Poots welcomes major step in the UK becoming an independent coastal state.
Fisheries Minister Edwin Poots MLA has welcomed the introduction of legislation that puts in place the process by which NI fishermen should benefit from future fishing opportunities.
The Fisheries Act 2020, which provides the UK with a framework to operate as an independent coastal state, achieved Royal Assent on 23rd November 2020.
This is a key piece of legislation that will enable common approaches to be taken to fisheries management across the UK through the setting of high-level fisheries objectives – many of which will focus on the environment and on sustainability – and the development of a Joint Fisheries Statement and fisheries management plans.
Minister Poots said: “This Act is further evidence that the UK is leaving the grip of the Common Fisheries Policy and forging ahead with its own plans and policies as an independent coastal state.
“This is an important milestone for the fishing industry in Northern Ireland, but it is only the first step. We will work closely with the other UK fisheries authorities – and, importantly, with the widest range of key stakeholders – to develop a Joint Fisheries Statement and fisheries management plans.
“I am determined not only that our fishing industry should secure greater fishing opportunities having left the Common Fisheries Policy – and rightly so – but that we also remember the UK’s shared vision of having clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas. These are not mutually exclusive in any way.
“I am encouraged by the common ground that exists, and look forward to continuing this work with everyone who has an interest in ensuring that we have a sustainable marine environment for many years to come.
“This Act provides a firm foundation for achieving that goal.”
NIFPO Chief Welcomes Minister’s Statement.
Harry Wick, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Fish Producers Organisation, said: “We welcome Minister Poots’ statement. The industry is trying to move forward in difficult times.
“As we head towards a new regime in fisheries’ management in a post-Brexit world after 1st January 2021, we have to go through a process at UK level in establishing the TAC (Total Allowable Catch) levels for the different species based on scientific advice.
“From this point we hope to get an extension of the TAC especially in prawns, but this then will have to be divided up between the four UK administrations, then in Northern Ireland divided again. It is a complex process but all is still to be played for and we are hopeful.
“The management of the marine environment around the UK and certainly in the Irish Sea will change. We believe that there should be sensible policies in place to support our fishing industry alongside other interests such as wind farms at sea and marine conservation zones (MCZs) so we are sharing and optimising the marine real estate.”
In discussing the current position of local fisheries, Harry Wick said: “The prawn (nephrop) market is quite depressed at the moment as demand is low for product. To date the two support packages provided by Minister Poots have seen us through the worst of this winter, a time of hardship often for the fishermen.
“We are looking forward with some optimism. Eventually the hospitality industry will re-open and restaurants will again pick up. Exports to Europe and abroad are quite low at the moment due to travel restrictions under Covid-19 etc so tourism is almost non-existent. But eventually that will change especially once the vaccine is available. There is some light at the end of the tunnel.
“The crab sector has been heavily affected too by the Covid-19 epidemic wiping markets. But this sector has seen a rapid growth in recent years with a number of new vessels and the supply chain being somewhat challenged.
“Also, the Chinese market has slowed significantly as they have changed their testing levels regarding cadmium which shows in the brown meat mostly.
“There was a growth in the industry two years ago and new legislation too has tightened up the fishery, but it is stable at the moment.
“The pelagic mackerel and herring fisheries will continue as normal and should not be significantly affected by any change in regimes.
“We are going through a process of great change and there will be opportunities for our local fishermen. We are now just in that difficult place where fishing policy after the exit from the EU is getting sorted out,” said Harry Wick.