Increase in fishing opportunity for Northern Ireland’s fleet

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Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill is returning from Brussels following two days of negotiations at the December Fisheries Council.

The Minister said that she had worked hard to protect current quotas in the face of stiff negotiations.

“We had faced an initial proposal for a 14% cut in the quota for Area VII prawns. However, together with our colleagues in the south we pressed hard for a quota that reflected the scientific advice and fishing patterns. This year scientific advice for a sustainable catch was 3% higher than last year and landings from the fishery are consistently at or below the level needed to ensure sustainability. After hard negotiations, we were able to secure the 3% increase in the amount of prawns to fish for in 2015 providing an additional £450,000 of fishing opportunities.

“Fishing opportunities for Irish Sea haddock were maintained at the same level as last year against an initial Commission proposal for a 20% cut, but the quota for cod was reduced again this year by 20% in line with the Cod Recovery Plan. I was disappointed that the Commission could not find a legal mechanism to accommodate our request to reserve some cod quota for scientific research. This is something we will need to have further discussions with the Commission about in the new-year to see how we can continue to maintain the research programme for this stock.

“Cuts to the number of days that the fleet can spend at sea were proposed again this year, but the Commission agreed that no reductions were necessary.”

The Minister added: “Taking the Council result as a whole, when we look across the range of our most important stocks in the Irish Sea, the value of the quotas increased by £330,000. This was due to an increase in prawn quota, which is our most important Irish Sea fishery, set-off by some losses in other stocks.”