Enright Supports NI Fishermen Over Prawn Prices

“The prawn fishery in the Irish Sea is managed on a sustainable basis, and is one of the biggest in the world. But good practice here has not been rewarded by rising prices, leading to lack of gross returns on the fish market, a drop in investment and lower net incomes for the crews. [caption id="attachment_22330" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Down District Green Party Councillor Cadogan Enright with Ardglass crewmen from the Snowdonia, Ryan Crawford and Rico from the Philipines."][/caption] “Currently, prawn fishermen are quietly content as they are getting paid over £4 per kilo for their catches. By early February 2011 prices rose from a low in the winter for whole prawns and for prawn tails. These prawn prices are a key indicator about the general prosperity of Ardglass as this is the main economic driver in the fishing village. “But local fishermen have shown me their dockets dating back to 1997 when they were getting a bit over £23 per stone – which works out at £3.70 per kilo. A 30p rise in prawn prices over 10 years is ridiculous. “Costs have risen massively since 1997 to the point now where they must weigh up the cost of a litre of diesel against the value of catching a kilo of prawns. “I have therefore asked Green EU Parliament colleagues in Brussels to do a bit of research. They found that the real wholesale prices in Ireland are clearly less now than they were 10 years ago. “Given that fish stocks worldwide have fallen to a critical level – prices should have been rising for the last ten years for both fish and prawns. The extra premium for UK fresh prawns is due to the logistical advantage of Scotland being able to deliver next day to the Boulogne transport hub in France five days a week. Ireland is both further away and there are issues about scale having to try and fill a 20 ton container.” Mr Enright also explained that Fisheries policy is fixed each year at the Brussels fisheries summit  at the European Union level, and the Green Party is the largest single party in the EU parliament with 55 MEP’s. By comparison Northern Ireland as a whole has just three MEP’s for the whole province. In the past he said, Greens have sought to limit unfair competition in food supply from non-EU sources such as Brazilian beef where hormone use is uncontrolled and where traceability rules openly  flouted. Likewise chicken imports from countries like Vietnam have undercut local suppliers using lower standards for hygiene, traceability and additives. He added, “Clearly the answer to the problem of stagnant prices must lie in fishermen’s organisations being able to control supply into the market, and for the effect of (often environmentally damaging) tropical prawn production to be limited by EU action to protect the long-term sustainability of fisheries worldwide. Even if it made economic sense for fishermen to work longer, spend more and try and catch more for the same return which our fishermen have been doing – this makes no sense from a sustainability point of view. “The EU seeks sustainability as part of its core policy and there is a serious contradiction here in what there are delivering. Politicians in the North, in the RoI and UK must combine with concerned MEPs at EU level to ensure that primary producers, ie the fishermen, benefit from the market, and that supply is managed for the long-term benefit of those working in the fishing industry. “I have therefore written to the Fisheries Minister, calling on her to: *  To implement the new decommissioning scheme immediatley. By last October the NI Fleet had virtually arrived at their prawn quota for the year, and could have been forced to stop fishing. We need a new decommissioning scheme to allow the remaining ships to be able to fish all the way up to December. *  To create  an All-Island marketing and logistics strategy to try and achieve the same prices as the Scottish market *  To check that there are no market competition issues disadvantaging local fishermens prices. (Minster Gildernew may have to liaise with DETI on this) “Also, if elected, I will ensure that all of our three MEP’s are more fully engaged with the fishing industry in their representation in Brussels over their next term. Our fishermen deserve a better deal. The fishing industry is one of County Down’s important indigenous industries and is a key part of the County Down coastal economy, and as such deserves our support,”  added Councillor Enright. ]]>