Fishing quota outcomes welcomed
The outcome of marathon talks on next year's EU fishing quotas has been welcomed by Stormont's fisheries minister.
There was both good and bad news for Northern Ireland's fishermen after the negotiations with the European Commission in Brussels.
While there was no cut in the amount of prawns landed, boats will have to catch 9% fewer herring and 25% fewer cod.
But minister Michelle O'Neill said she was pleased with the overall outcome. "I came to Brussels with the objective of maintaining the quota levels for our prawn fleet - that has been achieved and the Commission was convinced by our arguments which were supported by strong science that clearly demonstrated that the stock is in excellent health and the current management arrangements were effective," she said.
"The Commission had proposed a 19% cut because it had concerns about a small component of the stock in the Celtic Sea. But given the scientific evidence these concerns were unfounded and a quota cut was clearly not justified.
"On other stocks the Commission backtracked on its policy to impose 25% cuts for stocks that it regarded as 'data poor'. This policy was roundly criticised by many countries and the Commission forced to revise its proposals taking account of the available data.
"One of the stocks in this so called 'data poor' category was Irish Sea herring. The Commission's proposal for a cut was contrary to the independent scientific advice which confirms that the stock is in very good condition. Regrettably, this TAC (total allowable catch) was cut by 9% and my aim was for a rollover or better. But this stock will undergo an in-depth review in February and I expect that this will further strengthen our negotiating position in future.
"Prior to Council I secured an important agreement with the local industry to use more selective gears. This will mean that the fleet will be exempt from the controls on the time they can spend fishing under the Cod Recovery Plan. It is absolutely crucial that our fleet has the time at sea that it needs to catch its prawn quota - it is also vital that more is done to help cod stocks recover.
"The Commission welcomed this development and there is no doubt that this strengthened our negotiating position. It also meant that the Commission was able to revise its proposal for Irish Sea cod where no cod could be caught, to a 25% cut in the current quota which is in line with the Cod Plan."