Lesser prawn catch quota cut agreed
Massive cuts to the prawn fishing quota for Northern Ireland have been avoided following marathon talks in Europe.
Fisheries Minister Michelle Gildernew expressed relief after the European Commission decided on a 3% reduction.
The Fisheries Council of ministers has been meeting in Brussels and talks ended in the early hours of this morning. Local fishermen have been pressing for restrictions on prawn and other seafood fishing to be eased.
Ms Gildernew said: "This was a very complex negotiation. I fully respect the need to have sustainable fisheries but I believe that within this approach there was scope for a lesser cut on nephrops (prawns)."
The commission had proposed a 17% cut in the quota, which was resisted by the minister. A 10% increase in herring was secured. There was a 25% cut in cod and a 10% reduction in haddock.
Some of the fish are discarded by fishermen already dead because they are netted accidentally or take vessels over their quotas.
Ms Gildernew added: "The scientific assessment of our whitefish stocks contains some concerns about their sustainability."
She said the industry has been working with her department and agencies to reduce discards. "We will want to ensure that these positive steps are taken account of in the review of the cod recovery plan which is to take place next year which will have a fundamental effect on all Irish Sea fisheries," she added.
British Fisheries minister Richard Benyon called for major reform of Europe's "broken" Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) after marathon talks on next year's catches produced "no clear winners". He emerged from two days of negotiations in Brussels, insisting: "I have been fighting hard to protect the livelihoods of our fishermen both now and in the long term but what we need is a new CFP so we can better manage our fish stocks and ensure the industry is sustainable."
Ministers bartering over the share-out of limited fish stocks were faced with European Commission recommendations for drastic cutbacks in the name of conservation. Overall across the UK beleaguered fleets which have faced years of belt-tightening on the basis of grim scientific evidence about dwindling stocks, faced average reductions across the board of 10%.