Tuesday, 12 November 2002
Dáil Eireann Debate
Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. D. Ahern): Scientific advice on the Irish Sea cod stock has been prepared by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, ICES, which recommends a closure of all fisheries for cod as a targeted species or by-catch. It also provides that where cod represents an incidental catch there should be stringent restrictions on the catch and discard rates of cod with effective monitoring of compliance with those restrictions. This advice was reviewed by of the Scientific, Technical, Economic Committee for Fisheries, STECF, a group of independent scientific, technical and economic experts appointed by the European Commission. STECF noted that there is serious concern about the stock and that stock recovery is unlikely unless stringent management action is taken immediately.
There are no proposals at this time from the Commission in relation to Irish Sea cod or other stocks in the Irish Sea. The Commission will bring forward proposals in the next few weeks for all stocks, taking account of both the ICES advice and the comments of STECF. These proposals will be considered by the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in December. At national level, the ICES advice and the STECF review of the advice are being examined. A recovery plan for Irish Sea cod, involving closed areas to protect cod spawning grounds and fishing gear restrictions, is in place. This plan was introduced in 2000 in consultation with scientists and industry representatives to protect and rebuild the cod stock.
The catch of Irish sea cod by the Irish fleet is relatively modest and a significant part is taken as a by-catch in the nephrops fishery. The Irish authorities will be seeking, as a priority, to agree a regime that enables the nephrops fishery to be maintained while ensuring that by-catches of cod in this fishery are minimised. Proposals for 2003 will be considered in the context of the scientific advice and current measures in place under the recovery plan and in consultation with the industry representatives, in order to determine a national position in view of the need to provide for the recovery of the cod stock and the needs of coastal communities dependent on the exploitation of Irish Sea stocks.
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