The reforms agreed under the new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), secured after many months of complex negotiations with the European Parliament, represent a significant achievement for the Irish EU Presidency team. These reforms once implemented will support the rebuilding of fish stocks in our waters as Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas are set to deliver maximum sustainable yield by 2015, where possible and by 2020 for all stocks and the wasteful practice of discarding fish is phased out. The reform will also, for the first time, facilitate real and meaningful regional decision making under the CFP and will give stakeholders a greater say in how their fisheries are managed. The changes once implemented will mean, real, meaningful reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and will determine European fisheries policy for the next decade and beyond.
Among the most significant aspects of the reforms for Irish fishermen are:
- A central role for the fishing industry through new more regionalised approaches to decision making. It will empower fishermen by giving them a key role in the decision making for their fisheries.
- This reform places long term sustainability at the core of fisheries policy with annual fishing quotas based, in future, on sound scientific advice. Rebuilding of fish stocks so that fishing levels are based on Maximum Sustainable Yield; leading to potentially higher quotas for fishermen over time.
- Practical and phased discards policy where in early years of implementation, TACs and quotas will be set to take account of current levels of discards - this should see quotas for Irish fishermen increase in the short term.
- Technical measures to avoid and minimise catches of juvenile fish.
- It also involves a strong commitment to protect juvenile fish and spawning grounds and to develop and strengthen biologically sensitive areas; it commits to continue and further strengthen conservation measures in the biologically sensitive area which includes the BSA off the South and West coast of Ireland (new Irish box).
- The Hague Preferences are maintained and given increased reference. These are critically important for Ireland and each December have given us an increased share of traditional whitefish stocks such as cod, haddock and whiting in the waters off our coast when stock levels are decreasing.
I strongly believe that these reforms once implemented and embedded will provide the basis for a significant period of growth in our Irish fishing industry.