To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his priorities in relation to the reform of the common fisheries policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Noel Harrington.
The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food: (Simon Coveney)
The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is the fisheries policy of the European Union which was first put in place in 1983 and has been subject to reviews every 10 years, the most recent was in 2002 and the next is formally scheduled for 2012.
The European Commission published a Green Paper on the latest reform of the CFP in April 2009 in order to launch a consultation with Member States and stakeholders and to initiate a broad public debate on the future CFP reform. An extensive nationwide public consultation process was conducted under the Chairmanship of Dr Noel Cawley. These consultations with all stakeholders contributed to Ireland’s Response to the Commissions Green Paper which was submitted to the Commission early in 2010.
I have examined this submission and have met and discussed the priorities for the Reform with fishing industry representatives. It is my intention to continue the consultation process with industry representatives and other stakeholders over the coming months with a view to maintaining a strong, coherent and unified Irish position.
The reforms I am seeking reflect a pragmatic approach involving changes that collectively take account of economic, social, environmental and sustainability factors.
The new CFP will be the overarching framework for fisheries in Europe with many key features of interest to Ireland, key among them are:-
Retention of the Hague Preferences;
New focus on addressing discarding of fish at sea with a complete ban being introduced for stocks in a depleted state;
The retention of a management system based on national quotas supported by increased flexibility and a rejection of the mandatory privatisation of fish quotas or the introduction of international trading of fish quotas;
In particular, I will be pursuing initiatives that will deliver and sustain jobs in coastal communities rather than those that promote the concentration of wealth and delivery of excessive profits for a few big international businesses. I support a system which maintains strong economic links between national quotas and the traditional fishing communities which these quotas were allocated to assist. I have no doubt that if mandatory ITQs are put in place, our quotas for both whitefish and pelagic will be purchased by large European fishing conglomerates, with no socio or economic links to our ports, and landed elsewhere, with the resultant loss of jobs and economic activity around our coast. This will be a key area for Ireland in the ongoing discussions on the CFP.
A major priority for Ireland in the Reform is the retention of the Hague Preferences, agreed by Heads of State in 1976 by way of the Hague Resolution, under which Ireland receives additional shares of quotas for the whitefish stocks around our coast. There was been strong pressure from certain Member States that these should be abolished in the Reform. I want to make it clear that any interference that results in Ireland losing the current benefits of the Hague Preferences within the reformed CFP will be totally unacceptable to me. The Hague Preferences were the payment made for Ireland granting access to our waters to other Member States and a recognition of the high costs involved for the State in the control of these rich fishing grounds and they must be maintained in the new CFP.
Commissioner Damanaki herself has placed discarding of fish high on her agenda for the CFP reform. Personally I consider that this wasteful practice can not be justified and am determined that appropriate measures will be identified and introduced, in consultation with industry, as part of a reformed CFP.
As part of what will be my ongoing strategy to push Irelands priorities on the reform of the CFP and garner support for our stance, I met my Spanish Ministerial colleague Ms Rosa Aguilar on the 21st of March 2011 and I also met Commissioner Damanaki on the 14th April. On the 3rd of May I took the opportunity to brief Irish Commissioner Ms Marie Geoghegan Quinn on the CFP review and I can assure the deputy that I will continue my efforts to seek alliances with similar minded Member States and promote Irelands case in the run up to the introduction of the new CFP scheduled for the end of 2012.