Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Questions (180, 181, 182, 184)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

180. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which all countries throughout the European Union observe conservation measures to safeguard fishing stocks; the locations still most vulnerable in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14441/14]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

181. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if, in the context of any discussions with his EU colleagues, particular reference continues to be made to the effectiveness of conservation measures throughout the European Union, with particular reference to different fish species or those deemed to be most vulnerable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14442/14]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

182. 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. [14443/14]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

184. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he, in conjunction with his colleagues in the EU, continues to be aware of the difficulties facing families dependent on the fishing industry here and throughout the European Union; the measures being pursued to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14445/14]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 180 to 182, inclusive, and 184 together.

From the outset of the Common Fisheries Policy revision process, Ireland's overarching goal was to ensure a sustainable, profitable and self reliant industry that protects and enhances the social and economic fabric of rural coastal communities dependent on the seafood sector, while balancing these objectives with the need to safeguard fish stocks for future generations. I strongly believe that the new CFP will achieve that goal.

The new CFP, negotiated to completion under the Irish Presidency, will mean real meaningful reform to how EU waters are fished in the future. The agreement is designed to ensure the long term sustainability of fishing in Ireland and throughout EU waters, utilising best scientific advice as a key determinant in setting annual fishing quotas in the future.

The new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) will provide the framework for the long term sustainability of fish stocks around our shores, the continued economic viability of our fishing fleet and fish processing while supporting the communities that depend on a vibrant fishing industry. The package agreed will support the rebuilding of fish stocks in European waters and will allow for setting TACs and quotas to reflect catches when a landing obligation is introduced on the basis that for the first and subsequent years, discarding of that stock will no longer be allowed. In the longer term as fish stocks reach and are maintained at healthy levels, it will support increased fishing opportunities for our fishermen.

New opportunities for the direct involvement of the fishing industry are also a central part of the new CFP Reform which, for the first time, introduces a regionalised approach to fisheries management. We have moved away from the old system of an EU decision making approach centralised in Brussels. The new policy puts fishermen at the core of developing conservation measures for fisheries in which they are involved and also makes specific references to taking account of the needs of our fishermen.

A key element of the new CFP is the setting of fishing levels on the basis of the MSY Principle (Maximum Sustainable Yield). This should lead to healthy fish stocks, higher quotas for Irish fishermen and more sustainable fishing patterns.

The reform also contains a commitment to continue and further strengthen conservation measures in the biologically sensitive areas, including that off the South and West coast of Ireland (new Irish box). This commitment will also protect the livelihoods of coastal communities by ensuring that fish are allowed to grow to maturity, are more plentiful and fished in an environmentally responsible manner. A new framework of Technical measures will also be introduced to avoid and minimise catches of juvenile fish.

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 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 EUs Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). In June 2013, the European Commission reported that fish stocks in European waters are improving (EC COM(2013) 319 final). The proportion of overfished stocks in the Atlantic declined from around 90% of all stocks between 2005-2009 to 39% in 2013. Some stocks in the west of Scotland, Irish Sea and Celtic sea have suffered from being over fished in the past and remain vulnerable (i.e. Cod in Divisions VIa and VIIa, Sole in Division VIIa, Whiting in Divisions VIa and VIIa).

This morning I also launched the Atlas of Commercial Fisheries around Ireland published by the Marine Institute. This shows the distribution of fishing activities in Irish waters by gear and country. Fishing grounds as well as the distribution of landings for all the main commercial species are also shown at high resolution. The Atlas presents complex data in a very visual way using informative maps, making it accessible to a whole range of stakeholders. It brings a new level of transparency in terms of fishing activities and offers new possibilities in terms of spatial management of mixed fisheries. Both the Stock Book and the Atlas are available to download 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.

A new funding support mechanism, the European Fisheries and Maritime Fund is being finalised at EU level which will support the fishing industry adapt to the new CFP and support development of the seafood industry. A programme for the development of the seafood industry in Ireland is being prepared and will be developed in full consultation with stakeholders.