Pat the Cope Gallagher MEP (Ireland North West) has described the visit of a delegation from the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries to the North West and West “as extremely useful and beneficial in terms demonstrating to the committee the difficulties and challenges faced by the Irish fisheries and seafood sector.”
The high level delegation travelled to Ireland at the initiative of Pat the Cope Gallagher MEP and included Ulrike Rodust MEP from Germany and Rapporteur for the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and Struan Stevenson MEP from Scotland, Rapporteur for the regulation on the Common Organisation of the Market in fish and fishery products. The delegation visited Killybegs on Wednesday the 13th of February and then travelled to the Marine Institute in Galway on Thursday the 14th of February.
The delegation met with fishermen and processors from Killybegs and took the opportunity to visit a processing factory and to board a pelagic fishing vessel.
Pat the Cope stated “It was extremely important for the delegation to come to Killybegs, which is Ireland’s largest fishing port, accounting for 75% of all fish landings. The delegation saw at first hand the results of the reckless overfishing of mackerel in the North East Atlantic by Iceland and the Faroe Islands and the impact on the Irish pelagic sector. The committee is extremely frustrated with the European Commission due to its failure to introduce trade sanctions against these countries. The Parliament last September adopted my report which introduced new and very tough trade measures to prevent overfishing. However, the Commission have since failed to introduce these measures against Iceland and the Faroe Islands. We have requested that Commissioner Damanaki come to the committee on Tuesday when we return to Brussels to address this urgent and pressing issue. We will also be raising with the Commissioner the illegal practices by non Irish boats suspected of high grading mackerel on board and the lack of effective control measures, which is totally unacceptable.”
Also in Killybegs, the delegation met with inshore and island fishermen from Donegal. Pat the Cope stated “we discussed in detail with the inshore and island fishermen the need to protect and to sustain their unique way of life. We discussed the review of the Common Fisheries Policy and the importance of special recognition for small scale fishermen and we discussed the practical implications of my report on area VIa which will lift fishing restrictions off the North West coast”.
In Galway, the delegation met with the Marine Institute and discussed the important research and development work carried out by them and their research vessels the Celtic Explorer and Celtic Voyager. While in Galway, the delegation also met with Bord Iascaigh Mhara (the Irish Sea Fisheries Board), which has responsibility for developing the seafood sector in Ireland.
In the offices of the Marine Institute, the delegation held a meeting with industry including the Federation of Irish Fishermen (KFO, the IFPO and ISWFPO), the Irish Fishermen’s Organisation (IFO) and the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters Association (IFPEA).
Pat the Cope described the meeting “as a welcome and timely opportunity to discuss with the industry the review of the Common Fisheries Policy. The meeting allowed the delegation to outline the key recommendations contained in the European Parliament’s report adopted in Strasbourg on the 6th of February last.” Pat the Cope further stated “that the industry welcomed many aspects of the Parliament’s position including the adoption of my amendment on the Hague Preferences.” However, Pat the Cope noted that “substantial work is still needed on important issues such as discards and regionalisation.”
Pat the Cope confirmed to the industry that “the Parliament will enter into trialogue negotiations with European Fisheries Ministers at the beginning of March and it is hoped that negotiations will conclude before June under the Irish Presidency. It is extremely important that Minister Coveney plays his part to ensure that the Hague Preferences remain in the text following these vital negotiations.”
The delegation also discussed the promotion of the aquaculture sector with the IFA and Marine Harvest while in Killybegs and with BIM in Galway. Pat the Cope stated that “aquaculture was an integral part of the review of the Common Fisheries Policy and the Committee fully supported its development so long as new investments comply with the environmental standards in each Member State. The delegation discussed the deep sea project in Galway Bay with BIM and welcomed the proposed development provided it is done so in an environmentally sustainable manner.”
Pat the Cope concluded by thanking those who facilitated the delegation while in Ireland “I would like to thank Sean McGuinness and Killybegs Seafoods for providing a guided tour of their processing factory and I would also like to express my thanks to Martin Howley for allowing the delegation to board the Atlantic Challenge fishing vessel. I would also like to sincerely thank the KFO for the use of their offices to meet with the different delegations in Killybegs and I would also like to extend my gratitude to the Marine Institute for the use of their facilities while in Galway.”