The meeting with representatives of the north-west fishing industry on 7 March was positive and productive. The discussions concentrated on how best to develop a viable alternative to the fishing effort limitation scheme agreed at last December's Council. As the Deputy will recall, I opposed this approach at the December Fisheries Council on the basis that the application of days at sea restrictions was not the appropriate mechanism for the recovery of cod stocks and would severely impact on the economies of coastal fishing communities.
It was agreed at the 7 March meeting that a prerequisite to the development of a viable alternative cod recovery strategy was the collection of additional scientific data on the state of the cod stock off the Donegal coast and especially the fishery off Greencastle. Following the meeting, I asked the Marine Institute to proceed immediately with a study costing over €300,000 into cod stocks off the coast of Donegal. This study, which is supported by EU funding, will involve the evaluation of the benefits of a seasonal closure of the Greencastle codling fishery and will be led by the Marine Institute with input from the Donegal fishing industry and BIM.
This project will increase our knowledge of the cod stock in the area and I am confident that it will in turn enable more appropriate and specific technical conservation measures to be devised. I will be seeking to have such targeted measures incorporated into a long-term recovery plan for that cod stock with a view to replacing the blunt instrument of the days at sea approach.
The meeting also considered that there may be possibilities for diversification for fishermen affected by these new restrictions. In particular, this may involve the use of alternative fishing methods and gears, and I have asked BIM to explore such possibilities with individual fishermen.