Minister hails EU deal for Irish fisherman on quotas
THE Government has hailed a deal struck with European officials for a bigger prawn catch for Irish fishermen.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney said he had negotiated a U-turn on plans to slash the quota for the sector after two days of talks in Brussels.
However, fears over cod and sole stocks in the Irish Sea and haddock off the south coast will force some fishermen to dramatically cut the amount of the fish they can bring ashore.
Mr Coveney said it is a good deal for the Irish fishing industry.
"My primary aim from the outset was to achieve an outcome that protected the overall interests of the Irish fishing industry while respecting the most up-to-date scientific advice for key stocks of critical importance to our fleets," he said.
"I believe that I have achieved that aim."
The outcomes achieved for 2013 include a reversal of plans to significantly cut the prawn quota and instead secure a 6pc increase for the Irish Sea fleet.
"I am delighted that common sense eventually prevailed and that a cut was averted," Mr Coveney said.
In total 216,300 tonnes of fish quotas worth €213m will be available to Irish fishermen in 2013.
The Irish Fish Producers' Organisation said there was good and bad news in the deal.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine said the value and tonnage of the white fish quota would remain at last year's level, worth 114 million euro (£92.9 million).
Elsewhere, interim quotas worth €100m have been set for most pelagic stocks, including mackerel and herring, pending negotiations between the EU and Norway in the new year.
The prawn quota is worth about €50m.
Some 6,400 tonnes of white fish quotas were secured above the levels proposed by Europe.
The deal sees Irish fishermen with quotas of 36,538 tonnes of white fish and 180,000 of pelagic stocks such as mackerel and herring.
In the Celtic Sea there will be a 29pc increase in the whiting quota, providing an additional 1,500 tonnes for fleets along the southern and western coasts.
The department said there was a modest increase in cod for the same area and hake, megrim and monkfish quotas were maintained.
The haddock take has been cut in accordance with scientific advice - by 15pc.
Off the north-west, herring, mackerel, blue whiting and the emerging boarfish market is important.
A stock rebuilding plan, devised by local fishermen and the Marine Institute, is in place for herring, while a 63pc increase has been secured for blue whiting, giving an Irish quota of 13,105 tonnes.
The boarfish quota rolls over for a second year with a 56,666 tonne limit after deals were signed with important Chinese markets.
The department said final quotas for mackerel, blue whiting and horse mackerel will only be finalised after the EU/Norway talks wrap up in the new year.