The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) provides the framework for the long term conservation and sustainability of fish stocks around our shores and is designed to ensure the long term sustainability of fishing in Ireland and throughout EU waters. The CFP specifically calls for the progressive restoration and maintenance of populations of fish stocks above biomass levels capable of producing Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). To achieve this, the FMSY exploitation rate shall be achieved for all stocks from January 1st 2020. This should ultimately lead to healthy fish stocks, higher quotas for both Irish and EU fishermen and lead to more sustainable fishing patterns.
Scientific information on the state of the fisheries exploited by the Irish fleet is compiled by the Marine Institute and is published in the Stock Book each year. The most recent Stock Book, 2019, which was published last week, contains 74 stocks that are subject to the scientific advice of the Marine Institute. From the 74 stocks, 35 are assessed as being sustainably fished in 2019. This number has grown every year since 2013. This, in turn, leads to the number of stocks being over-fished declining from 22 in 2014 to 13 in 2019.
The preparation for the 2019 December Fisheries Council is well underway. At the December Council, quotas for 2020 will be negotiated on the basis of a proposal produced by the European Commission that is informed by the best available scientific advice. From the initial proposal, I am pleased that the scientific advice supports increases in a number of stocks of importance to Ireland such as Haddock, Monkfish and Megrims in the Celtic Sea. This shows that the many years of intensive, industry-led conservation measures are paying off.
Provided we can successfully navigate the potential difficulties arising from Brexit, in cooperation with our EU27 partners, I am confident that, through the CFP, we will be able to ensure the sustainability of our fish stocks and, in turn, the economic viability of our fishing fleet and fish processors, thereby supporting the families and communities that depend on a vibrant fishing industry.