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Dermot Ahern Says Finalisation of draft EU Regulation will result in Review and Amendment of Ireland's Fleet Policy

Dublin, Monday, 11 August 2003

Dermot Ahern, T.D., Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources has announced that Ireland will need to review, and amend significantly, national fleet policy in light of the proposed Regulation on EU fleet policy put forward by the EU Commission.

At a meeting in Brussels last month, the EU Management Committee for Fisheries and Aquaculture took a vote on the draft Regulation but the result (44 yes, 43 no) meant that there was no qualified majority for or against it. It is understood that Commissioner Fischler is now consulting with the College of Commissioners with a view to agreeing the bringing into force of the proposed Regulation. Any review must await the finalisation by the EU Commission of the legal position of the draft Regulation.

The EU Commission announced in March its intention to introduce new management arrangements for EU fishing fleets which, in their original form, would have had serious impacts on Ireland's fleet management regime. During intensive negotiations with the EU since March significant adjustments in the proposal to take account of Ireland's position were negotiated.

Minister Ahern said,"Ireland voted in favour of the final text of the Regulation on the basis that a compromise reached and commitments given which addressed Irelands concerns to a significant extent and represented a good outcome, taking all issues into account."

The industry representatives have been kept fully briefed both during the negotiations and on the details of the draft Regulation which was voted on by the EU Management Committee.

Spain was the main opponent of the proposal and voted against the final text on the basis that the compromise reached would not allow it to grow its fleet above current levels to any significant extent. It was seeking the scope to grow its fleet by over 20%. If Ireland had voted against the Regulation the likleihood is that some Member States would have been able to increase their fleet sizes greatly.

Minister Ahern added, It will be necessary to review and amend national fleet policy once the Commissions final position on the adoption of the Regulation has been stated. This review will, of course, take account of the new rules and will be carried out in the context of the overriding long standing legal requirement to live within EU fleet capacity limits. It is envisaged that proposals for a new national policy will be brought forward and put before the Sea-Fishing Boat Licensing Policy Review Group as soon as possible, probably in the early autumn.

Pending the outcome of the new EU policy and the national review, the licensing authority within the Department has stated that it does not consider that it is appropriate to make decisions in relation to current licensing applications. Minister Ahern said, "I would like to assure fishermen that every effort will be made to introduce a new licensing policy as a matter of urgency in order to minimise any delays in the granting of licenses. We will act as quickly as possible after the EU position has been finalised and will work closely with the fishing industry representatives in this regard."