Wednesday, 1 July 2015
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Fishing Industry Development
36. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will confirm that Ireland has never made a request in support of a recreational bluefin tuna fishery either to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas or to the European Union Commission; the reason the Government has not made such a case to the European Union for a catch and release recreational fishery programme to be based here despite the fact that other countries have done so successfully, such as Norway in 2014 which was granted a 27 ton quota on application by that state to the international commission; if Ireland may be treated differently upon application for such a quota even with our history of fishing in the past; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26050/15]
Atlantic bluefin tuna is a highly regulated species with annual catch limits set by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) based on scientific advice. Within the EU, quota shares were allocated in 1998 to Member States based on track record. Ireland, which did not have a track record of fishing for bluefin tuna, does not have a quota.
My Department has made enquiries with the EU Commission and the unequivocal advice we have received is that a recreational fishery for bluefin tuna is not legally possible in the absence of a national bluefin tuna quota. We do not have such a quota and it is extremely unlikely that we could obtain one as it would involve reducing the share of the Total Allowable Catch of those EU Member States that do have quota and for whom bluefin is an important commercial fishery.
Ireland cannot make an application directly to ICCAT as it is the EU and not individual Member States which are members of that body. Norway, obviously, is not a member of the EU and so it can make its case directly to ICCAT.
A tag and release programme that would not impact on mortality and would contribute to the overall scientific knowledge of this species is an option that may be possible. A case would have to be made in the first instance at EU level and only if successful there could it be pursued at EU level with ICCAT.
Careful consideration needs to be given to how a case can be put together to reassure our EU colleagues that there would not be any negative impact on the stock. The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, which has responsibility for angling, is currently examining a proposal from the Irish Big Game Angling Association and I expect to receive its response shortly.
My Department will continue to liaise closely with DCENR and relevant stakeholders on this matter to consider who would be in a position to undertake the detailed work required to prepare a case on how a possible tag and release scheme might work in practice. This case will need to cover issues such as the possible scope of the scheme in terms of seasons and numbers, how fish are handled etc. As soon as the response of DCENR is received, I will be better placed to determine if the proposal of the Irish Big Game Angling Association or an amended or alternative proposal can be progressed.