NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill and Minister of State, Joe McHugh TD, jointly welcomed the decision by the Loughs Agency to re-open two of the six main oyster fishing beds in Lough Foyle which had been closed for the last number of weeks.
Minister O’Neill said: "Whilst I appreciate the importance of Management interventions to conserve and maintain oyster stocks, I am mindful of the impact that closure of the oyster beds has had on the livelihood of local oystermen particularly in the run-up to Christmas.
"Looking to the future, I am hopeful that there will be constructive engagement between the Agency and local fishermen on a range of issues that will safeguard the future of the Native Oyster Fishery on Lough Foyle."
Minister McHugh said: "The decision to partially re-open the beds from 15 to 19 December 2014 will create potential opportunity to catch up to an additional 25 tonnes (up to a value of €125,000). I believe that the Agency has achieved a good balance between economic opportunity for local fishermen with a dividend for the local communities and the conservation imperative."
He added: "I want to emphasise that sustainability and safeguarding this natural resource in Lough Foyle are the shared responsibilities of all stakeholders, including the licensed fishermen."
Ministers had jointly raised the issue of the closure of the oyster beds at the North South Ministerial Council Aquaculture and Marine Sectoral Meeting in Armagh last Friday when they asked the Agency to review its decision to close the main oyster beds.
The Ministers pointed out the need to strike a balance between the socio-economic benefits for the Foyle Oyster Fishermen and the scientific evidence to support the long term sustainability of the Native Oyster Fishery on Lough Foyle.
Both Ministers thanked the Chairman, Chief Executive and the Loughs Agency staff for efforts in reaching this decision.
TheFishSite News Desk