and is developed using the latest available research, assessments and advice on the fisheries resource. The Stock Book is available to download electronically on the Marine Institute's web site at www.marine.ie. The information provided helps to form the policy and positions adopted when negotiating annual fishing opportunities each December.

Ireland manages and enforces its Fishing quotas in accordance with the specifications of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Our existing quota management system involves regular consultation with fishing industry interests and is designed to ensure the rational management of the available quotas, having regard to fishing patterns and market conditions, the best possible spread both between fishermen and also in terms of take up of quota during the year.

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority is the national body for the control and enforcement of sea fisheries law and works with the Irish Naval Service to control and enforce compliance with quota management arrangements and accurate reporting of landings. In common with procedures which operate here in Ireland individual EU Member States have similar responsibilities for the management of fisheries quotas. Inevitably the precise nature of these enforcement procedures may vary from one Member State to another. Any issues which may emerge in terms of management by individual member states are a matter for the EU Commission in terms of its responsibility to ensure the rules of the CFP are fully respected.

The seas around Ireland (ICES Sub Areas VII and VI) are among the most productive and biologically sensitive areas in EU waters. Most of the fisheries resource within the area comes under the remit of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). In June 2012, the European Commission reported that fish stocks in European waters are improving (EC COM(2012) 278 final). The proportion of overfished stocks in the Atlantic declined from around 90% of all stocks between 2005-2009 to 47% in 2012. Several stocks in the west of Scotland, Irish Sea and Celtic sea have suffered from being over fished in the past and remain at relatively low levels (i.e. Cod in Divisions VIa and VIIa, Sole in Division VIIa, Whiting in Divisions VIa and VIIa).

Optimum levels of biological and economic productivity are in part management decisions, but though considerable progress has been made in recent years in terms of addressing sustainability issues it is clear that for many stocks there is still room for further improvement.

Proposals for a significant reform of the existing CFP are currently under consideration and have been prioritised for action under the Irish EU Presidency. In particular, a range of innovative proposals for the conservation of fish stocks are under consideration such as the eliminating the practice of discards, achieving appropriate maximum long term sustainable yields (MSYs) and the introduction of effective fair transparent regionalisation mechanisms. It is my belief that the introduction and implementation of these necessary and timely reforms (which must be adopted under co-decision jointly by the EU Fisheries Council and the EU Parliament) will support the ongoing development of a sustainable and thriving Irish and European fishing industry for the future.

If as I hope, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament reach final agreement on these measures in the coming weeks, the reform process should help support the ongoing development of a sustainable and thriving Irish and European fishing industry into the future.