18 December 2019
Speaking from Strasbourg following the conclusion of the EU’s December Fisheries Council Diane Dodds MEP said:
“This will be the last year that the UK fishing industry will be subject to the command and control approach from Brussels. As we leave the EU the UK will become an independent coastal state, responsible for the management and control of our own waters. We must aim to have an environmentally sustainable industry but there is also the opportunity to allow our own industry a fairer share of the fishing quota.
Clearly the decisions made by Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers from 28 EU member States at this council meeting does not bode well for Ulster’s fishing industry in 2020. Quota cuts across the board will present significant difficulties for the fishing fleet. Significant cuts over the past two years in the nephrop quota, which is Northern Ireland’s most valuable catch, will be difficult to manage.
It is heartening to know that most fish stocks in the Irish Sea are managed at sustainable levels, as measured by the principle of Maximum Sustainable Yield. However this is of little comfort to County Down’s fishermen since the cut in the nephrop quota seems to have been driven by the situation with that stock outside the Irish Sea, primarily within Irish waters in the Celtic Sea.
Of course the Republic of Ireland continued to invoke the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy Hague Preference mechanism, which every year since 1990 has stolen fishing opportunities from County Down’s fishing industry and awarded them to fishermen from the Republic. It is precisely because of this kind of injustice levelled upon Northern Ireland’s fishermen that’s they chose to Vote Leave in the Brexit referendum.
As we look towards the UK leaving the EU and becoming an independent coastal state we can take some comfort that this kind of inequality will end.
MPs at Westminster need to be mindful that the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement does not compromise the fishing industry in Northern Ireland by lumbering it with additional bureaucracy that is only meant for Third County exports.”