Tuesday, 18 October 2016
Not at all. I am delighted to get the opportunity to raise this Commencement matter, which relates to the Celtic Sea herring quota distribution. This quota distribution comes from the pelagic allocation to Ireland and the pelagic management comes under eight principal management stocks, of which the Celtic Sea herring is one.Under the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006, the Minister has the power to make legal instruments, such as fishery management notices on the opening and closing of a season or the provisional extension of a season where there are extenuating circumstances, as in this case where the herring allocation for the Celtic Sea went unused in late 2015 due to the terrible weather that hit Ireland, particularly in the Minister of State's neck of the woods in Wexford and Waterford, particularly the Waterford estuary. This is an issue which a colleague of mine, Councillor Eddie Mulligan, has pursued for some time and he has made specific recommendations to the Minister. Former Deputy John Brown and Deputy Mary Butler have pursued this also, as have others.
What is required is flexibility. The herring quota available in the Celtic Sea is ring-fenced per annum at approximately 1,700 tonnes. Last December, 1,000 tonnes of this allocation to Ireland went unused in this particular area. The reason was the detrimental weather. What was sought at the time was to carry forward at least some of the tonnage for vessels with a proven track record even though this is not a requirement of the quota allocation for extending the quota into the following year. Unfortunately this did not happen and therefore fishing activity this year is eating into this year's quota and not the surplus quota from last year.
I seek to ascertain whether there is a willingness to examine this and provide a ministerial direction to carry forward quota into next year. Traditionally the pelagic herring quota is fished in the autumn or spring, but given that last autumn was so bad the same could happen this year. If this were to happen the quota would go unused also. This would be to the detriment of Irish fishermen in general, particularly in this region given the situation last year. This is something that could happen in the other eight areas under the pelagic management quota model, but this is the case I am raising today. I hope the Minister of State has some good news for me.
I thank the Senator for raising this issue. I am covering for the Minister, Deputy Creed, on this occasion.
The Celtic Sea sentinel herring fishery is a herring fishery for small boats under 17 m. in length operating in an area off the south-east coast known as the Dunmore box. This is an open access fishery and track record is not considered an appropriate management tool for the small operators in this fishery. The ministerial policy for Celtic Sea herring was adopted in 2012 after more than a year of intensive consultations with stakeholders. This policy sets down the arrangements for the proper and effective management, conservation and rational exploitation of the herring stocks.
The 2015 quota for the sentinel fishery was 2,212 tonnes, however, only 990 tonnes were landed due to bad weather. Under national management arrangements, quotas are allocated within the year. Under long-standing policy, quotas may not be carried forward into the following year in respect of individual boats or groups of boats within a fishery, for example, the sentinel herring Celtic Sea fishery. This policy protects the public ownership of quotas and protects against property rights being established which would transfer ownership of quotas into private hands. At national level, up to 10% of uncaught quota may be carried forward to the following year, in line with the provisions of the EU regulation at national level. In 2015, on an exceptional basis due to the impact of the Russian embargo on the pelagic markets, the limit for carryover was increased to 25% from 2015 into 2016. The revised available quota for 2016 is 17,492 tonnes, of which 4,147 tonnes were carried forward from 2015.Owing to the low catches in the sentinel fishery in 2015 and at the request of the National Inshore Fisheries Forum for increased fishing opportunities for the inshore fleet, the Minister proposed, on an exceptional basis, a once-off increase of 500 tonnes for this fishery for 2016. He sought the views of stakeholders on his proposal and in all instances the views received fully supported it. Accordingly, the Minister transferred 500 tonnes from the main fisheries allocation to the sentinel fishery for 2016.
This increase of 500 tonnes will not involve any change of ministerial policy on the management of the Celtic Sea herring fishery as this proposal will only be applicable to 2016. The total allocation to the sentinel fishery for 2016 now stands at 2,380 tonnes. In January 2016, a three-week sentinel fishery operated, which recorded landings of 535 tonnes. The available balance for the autumn is 1,845 tonnes.
The Minister asked the Celtic Sea herring management advisory committee, which represents the fishing industry, to take cognisance of the impact of the opening dates on the sentinel fishery in 2015 when making its recommendation for this year. The committee has advised that, in its experience of the fishery, the herring stock does not come close enough inshore for small sentinel vessels to catch it until around early November. Having considered the committee’s formal advice, I am advised that the Minister has set the opening date for the sentinel fishery as 6 November. Vessels may be booked into this fishery with the Department before close of business on Friday, 21 October.
I hope that answers the Senator's question.
It does and to be fair the Minister of State's answer is progress. The other suggestion being made locally is to extend the season to the end of January. I understand from reading some of the material that this may not be possible under European Union regulations. I ask the Minister to examine that option.