Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Marine & Fisheries and Leas Cheann Comhairle Pat the Cope Gallagher has given a guarded welcome to the 2019 fishing quotas agreed overnight in Brussels by EU fishing ministers.

The EU fisheries agreement for 2019 brings mixed results with increases which are to be welcomed, but cuts, which will greatly hurt our coastal communities around the shorelines of our country.

Pat the Cope commented, “The overall increase of 30% in whitefish quota, including Rockall haddock (+92%), and monkfish (25 %) in the North West will provide improved fishing opportunities for whitefish fishermen, especially those in Donegal.

“However, cuts to blue whiting (-20%) and mackerel (- 20%) will cost the Irish fleet considerably over the coming year. Any cut to the total allowable catch will hurt our coastal communities and the onshore jobs in the sector which solely depend on the annual catches for income.

“The cut in the mackerel quota alone will cost the marine sector another €20m in 2019 alone – this comes on top of €48m of cuts to the mackerel quota over the past three years.

“The Irish marine sector faces uncertain times with no emerging deal between the EU and the UK government, and in the absence of a Brexit deal the Irish fishing sector could face a scenario whereby it will be unable to access Scottish and UK waters.

“Yesterday, the UK government advanced its preparations for no deal Brexit, including extra provision for fisheries and plans to exclude EU vessels from its territorial waters. This should raise alarm bells in Government Buildings and in Brussels.

“Brexit is just 100 days away.  We cannot wait for a last minute plan to emerge from our government for fishing. We must step up our preparations and prepare comprehensive contingency plans which will protect our fisheries and marine sector from whatever outcome emerges”.