Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Ceisteanna (497)

Charlie McConalogue


497. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he is taking to protect Irish fishing interests at EU level; the status of the latest discussions ahead of the December 2019 EU Council meeting of fisheries Ministers at which 2020 total allowable catches and quotas will be agreed; the bilateral discussions he has had to date in 2019 with counterparts in this regard. [47687/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Discussions take place with a number of parties in the run up to December Fisheries Council including high level meetings with the Commission, the Presidency and other Member States as part of the preparation for the Council as well as a number of important technical meetings. These meetings allow my officials to understand the priorities of other Member States and also gauge where Ireland can build relationships to help deliver our priorities at Council.

While the process of deciding on Total Allowable Catch (TAC) levels concludes at the December Council, the preparation for this goes on throughout the year. Scientific data used to inform the negotiations is collected continuously over a 12 month period. This data, upon which the Commission bases its proposals, generally becomes available from June onwards and it gives a strong indication of what the proposal might look like. This data is informed by the work of the Marine Institute, amongst others, who work closely with the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES).

As part of our Sustainability Impact Assessment, I have launched a public consultation on the Commission's proposals for 2020 and I look forward to the outcome of that process which I intend to lay before the Oireachtas next month.

I am always conscious of the immediate impacts the decisions taken at the December Fisheries Council have for so many communities around our coast. This is why I believe the advance preparation should be as comprehensive and inclusive as possible, involving my own Department as well as Bord Iascaigh Mhara and the Marine Institute, all industry representatives and the Environmental Pillar. I will be meeting with these stakeholders next week to discuss the proposals. This process is invaluable and helps me identify the key areas of concern.

It is important to note that the December Council doesn't happen in isolation from other fisheries negotiations. A range of international meetings that effectively decide the quotas for some very important stocks such as mackerel, blue whiting, Atlanto-Scandian herring and albacore tuna also take place at this time of year. Ireland is an active participant at all of these negotiations and they form part of a broader picture for our fishing opportunities that is sometimes overlooked in the activity leading up to December Council.

I can assure the Deputy that the fishing industry is a key priority for this Government. Ireland is well prepared and I will do my utmost to ensure that the final outcome is one that is good for the industry and the long term sustainability of the stocks.