Minister hails rise in prawns quota
A deal struck in Europe which will increase the number of prawns Northern Ireland fishermen can land is a great result for the fleet, Stormont's Fisheries Minister has said.
Michelle O'Neill acknowledged that negotiations at the Brussels Fisheries Council had not delivered all good news, with cuts to the catch limits for haddock, cod and whiting.
But she insisted the 6% increase in the prawn (nephrops) quota was the most significant outcome.
"We achieved our main negotiating objectives in the tough negotiations that took place over two days," she said.
"The 6% increase in the allowable catch adds some £900,000 to the sector, which is already worth £15 million, and means a sustainable supply to our local fish processing businesses which have sales in excess of £70 million and employs over 550 workers."
Ms O'Neill also highlighted that an anticipated cut to the number of days the fleet could spend at sea had not materialised. She said EU officials had originally proposed a 12% decrease in the prawn limit.
"I and my counterpart from the south of Ireland, Simon Coveney TD, pressed the Commission for an increase," she said.
"Our arguments were rational and firmly grounded on scientific evidence. As is the nature of these negotiations, the Commission made several small concessions but we held fast and the final agreement was for a 6% increase.
"The condition of other fish stocks in the Irish Sea is not so good and this was reflected in the catch limits set. Haddock fell by 62 tonnes, cod by 95 tonnes, whiting by five tonnes and plaice remained unchanged.
"Although disappointing, these species are mainly caught as a by-catch of the nephrops fishery on which 95% of our fleet depend. Yet again this has been a long and difficult negotiation. It is an unsatisfactory process but I'm more than satisfied with the outcome this year."