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Calls made to reverse over-fishing trends and ban trawling

European Fish Ministers are due to meet this week for the annual distribution of fishing quotas.

Image: Rechitan Sorin via Shutterstock

THE IRISH WILDLIFE Trust has urged Europe’s Fish Ministers to reverse decades of over-fishing, “stick to scientific advice” and ban trawling in the Irish Sea.

The calls come during this week’s annual distribution of fishing quotas in Brussels and as EU ministers vote against an automatic cut in fishing quotas.

IWT Campaigns Officer Pádraic Fogarty explained: “The Irish Sea is a seriously damaged ecosystem with no viable fishery remaining for oysters, salmon, herring, cod, sole or whiting and a number of species facing the threat of extinction including the (poorly named) common skate and angel shark.

“Our Minister for the Marine [Simon Coveney] must work for the people of Ireland and not just large fish producers in restoring the health of our seas. We therefore urge him to stick to the science in Brussels this week.”

According to the Marine Institute, 42 per cent of stocks were being fished at sustainable levels in 2012 – a welcome jump from 36 per cent last year. However, the IWT believe more “drastic action” is required if the trend of over-fishing is to end.

One of the major issues for the IWT is fishermen trawling for prawns. It claims the practice is “fundamentally incompatible with the goal of sustainable management”.

“Trawling destroys seabed habitats and catches huge numbers of other marine organisms (known as bycatch) including juvenile cod, whiting etc.

“Successive cod management plans have failed and we believe the only solution is to prohibit trawling in large areas of the Irish Sea. A trawling ban within 12 miles of shore would repair habitats, restore biodiversity, be a boon for coastal tourism (angling, diving) and ultimately provide more and bigger fish for fishermen.”

The IWT is among a number of environmental organisations in Brussels this week for discussions, which will continue at the Fisheries Council through today and Thursday.

Earlier this week, Minister Coveney warned that the determination of quotas would be difficult. The talks will be severely impacted by breakdowns in negotiations between the EU and Norway, he said. Norwegian waters will be closed to EU vessels from 1 January next year.

Coveney said the breakdowns affect the ability of the council to agree quotas for mackerel, blue whiting and atlanto scandic herring for 2013 and will also affect where Irish vessels and Norwegian vessels can fish next month.

In addition, Ireland is facing severe double digit cuts in almost 30 different fish stocks, which are vital to the Irish Fishing industry.

Yesterday, the Committee on Fisheries in the European Parliament voted in favour of overhauling the Common Fisheries Policy.

Ireland’s representative on the committee, Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher welcomed the move, calling it a “first but significant step”.

He said, “I welcome the decision by the Committee to recommend greater regionalisation and localised decision making especially for technical and conservation measures. The one size fits all policy has failed to support the sustainable management of our fishery resources in the past and a new approach to decision making is long overdue.”

The Committee also recommended the provision of special support for the small scale sector, which is common in areas such as Donegal.

MORE: Coveney warns of difficult negotiations on fishing quotas>

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