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Ministers Smith and Killeen to press for fast and effective EU Commission response to the Impact of high oil prices on Ireland's Fishing Fleet

Meeting with EU Commissioner Borg scheduled for next week to discuss a new EU package of EU-funded measures

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mr Brendan Smith TD and Minister of State for Fisheries Mr Tony Killeen TD, today met the Federation of Irish Fishermen (FIF) to discuss the very difficult situation currently being experienced by the Irish industry.

Following a detailed discussion over nine hours which focused on both long-term and short-term issues of concern to the industry, Minister Smith confirmed that he and Minister of State Killeen would be meeting EU Commissioner Borg next Wednesday. At the meeting they would convey in the strongest terms the depth of feeling of Irish fishermen.

Minister Smith said that he would be asking the Commissioner to bring forward a new EU-funded package of measures to alleviate the immediate issues of concern to the Irish fishing industry.

The Ministers said that any new EU-funded short-term measures for the fishing fleet must be seen also in the context of a long-term restructuring of the Irish white fish fleet and they confirmed that initial offers for participation in a €42m decommissioning scheme would be made this month.

The Ministers said that the decommissioning was an integral part of the strategy for the future of the Irish seafood industry and said that the withdrawal of capacity would be of enormous benefit to those remaining in the Irish fleet.

Minister Smith said that following his meeting with Commissioner Borg, he and Minister of State Killeen would be attending a meeting of Fisheries Council at which they would continue to press for a package of measures which would address the difficulties being experienced by fishermen across the EU and particularly in Ireland.

Minister of State Killeen said that he would be impressing upon the Commissioner and his Fisheries Minister colleagues that in any package of EU aid, the priority that had to be attached to the Irish fish fleet.

In response to the current situation, the Ministers announced a number of new complementary national initiatives to assist the industry involving

  • A new Irish Seafood Market Initiative - to be set up under the Chairmanship of Mr Jason Whooley CEO of BIM to maximise opportunities in the Irish domestic seafood market for the Irish fishing fleet; and
  • A new Irish Fisheries Science Research Partnership - under the chairmanship of Dr Peter Heffernan CEO of the Marine Institute to enhance collaboration and mutual understanding on fisheries science priorities which are beneficial to the long term future of the Irish fishing industry.

The Ministers confirmed that BIM will shortly complete the assessment of applications made under the Exchequer-funded €42m decommissioning programme to remove a large number of older trawlers from the whitefish fleet in line with the Government's Cawley Seafood Development Strategy. The object of the decommissioning scheme is to remove part of the older fleet targeting the available quotas so as to ensure larger quota shares and better profitability for the newer more competitive trawler fleet.

Minister Smith said "This is a European issue and I believe that many of the issues must be dealt with in the European context. I will be pursuing the matter strongly at the Fisheries Council and I believe that an effective resolution to many of the issue can only be achieved in an EU context. I intend to press the Commission, with the support of my colleagues in the Council, to bring forward actions to address both the short-term and longer-term situations."

Ministers confirmed that Ireland will focus on two important conservation and trade protection priorities at EU level.

  • At the forthcoming Fisheries Council, the Ministers will press for the adoption of new EU Regulations to prevent the import of illegal, unregulated and unreported fish into the EU market which are undermining the markets for legally caught fish, and
  • The early adoption of new conservation measures to reduce discards and juvenile fish protection measures in the waters around Ireland.

Minister Killeen said that the initiatives at national level were aimed at helping to address some of the contributory factors. Minister Killeen pointed out that there was "a need to address the current mismatch between domestic demand and Irish landings and to strengthen industry and science partnership." He said that "we must work on all fronts both EU and national to strengthen the performance of the industry and secure its long term future." He emphasised "the importance and the Government's commitment to the Irish fisheries' sector which is a hugely important component of our overall food industry".

He went on to say that "there is an excellent opportunity during the French Presidency to deliver these critically important measures and I will work closely with industry to prioritise the adoption of new and effective measures over the coming months."

During the course of this lengthy meeting a wide-range of issues of concern to the fishing industry were discussed including de-commissioning, marketable discards, fisheries science marketing, control and conservation.

Minister Smith also confirmed that he would be pursuing the issue of the requested adjustment of the Celtic Sea cod TAC at his bilateral meeting with Commissioner Borg next Wednesday.

The Minister concluded by saying that he and Minister Smith would continue their engagement with the FIF and said that they would meet the Federation again prior to the next Council.

Date Released: 13 June 2008