Dáil Éireann - Volume 470 - 30 October, 1996
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Fish Quotas.
Mr. M. Smith Mr. M. Smith
18. Mr. M. Smith asked the Minister for the Marine if he will bring to the attention of the EU Council of Ministers, when deciding on cuts in fish quotas, the fact that Irish fishermen have not contributed to the problems of overfishing and illegal fishing; and if he will ensure that the countries which have caused such problems bear the brunt of these problems. [19777/96]
Minister for the Marine (Mr. Barrett) Minister for the Marine (Mr. Barrett)
Minister for the Marine (Mr. Barrett): The annual negotiations on the setting of total allowable catches takes place at the Fisheries Council of Ministers each December on the basis of a proposal by the Commission based on scientific recommendations and assessments of the state of the stocks.
The detailed scientific advice in relation to fish quotas for 1996 is not yet available and  accordingly the Commission has not yet finalised its proposal. However, it can be anticipated that due to the state of a number of fish stocks the Commission will take a cautious approach in the total allowable catch which it proposes for those stocks for 1996.
The perilous state of many fish stocks has already provoked a proposal from the Commission to reduce the size of the European fishing fleet by up to 40 per cent under the next multi-annual guidance programme. This proposal was based on scientific advice from a committee of independent experts, the so called Lassen Committee, which indicated that many stocks in EU waters were seriously overfished. The Commission proposals for fleet cuts were discussed by the Fisheries Council, which I chaired on 14 October. The Council did not accept these proposals on the basis that they were too indiscriminate, did not really tackle the source of the problem and did not take due account of the impact of the cuts on fishing communities. I am now in the process of meeting Fisheries Ministers individually to see if a more soundly based, sensitive and balanced proposal can be constructed to address the underlying problem.
From a national perspective, I have repeatedly indicated that the Commission proposals were, from a variety of perspectives, unacceptable to me. The reductions in fishing effort which are necessary should be focused on the fleets or segments of fleets which are exerting undue effort on critical stocks. Improvements in control, and conservation must also have a role to play. Tackling illegal fishing and reducing the catching of juvenile fish are part of the answer and I have worked on proposals in both of these areas during the Irish Presidency. I will continue to pursue this more comprehensive approach to the management of fisheries in European waters in order to ensure that we avoid the scenario of fish stock collapses which we have seen in other fisheries in recent years.
Mr. M. Smith Mr. M. Smith
Mr. M. Smith: My main concern is to ensure that Irish fishermen are not on the shoreline unable to fish as they watch fishermen from other countries plunder Irish waters. I appreciate the challenge facing the Minister. The countries that have caused the problems should carry responsibility. Millions of tonnes of immature fish are being taken out of the water while Irish fishermen have scarcely been able to reach their quotas.
Will the Minister indicate the nature of the changed proposals? My information is that the proposals are being changed radically. Fishermen planning to operate their boats next year need to feel confidence for the future.
Mr. Barrett Mr. Barrett
Mr. Barrett: The Commission's proposals for cuts up to 40 per cent were rejected by Fisheries Ministers at the Council meeting in October. I have made the case to the Commissioner  responsible for fisheries that the cuts must be targeted on the fleet segments exerting undue effort on critical stocks. As president of the fisheries Council it is my role to seek a solution to the overall over-capacity problem. However, that does not compromise my duty as Minister for the Marine to seek the best possible deal for Ireland.
This problem is being approached from a number of aspects, particularly conservation control and the protection of juvenile fish. We are trying to include those elements in the package. In the discussions with individual member states we will try to find a compromise acceptable to the Commission. If not, we will have to go back to the drawing board.
Mr. McGinley Mr. McGinley
Mr. McGinley: Does the Minister agree that the Commission's proposal to have the Irish fishing fleet reduced by 40 per cent would have a disastrous effect on our fishing industry and on many small communities in the west? Will the Minister assure the House he will oppose this proposal?
Mr. Barrett Mr. Barrett
Mr. Barrett: I agree that a 40 per cent cut in the Irish fishing fleet would decimate the industry and for that reason I rejected the proposals at the outset. We were to the fore in ensuring these proposals were not accepted at the Council meeting in October. We must, however, face the problem of pressure on certain stocks. I have pointed out that Ireland did not cause the problem of pressure on stocks and we should not be subject to the same level of cuts as others.
Dáil Éireann 470 Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. Fish Quotas.