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Donegal TD Joe McHugh has said he backs Donegal fishermen in their call for a review into the industry to be scrapped.
McHugh last night confirmed that he had protested strongly to Government colleague and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, on a review of mackerel catches.
The Diaspora Minister says he wanted to acknowledge comments made earlier yesterday by the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation.
“I want to make my view absolutely clear. I have told Minister Creed and the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation that a review of catches at the same time as Brexit negotiations is very unfortunate,” the Donegal Deputy told the Donegal Democrat.
“I met with the Irish Fish Producers Organisaton and the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation and the review is causing unnecessary anxiety at a time when we need to focus on the potential pitfalls of Brexit on our fishing industry.
“Donegal’s mackerel catch is hugely important to our economy, not just for the fishermen concerned but also for the fish processing businesses onshore.
“Fishermen and processors have invested heavily in their businesses and any threat to them is most unwelcome.”
“I want to assure all those involved in the fishing industry that I stand by them in their stance and will continue to work on their behalf. I have made this view clear to Minister Creed and I have raised my concerns with the Taoiseach.
He went on: “The future viability of the pelagic sector is at stake and not just at a primary producer level. There could be potential knock on effects for Irish processors and the ancillary engineering sector.
“I am not convinced that a redistribution of Quota from the RSW sector to the polyvalent will have the intended impact of benefitting ports outside of Killybegs.
“In fact my evidence points to the fact that more landings will happen in Scotland. And while appreciating that this is a consultation period, I am conscious that if there are quota reductions in the future this will leave the viability of an industry which has invested heavily over the years in a very precarious position.
“Furthermore, I believe that now is the time for the industry to stand united on the eve of Brexit negotiations and I don't think this current discussion will be helpful.
“I have had numerous contact and representations on this issue and I believe in the sincerity and validity of the arguments. Management at a number of processors have talked about the issue surrounding seasonal workers. Others have talked about the affect on investor confidence.”
The premise of the debate is not healthy as it is based on two geographical parts being pitched against each other, said McHugh.
He went on: “However, the reality is that while the Mackerel RSW fleet is based in Killybegs the boat owners are not all from Killybegs. Additionally, this is not about redistributing mackerel quota from the 23 RSW sector to the 1400 member polyvalent sector. From the information available to me there are only 27 polyvalent boats who are seeking extra quota.