There have been significant increases in the fish quotas available to the local fishing fleet for 2018.
The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has welcomed the outcome of the 2017 December Fisheries Council.
A Department spokesperson said: “At this year’s Fisheries Council robust evidence was presented to confirm that most fish stocks in the Irish Sea are now performing well and are being fished sustainably. This has led to some significant increases in the fish quotas available to the local fishing fleet for 2018.
“Irish Sea herring will increase by 70%, haddock by 23%, and plaice by 63%. There was especially good news for Irish Sea cod which is now showing firm signs of recovery, resulting in a more than three-fold increase in the quota. The quota for Irish Sea prawns, which is our most important stock, will rise by 15% next year.
“These increases are the reward for the adoption of sustainable management measures in the Irish Sea and much hard work over a number of years by fisheries scientists at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) in partnership with the local fishing sector. Wide ranging fish conservation measures have been introduced to boost fish stocks, and partnerships between scientists and fishermen have improved the amount and quality of information on which stock assessments are based,” the spokesperson added.
“This is a positive result which means that the Northern Ireland fishing fleet will have an estimated £3.6million worth of additional fish quota available in 2018.
“Prior to the Council, the Commission had proposed untested fishing net restrictions to try to reduce unwanted catches of whiting in the Irish Sea prawn fishery. However, it was agreed that Member State Regional Groups will work next year to develop an appropriate package of fishing whiting conservation measures for introduction in 2019.”
South Down SDLP Constituency Representative and former MP, Margaret Ritchie said she was pleased that there has been a good outcome for the local fishing fleets in Ardglass and Kilkeel which spells good news for sustaining the local economies in the fishing communities.
She added: “I understand that all the Northern Ireland objectives were achieved and this proves beyond reasonable doubt that the Fish Producer Organisations and the fishermen have worked tirelessly with the Fisheries Scientists and also have made immense sacrifices in previous years when they lost out on what they should have got in terms of proper fish species allocations.
“As a result of those successful negotiations there have been increased quotas for cod, haddock, prawns, herring and plaice, The proposals to reduce quota allocations for whiting and sole were removed as was the proposal to increase mesh size. This is a good result for sustaining the local fishing industry and our local economy,
“Congratulations to all those involved in these negotiations in Brussels: the Fish Producer Organisations and government representatives in both DEFRA, DAERA and the European Commission.”