Wednesday, 14 July 2021
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
I can assure the Deputy that I, as Minister, and this Government continue to keep the focus on the disproportionate quota reductions for Ireland and to use any opportunity available to seek constructive solutions that would help to alleviate this unacceptable position.
I am pursuing every opportunity at EU level to increase the available quotas for our fishing fleet. I have raised the matter of inequitable burden sharing at EU level – most recently at last month's Agriculture and Fisheries Council – and in bilateral exchanges with the Commissioner and other EU Member States, whenever suitable opportunities arise, and I will continue to do so.
The Interim Report of the Seafood Sector Taskforce, published earlier last month and supported by all members of the Taskforce, recommends a range of actions to address the quota reductions in the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).
The actions include measures relating to Ireland working with other EU Member States on possible opportunities for increased quota shares for the EU in the upcoming Coastal States consultations and pursuing the rebalancing of quota in the context of the upcoming review of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
The Interim Report indicates that the recommended actions, after further consideration by the Taskforce, will be set down in detail in the main Report. The report will set out the specific challenges arising and how the actions may be progressed.
The next CFP review as set down in EU Regulation 1380/2013 is due to be completed by the 31st December 2022 when the European Commission will report to the European Parliament and the Council on the functioning of the CFP. At the informal meeting of Fisheries Ministers under the Portuguese Presidency, there was a first exchange of views on the future direction of the CFP and its current operation. I made clear that the CFP review must take stock of the disproportionate impacts imposed on the Irish fishing industry by Brexit and the TCA. I made clear that I will be seeking to address the imbalance in the quota transfers under the TCA. I repeated this position at the formal debate at the EU Fisheries Council in June.
The Commission published a proposal on 6th July proposing an amendment to extend the derogation for access to EU Member States 12 miles zones up until the end of December 2032. It also removed the provisions relating to access for the UK, which are now covered in the TCA. I consider that this important element of the CFP should be dealt with by the Commission as part of the full CFP review and form part of the formal review and the Commission report to Council and Parliament on the functioning of the CFP. I will be making our concern and our position clear as the proposal is progressed through Council and Parliament over the autumn.
It is expected that all stakeholders will have an opportunity to engage actively in the Commission's review over the coming period, including the fishing industry, eNGOs and Member States. I will consider how Ireland will prepare for and participate actively and effectively in the review of the CFP, including the interaction with stakeholders, to prepare Ireland's case and identify priorities.
454. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the measures the Government has undertaken to oppose or reverse the European Commission decision to revoke approval of Ireland's weighing control plan. [38343/21]
I should state at the outset that the strict legal position in relation to the revocation of Ireland’s control plan is that the monitoring and control of fishing vessels within Ireland’s Exclusive Fisheries Zone are matters for the Irish control authorities. Under the Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act, 2006, all operational issues of this nature are exclusively for the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) and the Naval Service. I am expressly precluded from getting involved in operational matters such as this.
In the context of an Administrative Inquiry conducted under Article 102(2) of the 2009 EU Fisheries Control Regulation, Ireland was notified in April 2021 of a Commission Implementing Decision revoking the approval of the Irish control plan submitted for the weighing of fishery products.
It should be noted that the 2012 Control Plan, prior to its revocation, provided that the Irish authorities may have permitted fisheries products to be weighed by relevant operators after transport from the place of landing provided that they were transported to a destination on the territory of Ireland, as the Member State concerned.
The SFPA has advised me that, following a public consultation on a revised Control Plan for submission to the EU Commission, the Authority has decided that the plan will cover all landings, including bulk pelagic landings. The Authority advise that it is prioritising the development of this revised plan to ensure that it addresses the specific risks that have already been identified and led to the Commission’s decision to revoke the previous plan and provides enhanced controls in that regard. The SFPA has advised that this work is likely to take a number of months before a submission is made to the Commission.
In March 2021, I established a Seafood Sector Task Force to examine the negative impacts of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and the UK on Ireland's fishing fleet and on related coastal communities and to recommend mitigation measures that could be taken to provide supports for development and restructuring in order to ensure a profitable and sustainable fishing fleet and to identify opportunities for jobs and economic activity in coastal communities dependent on fishing.
On 9th June, I received an Interim Report of the Task Force, with the Final report due later this year. The Interim Report recommends the implementation, on a voluntary basis, of a temporary fleet tie-up scheme for certain segments of the fishing fleet, to mitigate the loss of income in 2021 for these fleets arising from the TCA quota reductions. Eligible vessels would be able to cease fishing for one calendar month only over the period September to December 2021 and receive compensation based on average monthly income in the pre-Covid, pre-Brexit years 2018/19, minus variable costs they will not incur while tied-up (fuel and food). The Interim Report recommends that this scheme be funded under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve. A State Aid approval from the European Commission is also required.
I welcome the recommendation of the Task Force on the proposed scheme and it is being considered as a matter of urgency.