NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - Fisheries Minister Michelle O’Neill met with DEFRA Fisheries Minister, George Eustice MP and representatives of the fishing industry in Belfast to discuss their negotiating priorities for the forthcoming European Council of Ministers meetings which will set limits on fishing opportunities for 2015.
Speaking afterwards, Minister O’Neill said: "I was glad to be able to welcome Defra Minister, George Eustice and representatives of the fishing industry. This is the second time this annual event has happened in the north of Ireland. The negotiations are a joint effort between Fisheries Ministers and this meeting gives us an opportunity to listen to the industry views and factor these into our priorities for Council.
"The Commission’s initial proposals for some Irish Sea stocks were published yesterday and we will be studying these closely. I’m disappointed that the Commission has proposed a cut in the Irish Sea Haddock quota of 20 per cent because of the lack of a full stock assessment. I think a case can be made to minimise a cut. The haddock fishery provides a useful alternative for a few vessels and helps to take the pressure off the prawn stock. All fishing trips are scientifically observed and the vessels have been able to target haddock this year with cod by-catch less than 1.5 per cent. I also want to see the Commission to set aside a scientific quota for Irish Sea cod so that Member States can continue to carry out a meaningful assessment of the state of the stock."
The Minister added: "Nephrops (prawns) will be my number one priority as is always the case for a Fisheries Minister from the north of Ireland which reflects the critical importance of this stock to the local fleet. Unfortunately the Nephrops scientific advice is not expected to be published until Friday 31 October 2014 and it may be some weeks before we get the Commission’s proposal for a Total Allowable Catch for 2015. I will be pressing hard for the best deal for our industry. I will resist strongly any proposals to diminish fishing opportunities in the Irish Sea where these are not justified on scientific grounds."
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