Fishermen resist 61% mackerel cut

By Joe Dermody

An imminent resolution is expected between countries discussing scientific advice to reduce mackerel fishing in the north-east Atlantic by 61% in 2019. Representatives of 11 EU and non-EU fishing countries gathered at the National Seafood Centre in Clonakilty, Co Cork, for three days of talks on total allowable catch levels for the €1bn mackerel industry.

The total allowable catch advice has been provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, a group which features scientists from each of the 11 countries, and whose role is to propose sustainable fishing guidance based upon their analysis of fish stocks.

“Whatever the outcome, I can tell you now we won’t be happy with it because of the questionable scientific advice. We have already had two flawed pieces of advice on mackerel stocks last year from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, one with a human inputting error and one with a modelling problem, one positive and one negative,” said Sean O’Donoghue, CEO of Killybegs Fishermen’s Association.

“We also had major issues with their advice on Atlanto-Scando herring, in which the stocking levels had to be increased by 53% after the scientific advice was examined. There are ongoing problems with the electronic tagging of mackerel. I am very confident there will be a major review of this advice.”

Delegates from Ireland, the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands are gathering in Clonakilty. The debate follows two unresolved meetings in London. Officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, supported by scientists from the Marine Institute, are also present.

“There are concerns from the scientific community about the quality of that advice but we need to take full account of all of the available information, the sustainability of the stock and the socio-economic importance of the mackerel fishery to peripheral coastal communities.

“These negotiations will be very difficult. The proposed 61% cut in the mackerel quota for 2019 would be very significant for our fishing industry along the western seaboard, particularly in Donegal, Galway, Kerry and Cork,” said Marine Minister Michael Creed

“Ireland is committed to the long-term sustainability of this stock and has worked hard to date to get a more graduated response to the scientific advice, taking account of the fact that this will be subject to a full review and quality assurance early in early 2019.”

Mackerel is concentrated in the waters of the North Eastern Atlantic and is a highly migratory stock, which necessitates negotiations between the fishing countries on how best to manage the shared resource in a sustainable manner.The mackerel fishery is Ireland’s largest fishery and supports a large fleet in Donegal and along the western seaboard. The fishery also supports factories for onshore processing in Donegal, Galway, Kerry and Cork.

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