Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Questions (12)

Fergus O'Dowd


12. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the main objectives of the inshore fishing sector strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5717/19]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Agriculture)

I ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the main objectives of his inshore fishing sector strategy, in particular, job creation, in attracting new entrants and the conservation of species.

I was delighted to receive a presentation on the strategy for the inshore fisheries sector, 2019 to 2023, from the chairperson of the National Inshore Fisheries Forum at our meeting last week. I welcome the first industry-led strategy as it marks a major milestone in the work of the Inshore Fisheries Forum. Since its inception in 2014, the forum has developed initiatives which seek to protect the future of a sector which is extremely important for coastal communities. I understand the strategy was developed through an extensive and inclusive process which included both industry-focused and wider public consultation. The strategy identifies a vision for the inshore sector, that it "will have a prosperous and sustainable future delivered through a united industry with a strong influential voice". The strategy also sets out 14 objectives for the sector which are grouped under four themes. The objectives cover many issues, ranging from improving the management of fish stocks to strengthening the sector's representative structures, to improving the attractiveness of the sector as a career path to attract new entrants and retain current talent. Bord Iascaigh Mhara, BIM, will lead implementation of the strategy in partnership with the National Inshore Fisheries Forum, particularly to target financial support available under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund to where it can be used most effectively.

I look forward to launching the strategy with the National Inshore Fisheries Forum in the coming weeks and, in the medium term, to seeing the output achieved through implementation of the strategy.

Is the Minister aware that 42% of the boats in the north-east inshore fishery fleet which extends from Dublin to the Border work out of County Louth, particularly the ports of Clogherhead, Annagassan and Carlingford? The fleet is a significant employer, not just in fisheries but also in marine tourism, processing and transport. What plans does the Minister have to conserve the resources that are available and attract new entrants into the industry?

I appreciate the scale of the industry to which the Deputy refers because when I meet representatives of the National Inshore Fisheries Forum, they come with all of its constituent members in the north-east, north-west, south-west and south-east regional forums who all bring a unique perspective to the work of the national forum. The Deputy will be aware of the potential. We recently took a decision to prohibit larger vessels from fishing in inshore waters. I think this is the first time there has been a recognition of the potential and the opportunity now available for the sector to reclaim these waters as their exclusive territory. They generally fish in smaller boats which are not equipped to move out beyond them for safety reasons. There is a real opportunity for the sector, in all of the regional forums but also at the national forum, to present a product of the inshore that is marketed as sustainable in working with all other State agencies on how it can be progressed to deliver maximum value and in also working with Departments and local authorities on the infrastructural investment required to improve port and landing facilities. There is real potential in that regard.

I welcome the Minister's comments and his exclusion of larger boats from the six-mile zone. It makes a significant difference. In County Louth the razor clam, lobster and crab and cockerel fisheries in Dundalk Bay are all of huge importance locally. I look forward to the Minister's launching the report and his visit to County Louth in the near future.

I appreciate that it is a significant opportunity. It is now for the industry to grab it by the scruff of the neck. For many years it has been in the shadow of the larger fishing industries and the established producer organisations which do great work for the larger sectors, but this is a unique sector which has potential to create employment in local communities. The establishment of the strategy is key to driving the sector's potential.