Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Reallocation of unused fishing quota to Ireland could create 2,500 jobs

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As many as 2,500 jobs could be created if the EU reallocated other member states’ unused fishing quota to Ireland, newly released figures show.

Previously unpublished but official data on EU quotas show that in 2021 alone, around 43,000 tonnes worth an estimated €177m went uncaught by other member states.

Industry representatives say figures would be higher if all 20 or so species of fish subject to quotas fished in all catching zones in EU waters were taken into consideration.

Instead, the figures shown to the Irish Examiner feature only six species from seven of the catching zones.

The extra €177m from 2021 alone would have led to the Irish fishing industry, which has an annual sea-caught fish catch worth around €330m, growing by more than 50%.

If the 43,000 tonnes had been reallocated to Ireland’s fishing fleet, this could have created more than 1,500 jobs directly in fisheries, which currently employs around 2,700 people.

Industry representatives say an estimated 1,000 more jobs would have also been created in fish processing industries, adding to the estimated 3,400 already employed there.

The share allocation of stocks between EU member states was established as a principle of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in 1983.

However, last week, fisheries commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius announced it is to be reevaluated in light of, among other things, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement. 

The 2021 trade deal between the EU and the UK was only signed after the Irish Government and the EU agreed on a 25% cut to Ireland’s fish quota, which Irish fishing industry figures claim was done without their input.

South and West Fish Producers Organisation CEO Patrick Murphy said: “When the EU did that deal, it gave the UK back €47m worth of fish because the fish were in UK waters. We in turn lost more than 25% of our fish quotas, and our access to fish in our own waters was reduced even further.

“The burden of Brexit should have been shared more equally among all member states, but it wasn’t.

It is time now for commissioner Sinkevičius to right the wrongs against Ireland as far as quotas are concerned.”

South and East Fish Producers Organisation CEO John Lynch said: “Access to unused quota is just one of the many areas where we could achieve a better deal for Ireland.

“To do this, both industry and the Government must work as one to ensure the EU’s CFP review delivers for Ireland.”

Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association general secretary Brendan Byrne said: “Letting Irish fishermen catch uncaught quota would help a dying industry survive. The processing industry suffered a 45% decline last year and that decline is getting worse.”

A Department of Agriculture spokesperson said any change to quotas would in effect need the support of member states representing at least 65% of the total EU population.

“Any change [to how quotas are assigned] would involve a loss for some other member states.”

The spokesperson added that Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue has consistently highlighted the need for a comprehensive analysis of the impacts of Brexit and has welcomed Mr Sinkevičius’s decision to review the CFP.

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