Dáil Éireann - Volume 326 - 05 February, 1981

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Mackerel Stocks.

13. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Fisheries and Forestry the estimated total stocks of mackerel within our 200 mile fishing zone; the maximum permissible catch recommended annually; the quotas allocated to each country fishing for this species in our waters in 1980; and the estimated catch taken by each country.

Mr. Power: Fish statistics are not available in relation to the 200 mile zone but rather are based on ICES — the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea — statistical zones which are internationally accepted statistical areas. The 200 mile zone forms only a portion of ICES zones VI and VII in which there is no constantly resident mackerel stock. However, the western mackerel stock [1199] which is found in ICES zones VI, VII and VIII was estimated at 1.8 million tonnes by ICES in 1980. The total allowable catch fixed for this stock by the EEC Council for 1980, on the basis of ICES advice, was 350,000 tonnes of which 307,000 tonnes represented the share available to the Community.

There was no agreement at EEC Council level on quotas for 1980. There are no figures available as yet on the estimated mackerel catch taken by other countries in ICES zones VI and VII during 1980.

Mr. Deasy: Will the Minister agree that this represents a very serious situation? We had no agreement on what should be taken in 1980. According to Irish fishermen an enormous amount of mackerel was taken from that area and they are very concerned that the stock is endangered because of over-fishing. Does the Minister feel that there should be agreement and that there should be precise quotas?

Mr. Power: An effort was made to arrive at agreement and it went on through 1980 into December. We had almost reached agreement on quotas for 1980 which would have had a certain sticking power for the coming year as well. Our quota for mackerel was something in the region of 45,000 tonnes. It was regretted that other matters such as access and structural matters were linked in with the quotas and agreement on the final package was not reached. With regard to the Deputy's worry as to the stocks being endangered, fishing off the west coast would not endanger them half as much as fishing in the spawning grounds off Cornwall and elsewhere. While the information available to me is not complete it does not indicate that stock is in danger.

Mr. Deasy: That is contrary to the view of the Irish fishing industry. Are quotas in the course of being fixed for 1981?

Mr. Power: No, nothing has been done since about quotas for 1981.

[1200] Mr. Deasy: Will the Minister not agree that it is very important that this would be done as soon as possible?

Mr. Power: All the member countries feel that the whole package is important.

Mr. Deasy: What third countries are fishing in the waters concerned?

Mr. Power: The third countries that I have here are Poland, Spain and the Faroe Islands.

An Ceann Comhairle: A final supplementary from Deputy White.

Mr. Deasy: Does the Minister know what they took in 1980?

Mr. Power: I do.

Mr. Deasy: Will the Minister tell me?

Mr. Power: I will have it sent to the Deputy.

Mr. White: Has the Minister any record of the catches that other Community boats took in 1980 and of catches of other third countries in these waters?

Mr. Power: Yes, in 1980 we caught approximately 38,350 tonnes of mackerel, in 1979 we caught 24,217 tonnes. A very good feature is that the amount that had to be withdrawn was reduced by half from 7,600 tonnes to something in the region of 4,000 tonnes.