Ireland, Scotland decry EU fish quota cuts

Dec. 19, 2012 at 12:03 AM
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BRUSSELS, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Ireland and Scotland have warned that cuts called for in EU fishing quotas will mean the loss of hundreds of jobs and sharp increases in discarded fish.

The countries' fishing ministers issued warnings in the run-up to this week's EU Fisheries Council, set to conclude Wednesday in Brussels, where member nations hope to hammer out agreements on the "total allowable catch" for 83 fish stocks in the Atlantic and the North Sea.

The negotiations are coming against a backdrop of failed talks between Norway and the European Union over the allowable catch for cod and with non-EU nations Iceland and Denmark-administrated Faroe Islands over a mackerel dispute.

The proposal submitted by Maria Damanaki, EU commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries, and EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos calls for reductions on allowable catches for 47 fish species, including cod, mackerel, blue whiting, herring, prawn and haddock.

The commission says it is following the best scientific advice to determine the "maximum sustainable yield" for each species in an effort to preserve the long-term viability of fishing stocks for all member nations.

But the breakdown of talks between the European Union and the "Coastal States" of Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Russia are overshadowing the fisheries council, throwing plans for the coming year's fishing activities into doubt and threatening jobs, Irish Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine Simon Coveney warned Monday.

"These are very worrying times for fishing fleet dependant on mackerel, herring and blue whiting," he said. "It is clear that Iceland and the Faroe Islands are not prepared to come to the table with reasonable demands for mackerel again this year."

Without international agreement on the management of the mackerel stock, Coveney added, "our industry is facing a bleak future because the persistent irresponsible fishing of the stock by Iceland and the Faroes will result in the depletion of the stock and substantially reduced fishing opportunities for all."

Compounding pounding Ireland's problems, he said, is an "unnecessary" 21 percent cut in quotas for the whitefish and prawn in the Irish Sea, which he predicted will result in the loss of up to 550 full- and part-time jobs with financial losses of $70 million.

Despite the European Union's assessment, Coveney said many fish stocks are actually recovering, meaning many more caught fish will have to discarded to avoid breaking quotas.

That sentiment was echoed by Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead, who warned the Scottish Parliament this month reductions in the EU cod quota will result in a "trail of discards across North Sea," The Scotsman reported.

He blasted Brussels' inability to modify a 2008 cod recovery plan instituted at a time when stocks were threatened. Thanks to the sustainable practices of the fishing industry, cod stocks have recovered, the minister asserted, but under its provisions the quota will automatically shrink in 2013.

"Cutting the cod quota by 20 percent is a straightforward recipe for massive discards," he said. "Our fishermen won't be able to avoid catching every more plentiful cod for which they have no quota and will be forced -- against their will -- to dump dead overboard."

Complicating the picture is an ongoing power struggle between the EU Council of Ministers and the European Parliament over the amount of jurisdiction each has in setting the catches under the new provisions of the Lisbon Treaty, the Scottish Fisherman's Council says.

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