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Minister urged not to seek bigger fish quota

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Marine Minister Michael Creed

Marine Minister Michael Creed

Marine Minister Michael Creed

Environmental groups are pleading with Marine Minister Michael Creed to "listen to the science" as he prepares to challenge attempts to limit Ireland's fishing quotas.

At EU talks on Monday, the minister will argue for greater access to fish for Ireland's fleet than scientists have warned the stocks can withstand.

He will also object to plans to install CCTV on fishing vessels to ensure crew comply with the discards ban - which prohibits the dumping of fish caught alongside the target species or in excess of quotas.

Several key fishing stocks in Irish waters are stressed from over-fishing, including herring, cod, whiting and pollock.

Ireland's allocation under the Common Fisheries Policy was worth €260m in 2019 but the minister says proposed cuts will mean a 13pc loss in the volume of fish in 2020 and a financial loss of €8.65m.

He said this could endanger the incomes or jobs of 123 full- and part-time workers.

But the Irish Wildlife Trust and BirdWatch Ireland said the minister's approach threatened the long-term recovery of stocks.

"He economically assessed the cost to the fishing industry of quota cuts, but what about an assessment of the cost of over-fishing?" said Fintan Kelly of Birdwatch Ireland.

The groups also dispute the minister's contention that only 13 of 74 fish stocks in Irish waters were over-fished while 35 were sustainably fished and 26 were of unknown status.

"The reason we don't know the status of these stocks is often because there are so few left of them, which speaks for itself," Mr Kelly said.

Mr Creed told an Oireachtas committee he accepted the need to take scientific advice "to enable responsible and appropriate management decisions to be taken".

But he added: "This however must be balanced with the concern that major cuts to total allowable catches (TAC) could have severe socio-economic effects."

He said he could accept the proposal not to fish herring next year, but he believed the proposed reduction in TAC for pollock was unnecessary.

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea has recommended no cod be fished in the Celtic Sea next year. The EU says 189 tonnes could be fished compared to 1,610 tonnes this year. A 40pc reduction for whiting is expected.

Mr Creed said he accepted a reduction was needed but added: "If the cod TAC in particular is set too low it will lead to closure of all our white fish fisheries, where it is an unavoidable by-catch."

Mr Kelly said over-fishing of commercial stocks left Atlantic salmon, plaice, angel shark, porbeagle shark, purple sea urchin, razor clams and puffins critically endangered.

"We want the minister to listen to the science. Assessments should take a whole ecosystem-based approach and not just focus on commercially-valuable stocks."

Irish Independent