Fisheries Minister Edwin Poots MLA wants NI fishermen to get their fair share of additional fishing quota secured by the UK from the EU.
The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has recently closed a consultation seeking views on how additional fishing quota secured from the EU might be distributed to England and the Devolved Administrations in future.
Speaking about the issue, Minister Poots said: “I have been concerned for some time about proposals by the UK Government to distribute any additional quota on a different basis than the established method, especially any method that would involve allocation in proportion to a devolved administration’s sea area, as that would disadvantage our local fishing industry. I wrote to the Defra Secretary of State, George Eustice in October last year, as soon as the consultation was launched, and raised serious issues about what was being proposed. Since then I met with UK Fisheries Minister Victoria Prentis, in November last year and January this year, and again urged Defra to recognise our concerns. I and my officials will continue to lobby on behalf of the industry for fairness.”
Describing the problem Mr Poots commented: “Our industry has invested heavily in fisheries both in the Irish Sea and around the UK, with vessels operating right round the UK coast. Whilst the bulk of quota will be allocated by the traditional Fixed Quota Allocation method, any additional quota secured from the EU above this, may be allocated differently. A methodology based on allocation by sea area adjacent to our immediate coastline would mean NI receiving a lower share of any additional quota in the Irish Sea and practically no share of additional quota outside the Irish Sea. For example, in 2018 the NI fishing fleet landed just over £58m of fish in total. Of that, £25m (43%) was landed into NI ports and £33m (57%) into EU and GB ports. I believe that each devolved nation should expect some Brexit dividend but any allocation method that means we are put at a competitive disadvantage is not acceptable.
“It is my strong view that that additional quota must first be allocated to ensure normal operation of the existing fleets in the Irish Sea and around the wider UK. My preference is to continue to use the existing Fixed Quota Allocation system as a basis for all UK quota allocation, however, we need to fully consider the proposals being developed to ensure that all administrations get a fair outcome. I don’t think this will be possible until the Coastal State negotiations, which will set the total quota available for many species, have concluded. I will continue to closely monitor both the negotiations and internal allocation discussions to ensure the best result possible for the Northern Ireland fishing industry.”