Thursday, 16 April 2015
Will the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine request the European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries to put into law a requirement that any member state’s fishing vessels entering or operating in another member state’s waters be required to inform that member state’s authority by phone, fax or ERRS, electronic recording and reporting system, of each vessel's quotas, its list of quota species and its area of operation prior to beginning its fishing operations.
As it stands, when the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority or the Naval Service boards another EU member state's fishing vessel in Irish waters, all its catches will be logged. This is required of all fishing vessels. The problem is these two agencies do not know these vessels' allowable catches. TACs, total allowable catches, are issued to each member state which then allocates a quota to a fishing vessel. However, the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority and the Naval Service do not know what are their quotas.
I want to level the playing pitch for all boats fishing in our waters. The lack of this information is making the job of the two agencies in question impossible. Some of the vessels they inspect are enormous. One talks about running around a football field. Running around one of these vessels would be the same as running around six football fields. In the interests of clarity and fairness, I am calling for this change to fishing regulations. It will give enforcement agencies what they need to implement and regulate fishing in our waters.
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine apologises that he is unavailable to take this matter as he is in Brussels dealing with fisheries issues.
All EU fishing vessels must comply with all regulations relating to the Common Fisheries policy, CFP, including reporting of catches and respecting technical measures. The CFP sets out roles for the authorities of member states in ensuring compliance by fishing vessels with their obligations. There are roles for the flag state, the country in which the vessel is registered, the coastal state, the country with jurisdiction over the waters from which the fish are taken, and the port state, the country to which the fish are landed. In addition to a role as a flag state, Ireland has substantial obligations as a coastal state to verify compliance by all vessels fishing in the Irish exclusive fisheries zone.
The annual TAC and quota regulation sets out the quotas for each stock available to member states. The distribution of the stock among the vessels of the member states is a matter for the national authorities in each member state. Accordingly, it is a matter for each member state to manage the available quotas and make it available to its fleet in an appropriate manner.The monitoring of uptake against national quotas is a matter largely for the flag member state.
In recent years, fisheries control within the EU has been structured so as to deliver a level playing field across member states. In October 2009, the EU adopted a new regime dealing with fisheries controls in the EU. Council Regulation 1224/2009 establishes a community control system for delivering compliance with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy. Control and inspection is now focused where it is most effective through an approach based on systematic risk analysis. Inspection procedures are standardised and harmonised.
The controls that are available for a coastal state comprise remote-sensed data monitoring, ongoing risk analysis, and at-sea inspections. The types of remote-sensed data available to Ireland as coastal state for non-Irish vessels include the output of the vessel monitoring system, VMS, and the electronic logbook recording system, ERS. The VMS system transmits position, heading and speed to the flag state which should make it available to any relevant coastal states. The ERS system transmits the catch retained on board every midnight to the flag state and onto the coastal state. In other words, Ireland's control authorities can see what vessels are in the Irish exclusive fisheries zone at any time. It has access to details of catches logged for every day the vessel is fishing in the Irish exclusive fisheries zone. These data are monitored to identify any indicators of non-compliance, and the Irish Naval Service, assisted by SFPA, perform at-sea inspections taking account of this information.
The introduction of electronic logbooks is a significant milestone in fisheries control and the access to catches logged each day is an important control tool. Ireland would like to see the co-operation between member states in the sharing of this information further strengthened, in particular to give the coastal state access to all catches by the vessel on a trip when any component falls within the Irish exclusive fisheries zone. Ireland has strongly pursued compliance with this provision at EU level to tighten up the data provision requirements. This objective is being pursued at EU level and will, in any case, be pursued in the Commission's upcoming review of the application of the EU control regulation.
The Irish authorities are key players in collaborative fishery control in the form of specific control and inspection programmes co-ordinated by the European Fisheries Control Agency. A specific example is the ongoing plan in the substantial pelagic fisheries off the Irish coast in north-western EU waters. These pelagic vessels have legitimate access to the Irish exclusive fisheries zone where they fish extensively. Their catching capacity and onboard processing facilities mean they pose particular risks and challenges in the verification of compliance. These joined-up EU control missions are very useful in delivering targeted control operations to high-risk fisheries and Ireland will continue to contribute to this type of EU operation.
Ireland's control responsibilities both as a flag member state and a coastal member state are taken very seriously and Irish authorities continue to work to promote a culture of compliance throughout the exclusive fisheries zone and wider.
I thank the Minister of State. I call on him to arrange a meeting with the Minister, Deputy Coveney, because the reply did not address my proposal. If it were introduced, be it through legislation or a directive, it would give the enforcement agencies such as the Naval Service and the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority, SFPA, the knowledge and power they now lack. These vessels are owned in Holland and Spain and registered in France, England, Lithuania, Germany and elsewhere. They use fish quotas to mop up huge amounts of fish in Irish waters. I hope this will be brought to Europe, and I will contact our MEPs, because I cannot see why the relevant people in DG MARE and the Commission would not do this.
To make a comparison, this would be the same as a Garda pulling over a man for drink-driving and asking him whether he had drink taken to which he answers he has drunk ten pints. There is no committal on the other side. I am explaining it as best I can. The quotas are given to the country and the State allocates the quotas to the boats. When SFPA or the Naval Service boards the ship, it can see the fish catch which has been logged, and everything is above board, but it cannot state the ship is over quota because no quota has been specifically addressed to the ship. When the vessel goes back to its mother country, it will land more fish and there is no control. I call for a meeting with the fishing representative bodies and the Minister because in the interests of fairness and a level playing pitch every ship in EU waters should have a quota for its time at sea which should not be on a yearly basis. If a quota were allocated to a ship, SFPA and the Navy could compare and see, as many involved in fishing state, that our waters are being fished out because no quotas are allocated to a vessel while it is in the waters. Will the Minister of State request a meeting with the Minister and the fishing representative bodies on this matter?
I take the point the Senator makes. If we have to monitor quotas, it is very important that we do it in a transparent and very open way. What the Senator suggests is a different way of monitoring and he has made a very strong case for it. The best way to proceed with this, whereby the Senator can get his viewpoint across as he is obviously representing people, is to set up a meeting with the Minister in the first place because he is the person who deals with it. I assure the Senator we will set up this meeting and follow it with a meeting with those involved in the industry if we think there is a case to be made. The Senator is asking the Department to do something in a different way from how it does it and the Minister will have to agree. He is in Brussels today dealing with marine issues. As he takes a significant interest in them, he will certainly be amenable to the case made by the Senator.