Dáil Éireann - Volume 588 - 29 June, 2004

Written Answers. - Fishing Fleet Modernisation.

  20. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the way in which the development of selective fishing gears is advanced which might qualify for the proposed new European support mechanism for environmentally friendly fishing methods; the examples of fishing gear which his Department would propose for inclusion in any such programme; the way in which they could be introduced; and the benefits that might be expected from their use. [19314/04]

  Mr. D. Ahern:With a particular perspective on the large quantities of fish that are caught each year and discarded by EU fishing vessels, and the catching of over-fished stocks as an unwanted by-catch, the Irish Presidency identified the need to promote and encourage fishermen to move towards more environmentally friendly fishing, including the use of more selective fishing gears. The principal benefit [429] expected to flow from the development and use of such gear would be a significant reduction in such discards, which are estimated to amount to some 20 million tonnes of fish worldwide per annum.

Ireland’s initiative was endorsed by all member states and the Commission at last week’s Fisheries Council. The agreed conclusions set out a number of specific work assignments over the next two to three years in particular. There is also provision for a more long-term commitment in the context of new community funding arrangements post-2007.

Now that the EU has prioritised this matter, the immediate task for my Department is to undertake, in association with BIM, the Marine Institute, the fishing industry and other interested parties, the necessary planning and organisation of a national programme.

The focus of Ireland’s programme will be on those fisheries of particular interest to Irish fishermen and also bearing in mind the over-riding requirement to assist recovery of key whitefish stock particularly. The development of this programme, which I hope can be significantly progressed within a few months, will be informed by work already under way in BIM on, for example, by-catch reduction measures in the Irish sea prawn fishery. This is a good example of the type of initiative that can be taken. I believe that we can in the coming months develop a range of other projects. The timeframe for use of any modified gears will be determined by the duration and outcome of what are likely to be multi-annual studies.