Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Fishing Industry: Discussion

Mr. Seán O'Donoghue:

I will address Deputy Mac Lochlainn's questions. The easiest one is the one about unity. I think there is considerable unity with the POs and the other organisations that are not here today. This has been built with 20 others in the field. I can understand Deputy Mac Lochlainn's comments about raising the white flag, but I can tell him that there is absolutely no way we, as a PO, will accept that this is raising the white flag. He rightly asked what needs to be done at the forthcoming council. The task force is not just about decommissioning; there are 16 other schemes there. The number one priority that was identified by the task force was burden sharing. There are 13 different recommendations from the task force that deal with burden sharing.

The reason this is so important is because Ireland has been disproportionately hit by Brexit. It is not just the analysis that we have done exhaustively on this. I am glad to tell the committee that the Commission’s scientific body, referred to by Mr. Murphy in terms of fleets, the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries, produced a report about six weeks ago that confirmed the figures we have been preaching from the rooftops about since it happened on Christmas Eve which is, when one considers the real quota uptake, the effect on Ireland is that we are taking a 40% hit. All the others are taking 60%. There is an opportunity at the Council to start the internal process on burden sharing. There is also the external process at the coastal states and next year is an important year for that.

The third element of this is the CFP review. I wish to put on the record that everybody on this call was fully behind the burden sharing. The easiest thing of all for the Ministers, the Government and the Department to do is to kick the can down the road and say that it will be part of the CFP. There is absolutely no way that we will accept that. The burden sharing has to be addressed here and now and over the transition period of the Brexit adjustment reserve fund, BAR. We have been told there have been other Councils that it has come up in. Starting in December, there will be an opportunity to start doing something that could affect 2022. We need to put a huge effort into the CFP review but, with the best will in the world, one is talking about two years hence. We are not prepared to wait for that.

It is fair to say that all the organisations, very reluctantly, came to the table on decommissioning. I know the figures do not stack up here but, as far as I am concerned, if there is to be a voluntary decommissioning scheme, which the task force recommended and we were all party to that, the minimum payment has to be 12,000 tonnes. What if the figure does not add up? The task force figure is €423 million. Ireland has received more than €1 billion so I see no problem in getting additional funds if need be. One issue a number of people have mentioned is that it is not right that some people who get temporary cessation money could be taken off decommissioning money. I know Mr. Ward mentioned it. That is part of the Commission’s guidelines. I checked the BAR regulations that were recently published, and it does not actually require that. The regulations specifically state that it should not have to be repaid. That has to be addressed.