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Minister Coveney defends Ireland's mackerel interests at today's EU Fisheries Council

At the request of Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, the issue of overfishing of mackerel by Iceland and the Faroe Islands became a major point at today's EU Fisheries Council.

The EU Commission has been engaging with Iceland on the possible resumption of mackerel management negotiations. These talks aim at agreeing shares of the total allowable mackerel catch between the EU, Norway, the Faroe Islands and Iceland. Minister Coveney insisted that the Commission should only agree a resolution to this issue which would not be damaging to Ireland's mackerel interests. It is imperative that the Commission take greater account of Ireland's dependence on mackerel fishing.

Traditionally Iceland has had no dependency on this stock and has not been part of a joint management and sharing arrangement but in 2011 landed some 23% of the recommended allowable catch. International scientific evidence suggests that there is now a very significantly reduced abundance of mackerel in the Icelandic zone so that the levels of mackerel share being demanded cannot be supported by any biological or zonal arguments.

At the meeting of EU Ministers for Agriculture and Fisheries, Minister Coveney, while welcoming the continuing efforts being made to bring about a balanced solution, stated that "any scenario which would reward the unsustainable and opportunistic mackerel fishing by Iceland should not be supported". Mackerel has traditionally been Ireland's most important fishery, worth in the region of 120 million euro annually. Minister Coveney noted that "mackerel is the financial driver of our pelagic catching and processing industries. We have worked at EU level and with Norway to build up and sustainably manage this stock. I cannot justify a situation where Iceland and the Faroes could each end up with a disproportionate share of the mackerel stock, unjustified by scientific evidence or historic catches". The Minister went on to say that "a deal with Iceland alone will not save the stocks but could result in the permanent loss of EU jobs and economic activity in remote coastal areas and it is for those reasons that I am urging the Commission to agree a solution which will prevent this happening".

On a separate point, Minister Coveney made it clear to the Council that he would not support the commission's proposal to set quotas for the first time for sea bass, unless this took full account of the fact that Ireland has prohibited commercial sea bass fishing for almost two decades.

Note for Editors:

Ireland, where mackerel fishing has been the mainstay of the fishing industry since the 1970s, currently has a total allowable catch of 68,000tt per annum. Iceland, which has not been a traditional fisher of mackerel, only commencing in 2008, is now catching some 150,000tt annually.

Date Released: 16 July 2012