Letter to Minister Coveney 2013

12th February 2013

Minister Simon Coveney T.D.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Agriculture House, Kildare Street, Dublin 2

Dear Minister Coveney,

I refer to my letter of 19th October 2012 regarding the Common Fisheries Policy Review.  At this stage of the proceedings it would appear that within our Irish representatives there is no appetite to pursue a just share of the stocks in our waters.  This is unacceptable to us and this attitude is cause for major concern in an already disgruntled industry.  With Ireland holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union there has never been a better time to take on the issue of “stock share out”.

The latest development in the debate on discards resulting in a blanket ban on discards will not solve the mess that is the Common Fisheries Policy, a policy that is totally unfit for purpose as far as Ireland is concerned.  (Refer to the attached document titled Discards 2012 Fishing Quotas).  Looking ahead, if you as Minister and your advisors believe that this outcome is going to be a solution, we believe you are off the mark and we feel the only satisfactory outcome for fishermen is that we get a greater share of fish stocks.  The fact that the decision reached in Brussels on 6th February was a step in the right direction does not in any way increase Irish fishermen’s chances of reaching parity or bringing us in any way close to being in line with our counterparts in neighbouring countries.

Take the latest nonsensical answer to the discard debate.  Let’s paint a picture of what this might look like before “no discards” will be introduced so that we will not be heading blindfolded into a tsunami!

“No discards” should at least be given a trial period.  As there is at present no infrastructure to collect and store these unwanted fish or to process them, the following is what it might look like …

Fishermen will land fish that has no prospect of sale.  Firstly every landing place around the Irish Coast will need to have facilities available by way of providing containers which will have to be different from the usual ones.  Vessels will have to take on an extra supply of ice and when they land it would be necessary to have people at each landing place to handle the worthless catch brought ashore on any given day.  If it is intended that fishermen should give their labour freely to box and ice their worthless catch at sea and land it ashore for no reward, we could not in all honesty see cooperation coming on that score.  The very least that fishermen should expect is to be paid for their time and effort as a vessel could have crew on deck day and night dealing with the wasteful discards of unwanted fish.  What is done with the discards having been landed should no longer be an issue for the crew.

What of landings of catches of above quota pelagic fish?  The shore facilities would need to be even more extensive than already described.

What of the foreign vessels fishing in our waters and landing in our ports?  And what of those fishing in Irish waters and returning to their own home ports unchecked?  Will they be subjected to the same rigorous requirements?

Irish fishermen alone cannot be saddled with this madness otherwise the whole exercise is totally futile!

On the crucial subject of quotas, despite what we have been told by people in the industry that “the commission has no intention of discussing the distribution of stocks at this time”.  We have received the following statement from Commissioner Damanaki in our communications with her on the issue of stock distribution and Ireland’s unfair share.

{… This being said, the validity of the relative stability principle is not, as far as the Commission is concerned, unquestionable nor untouchable. A serious reflection on what can be done to ensure that the CFP works better in future includes reviewing this principle, along with many other aspects of the Policy.  The CFP comes up for review and reform in 2012 and the Commission is already reflecting on these issues and embarking on a large consultation process on the way to reform”.}

As you can see the statement is in stark contrast and contradicts what we have been told by our own people in the industry.

Yours sincerely,
Donal O’Driscoll     Tom Hassett

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