Tuesday, 8 May 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
53. Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources the fishing quota restrictions in place or which will be in place concerning haddock, hake, cod and whiting; if access to haddock fishing is about to cease; if whiting quotas are to be rationed by nearly 50%; the effect these restrictions will have on fishermen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12992/01]
Mr. Fahey: The level of fishing opportunity available to the fishing fleet year on year is determined by overall decisions on total allowable catches taken by the EU Fisheries Council every December. The resulting national quota for each fish stock is monitored and managed during the year and, where necessary, specific management regimes are put in place in consultation with the industry. The purpose of these management regimes is to ensure the best possible spread in terms of take up of quota during the year, having regard to fishing patterns and market conditions. The key objective is to avoid early closure of fisheries through premature exhaustion of quota. By imposing monthly or two monthly limits on the amount of a particular stock which may be fished by an individual vessel, a more equitable spread of quota is achieved among fishermen and throughout the year.
As the Deputy is aware, many key whitefish stocks are seriously overfished and a number of stocks are in crisis. The massive reductions proposed by the Commission for whitefish stocks, including cod, haddock, whiting and hake, were moderated in negotiation at the December Fisheries Council in favour of a more phased approach linked to stock recovery programmes for cod and hake.
In the interests of best management of the reduced national quotas for monk, hake, plaice, cod and whiting in 2001, regimes are in operation which limit landed catches per vessel on a monthly or two monthly basis. While the haddock fishery in the specific Rockall area has been closed from 1 May, all other haddock fisheries remain fully open and the need for management regimes will be kept under review. Whiting fisheries which had been fully open are subject to a management regime with effect from 1 May. The monk and hake fisheries have been under a management regime since January, reflecting the significant reduction in quota as a result of the worrying state of stocks.
Negotiations at EU level to settle the details of the stock recovery programmes for cod and hake are being finalised. The industry has been fully involved in these difficult negotiations and we have worked with the industry to ensure effective conservation measures to protect juvenile and spawning stocks are put in place across the board without jeopardising the interests of Irish fishermen.
Mr. Connaughton: The shine is coming off the December meeting of the Fisheries Council. It was announced that there had been a successful outcome to those negotiations on a serious problem that had beset the industry. However, fishermen are only now discovering how bad it was. Is it the case that the haddock quota will be reduced by 50% or more and that 50% less whiting will be caught this year compared to last year? Will  there also be huge reductions with regard to other species, including hake and monkfish? Will many of the fishermen, who previously fished such species on a full-time basis, be unable to fish such traditional species? Will the Minster indicate how such fishermen will be in a position to earn an income given that they will be prevented from fishing traditional species?
Mr. Fahey: The Deputy is seriously misinformed. The percentage reduction in areas six and seven is 12% and 9% in terms of the 2001 quota compared to the 2000 quota. The figure of 50% is entirely incorrect.
Mr. Connaughton: This is a very serious matter. I do not like the Minister's flippant attitude. All fishermen dealing in haddock, monkfish, whiting etc., face a very serious situation. Will fishermen fishing for whiting face a 50% cut in their catch this year?
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