The negotiations the Deputy refers to are those concerning the management of mackerel in the north-east Atlantic, which is Ireland’s single most important fishery. The negotiations concluded in Bergen last week after five separate rounds and the parties to the final agreement were the European Union, Norway, and the Faroe Islands.
Ireland is the second largest EU quota holder and my officials participated in every stage of the talks. The countries involved in the negotiations have agreed to a 20% reduction in their mackerel quotas for 2019. The reductions reflect the available scientific advice that the abundance of this stock has declined. This level of reduction is seen by all parties as essential to ensure that the stock is fished sustainably. Irish fishermen will now have a quota worth over €55 million directly to our catching sector for 2019.
Agreement was also reached on a two-year extension of the sharing arrangement between the main parties - the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands. This provides a welcome degree of stability for this hugely important fishery. Mackerel is Ireland’s single most valuable fishery and, in my view, this agreement provides stability combined with a precautionary approach to help ensure the long-term sustainability of the stock. The scientific advice is currently being reviewed and assessed by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas, ICES. The coastal states will meet again to consider the outcome of that review when it becomes available. This is expected to happen early in 2019. While the quota for Ireland is less than that of recent years, those quotas were unusually high by historical standards. The quota of 55,000 tonnes for 2019 is in line with our historical average quota. Ireland will continue to be cautious with this critically important stock.