Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will consider allowing an increase in the quota allocated to smaller vessels less than 20m in the Sentinel Celtic Sea Herring Fishery in the weeks prior to Christmas; if he is satisfied the 2011-12 review resulted in an equitable distribution of Celtic Sea Herring quota in view of the influx of vessels into the country’s only open-access pelagic fishery in the past two seasons; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Reply from Minister Simon Coveney: The Celtic Sea herring fishery is a small boat, under 18m, herring fishery operating in a specific herring spawning area off the South East Coast known as the Dunmore Box. Following two devastating collapses of the Celtic Sea Herring Fishery, the recovery plan identified the special area known as the “Dunmore Box” as an important area for herring reproduction. The Sentinel fishery was established in order to have a small fishery which would act as a sentinel or indicator of the state of the overall herring stock in the area.
In 2011, I asked the fishing industry and other interested parties to make proposals on the future management arrangements for all Irish herring fisheries, the Celtic Sea stock, the stocks off the North West coast and the Atlanto Scandian stock. The objective of the review was to deliver a policy which would ensure an economically and biologically sustainable fishery. I received over 20 sets of proposals and comments in relation to herring stocks management. It was very clear from these documents that there was no agreement within the industry as to how the future herring fishing opportunities should be managed. I asked my Department to examine the proposals received and to prepare for me a number of options, which as far as practically possible, took the views of stakeholders into account while delivering proper and effective management.
On 22 December 2011, I published a draft policy document on the matter which I believe met the objectives to the greatest extent possible. I consulted and met industry regarding the draft policy and again there was no consensus.
Having considered all views and having regard to the sustainability of the fisheries, I came to a decision which I believe provides for the proper and effective management and conservation and rational exploitation of the herring stocks. The review increased the proportion of the overall proportion of fish which could be caught in the sentinel fishery from 8% to 11%. The outcome of the rebuilding plan has meant that the overall Celtic Sea herring quota has increased from a low of 6,000 tonnes in 2009 to a possible quota of over 19,000t for 2014. In real terms this means that between the review and rebuilding plan there will be an increase in quota for the Sentinel fishery from 480t in 2009 to a possible 2090t in 2014.
The decisions I made during the review were based on a clear, detailed and objective assessment of the fisheries in recent years and is intended to ensure the long term sustainability of the herring fisheries, which I believe it is delivering and I do not intend to revisit this policy.
Dáil Éireann allocates a certain amount of time on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during which Deputies may ask questions of Members of the Government relating to Public Affairs connected with their Departments, or on matters of administration for whch they are officially responsible. The Taoiseach answers questions on his own Department on Tuesdays/Wednesdays.