Wednesday, 6 November 2013
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
I placed this issue on the agenda of the Council of Fisheries Ministers held on the 17th of October. In advance of that meeting, I also held bilateral meetings with Commissioner Damanaki, Spanish Fisheries Minister Canete, UK Minister Eustice and Scottish Minister Lochead to press Ireland’s case. At the Council meeting, I sought information from the Commission (who negotiate on behalf of the EU at the Coastal States meetings) on the current state of play in the negotiations, details on the Commissions’ discussion with Norway, a key partner for the EU on this issue, and confirmation that the Commission were prepared to consider an approach to the negotiations that would protect Ireland’s interests and at the same time go some way to meeting the legitimate expectations of Iceland and the Faeroes.
I argued strongly against rewarding Iceland and the Faeroe Islands for their unacceptable and irresponsible actions in respect of the shared mackerel stock over the past number of years and outlined what I consider must be the fundamental principles for any agreement with Iceland. Specifically, I expressed my view to the Council that any new offer to Iceland must be jointly agreed with Norway on the basis of equal burden sharing and that Iceland should not be granted access to EU waters as a part of any deal. I made it clear that I was not opposed to a deal and recognized that Iceland should be provided with a fair and justifiable quota share. However, I also made it absolutely clear that any deal must also protect the interests of EU Member States like Ireland who have relied on this fishery for over 40 years.
In this regard, I asked that the Commissioner and my fellow Ministers give serious consideration to a proposal developed by the European Pelagic Industry that would involve a tiered approach with different percentage shares for each of the Coastal States depending upon the level of the Total Allowable Catch advice. The core concept behind this proposal is to protect those fleets that have developed and now depend upon the mackerel fishery over a long number of years. I was pleased that the Commissioner and many of the Member States took away this concept for more detailed examination in advance of the Coastal State negotiations in London the following week, and with the positive consideration of all of the points raised by me.
At the negotiations in London on 23/24 October, in addition to my officials, Ireland was also represented at industry level. Unfortunately however, there was little by way of concrete progress. In large part this was due to the fact that a new Norwegian Fisheries Minister had only been appointed the previous week. One positive aspect was that, again at Ireland’s instigation, there was a detailed presentation to, and exchange of views with Member States, from the European Pelagic industry on their proposal.
Another round of Coastal State negotiations is now due to take place in Clonakilty from 18-22 November. Ireland will play a constructive role at those negotiations and will leave no stone unturned in an effort to reach a solution that is balanced and fair to all of the parties.