Annual consultation by Minister Coveney with industry and environmental groups reveals catastrophic deterioration in fish stocks.
The Environmental Pillar wishes to highlight the serious deterioration of Ireland’s fish stocks which has prompted recommendations by scientists to drastically reduce the numbers of fish caught next year.
The Environmental Pillar, which represents 28 national environmental groups, is calling on Minister Coveney to do everything in this power to uphold scientific advice for the benefit of the marine environment and the fishermen working in coastal communities.
Familiar species like cod, plaice and haddock all require a dramatic reduction in landings in 2015 in order to slow the decline of their populations.
The reductions in the Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for many well-known species in 2015 are being proposed in an effort to restore sustainability to the fisheries of the North East Atlantic.
Dr Edward Fahy, convenor of the Marine Group of the Environmental Pillar, commented that despite repeated promises of reform by the Commission and Irish ministers for fisheries, there is no sign of a respite from continuing destruction of this national resource.
“Prior to the December consultation by the Council of Ministers which will agree Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for 2015, Minister Simon Coveney, in consultation with industry and other interests, has embarked on the annual negotiation whose progress follows a pre-determined path,” said Dr Fahy.
“The Commission in Brussels has presented its list of recommended TACs which is the product of scientific investigations by member states. The data which have so far been provided to environmental NGOs by the Marine Institute (figures are not yet available for all stocks) show a reduction in Ireland’s quotas by half of the previous year’s total, a clear indication of the perilous state of our marine fisheries.
“The usual course of events following the release of these figures is now in train. The Producers’ Organisations (representing 11% of the fleet by number – and consisting of the largest vessels) make representations to the Minister demanding greater landings and he, in turn, will argue for an increase at the Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels later this month.”
Since Minister Coveney came into office he has done this successfully. In 2012 the final decision on exploitable fish stocks, to which he contributed, exceeded the recommended sustainable levels of exploitation by 11%, in 2013 by 29% and this year by 35%.
Dr. Fahy said: “The fishing industry whose biggest boats are best placed to take advantage of larger quotas because of their higher engine power and greater fishing capacity, rates the Minister’s success on the extent to which he exceeds scientific advice. This advice, incidentally, is costly to obtain: in Ireland’s case, the Fisheries Science Services Division of the Marine Institute cost €4.1 m to operate in 2010.
“This behaviour, repeated annually since quotas were introduced in the 1980s, has reduced Ireland’s fish stocks to very low levels which are destined to decline further. In 2013 Ireland landed 30% less fish than permitted by the enlarged quotas for that year, according to the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority which is tasked with collecting the figures.”
The volume and value of Ireland’s marine fish landings in 2013 were, respectively, 242,000 tonnes, worth €233 m. Comparable figures (values adjusted for inflation) were obtained in the mid-1980s. Landings peaked at the turn of the century and have tumbled in volume and value by approximately half since then, an unmistakable sign of stock depletion.
He continued: “Of particular concern to environmentalists at the moment is the declining strength of boarfish numbers, a relatively recently exploited species processed to manufacture fish meal. In 2013, Ireland only managed to land approximately 60% of its quota of this species. Boarfish landings are the justification for a new factory, to be constructed for the extraction of fish products, due to be sited in Killybegs. It is anticipated that boarfish populations will decline further.”