Thursday, 18 November 2021
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
348. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the outlook for the fishing industry and for fish processors in the coming six months given the new control plan in relation to weighing fish has not yet been approved by the European Commission and is not likely to be approved for some time; the steps he plans taking to mitigate the negative effects this will have on the fishing industry including alternative supports for the industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56728/21]
352. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason for the delay in the completion of control plan for fisheries landings (details supplied); the actions that are being taken to expedite the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56756/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 348 and 352 together.
This is an operational fisheries control matter and such matters are exclusively ones that come within the remit of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA). Under the Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act, 2006, all operational issues of this nature are exclusively for the SFPA and the Naval Service. As Minister, I am precluded from getting involved in operational control matters such as this.
The standard position, under the Common Fisheries Policy, is that fish must be weighed on the pier. Member States can apply for a derogation to weigh the fish away from the pier and that application must be accompanied by a Control Plan providing necessary levels of assurance to the Commission if they are to decide to grant the derogation. It is at the discretion of the Commission whether or not they grant the derogation.
The EU Commission decision to revoke Ireland’s Control plan in respect of weighing states that operators did not have in place a “weighing system fit for purpose”, as provided for under point 5 of the control plan and the audit identified manipulation of weighing systems. Moreover, although aware of those shortcomings, Ireland did not take appropriate measures to address such non-compliance, in particular by withdrawing the permission to weigh after transport as foreseen in point 8 of the control plan. Consequently, the control plan does not minimise the risk of systematic manipulation of weighing pelagic catches in Ireland and the under-declaration of catches by operators.
The SFPA submitted a revised draft Control Plan to the EU Commission for review and approval on 22nd September 2021. A new draft plan must be accepted by the Commission and formally adopted by it under its legislation – an EU Commission Decision. Subsequently, the SFPA have advised that it has had comprehensive engagement with DG Mare on the plan. The SFPA advised that it has met industry representatives recently and updated them on the discussions with DG Mare.
During Commissioner Virginius Sinkevicius visit to Killybegs recently, representatives of the fishing industry set out the challenges facing the industry in the absence of a control plan that would allow weighing of fish in factories. In my discussions with the Commissioner, during this visit, I asked him to give as much priority as possible to the Commission’s examination of Ireland’s draft control plan given the real challenges currently being faced by the industry. The Commissioner and his officials have been made fully aware of the considerations around the timing of any control plan approval, given the commencement of the pelagic fishing season in January 2022.
I will keep the lines of communication open with Commissioner Sinkevicius over the coming weeks so that he understands the challenges that would practically arise if a new Control plan is not in place for the beginning of the 2022 pelagic season.