The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine says agreement on a new EU Common Fisheries Policy is “a good news story for fishermen and for people who care about fish stocks and marine life”.
The agreement he says, will “virtually end” the controversial practice of discards, which saw European fishermen throwing up to 2 million tonnes of unwanted fish, often dead or dying, back into the sea every year.
New quotes will be based on “maximum sustainable yield”, which should sea fish stocks increase and quotas increase accordingly. Experts say this practice could mean an increase in EU fish stocks of up to 15 million tonnes by 2010.
In an interview with RTE this morning, Mr Coveney said the deal will “change the lives of millions of people”.
He stated: “It’s rare enough in political life to get an opportunity to be involved in something that is genuinely going to change the lives of millions of people across Europe and protect something as important as fish stocks in our seas.
“But the combination of the work of the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers over the last two years, has achieved a really positive result.
“In relation to discards, the fisherman will now have to show that he cannot avoid catching a by-catch, in other words, a species that he doesn’t have a quota to catch. Only when you can show that you cannot avoid catching that by-catch and only when you have used other flexibility tools that will actually cost you in terms of using up other quotas, will you be allowed to discard a maximum of 5%.
“This is a very small, practical measure, to allow for the practical realities of fishing on a trawler at sea, and that has been very carefully worked out. The parliament and all the environmentalists have agreed with this as well now.
“The immediate implication of this for fishermen is that, as they have an obligation to land everything they catch, they will see an increase in their quotas straight away. At the moment, they get a quota allocation on the basis of calculating in a certain percentage of discards. Those discards will now end, and so fishermen will see an increase in their quota which is positive news for them.
“But, of course, the main issue here is that we are going to build fish stocks significantly over the next ten years. And, as fish stocks grow, quotas will grow and the fishing industry can grow with it. So, this is a very positive approach towards the long term management of fish stocks.
“We are doing a lot of things but there are two key fundamental reforms.
“First of all we’re ending the discarding of fish, which was a fundamentally flawed by-product of the current Common Fisheries Policy for the last ten years. We’ve figured out a practical way to do that.
“And secondly, we are fishing to an agreed method of scientific calculation. In other words, we are now fishing to maximum sustainable yield, which means there is an agreed international and European calculation as to how much fish you can catch while at the same time protecting fish stocks. We have now agreed that will be the basis of calculating and allocating fish quotas in Ireland.”