Prawn limit to rise after Brussels deal

Published Thursday, 20 December 2012
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An increase of six per cent to the prawn catch limit has been agreed after a deal was struck in Brussels following late night talks.

Prawn limit to rise after Brussels deal
Fresh prawns on display at a fishmonger's. (© Getty)

The rise, which adds around £900,000 to the fishing sector, was confirmed in the early hours of Thursday morning after the annual Brussels Fisheries Council.

Fisheries Minister Michelle O'Neill says it's a great result for the local fishing fleet.

"We achieved our main negotiating objectives in the tough negotiations that took place over two days. The first breakthrough came on Tuesday when Ministers agreed to a Regulation to amend the Cod recovery plan," the Sinn Féin minister said.

"These amendments ensured that the Council were able to stop automatic cuts to the number of days the fleet can fish and instead maintained 'days at sea' at the same level as last year."

Fishing fleets currently take around 6'000tonnes of Nephrops (prawns) from the northern part of the Irish Sea, which is worth around £15m annually.

Ms O'Neill explained that the development means "a sustainable supply to our local fish processing businesses which have sales in excess of £70m and employ over 550 workers."

Meanwhile, the catch limits of other fish stocks in the Irish Sea have fallen.

Haddock fell by 62 tonnes, cod by 95 tonnes, whiting by five tonnes while plaice remained unchanged.

The minister admitted her top priority was to get a good deal for prawns, on which 95% of the fleet depend.

"Despite improvements in the scientific advice since last year which showed a greater abundance of prawns in Area 7 the Commission had initially proposed a 12% cut.

"I and my counterpart from the south of Ireland, Simon Coveney TD pressed the Commission for an increase.

"Our arguments were rational and firmly grounded on scientific evidence. As is the nature of these negotiations the Commission made several small concessions but we held fast and the final agreement was for a 6% increase."

Diane Dodds DUP MEP has welcomed the prawn catch rise, while acknowledging further disappointment with a cut in the cod quota for the Irish Sea.

" I have been arguing for a long time that Ulster's fishermen are leading by example when it come to sustainable fisheries, so I am heartened that the DARD team were able to secure a satisfactory outcome for our local fishermen, as well as the wider industry," she said.

"No doubt there will be new challenges in 2013, but with the exception of cod at last there are some encouraging signs that common sense is beginning to creep into fisheries policy."

SDLP South Down MP Margaret Ritchie said the decision to introduce a cut to the Irish Sea cod quota casts a large shadow over the more positive announcements.

"EU officials needs to re-engage with the scientific evidence that suggests cod stocks are much higher than stated in official estimates. It is only by doing so that they can provide the robust data necessary to create a sustainable future for cod fishing," she said.

© UTV News
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