Following a public consultation process, which received 26 submissions, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed announced his decision on the fleet capacity review, reports Pauric Gallagher.

The policy review relates to separate proposals from the Irish South & West Fish Producers Organisation (ISWFPO) that related to amending replacement capacity rules for fishing vessels. The review also covered a proposal from the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) for the ending of a fishing effort regime for the RSW pelagic segment.

Following full consideration of the submissions made, and the issues arising, the minister’s amended policy is as follows:

1. Replacement capacity requirements for vessels in the tiered and ring-fenced portions of the polyvalent segment

1.1 Vessels in the tiered (mackerel) and ring-fenced (herring) portions of the polyvalent segment may source up to a maximum of 10% of the required replacement capacity from non-tiered/non-ring-fenced vessels in the same sub-segment at a ratio of 1.5:1.

1.2 This non-tiered/non-ring-fenced capacity does not assume the character of being tiered/ring-fenced for subsequent licensing of a vessel.

1.3 In the case of polyvalent vessels tiered for mackerel, the 1.5:1 ratio applies to both gross tonnage (GT) and kilowatts (kW).

1.4 In the case of polyvalent vessels which are not tiered for mackerel and which are only ring-fenced in the Celtic Sea and/or north west herring polyvalent portions, the 1.5:1 ratio applies to GT only. In such cases, the required kW will continue to be sourced at a ratio of 1:1.

1.5 The surplus non-tiered/non-ring-fenced capacity provided under this arrangement will be regarded as being decommissioned and will no longer be available for use as replacement capacity under any circumstance.

2. RSW pelagic effort regime
The RSW pelagic effort regime, as set out in Part B of Policy Directive 2/2003, will no longer apply.

3. Reasons for policy changes
3.1 The minister has decided that polyvalent vessels to be licensed in the tiered (mackerel) and/or ring-fenced (herring) portions will be able to source up to a maximum of 10% of the required replacement capacity from non-tiered/non-ring-fenced vessels in the same sub-segment of the fleet at a ratio of 1.5:1.

The application of a ratio will help to ensure that any increases in capacity are necessary, sustainable, and managed in a manner consistent with the need to ensure that Ireland continues to meet its obligations with respect to its fleet capacity ceiling at EU level.

Furthermore, there is a limited amount of off-register capacity available in the tiered (mackerel) or ring-fenced (herring) portions of the polyvalent segment. By allowing some flexibility like this in the provision of tiered (mackerel) and ring-fenced (herring) polyvalent capacity, operators seeking to increase the capacity of their vessels for technical/safety reasons will have the opportunity to do so and will still be able to retain their eligibility to fish for herring and/or mackerel.

3.2 The EU Fleet management programme, which established the RSW Pelagic effort regime, has been superseded by the Common Fisheries Policy, which focuses on output limits, such as TACs and quotas, rather than effort regimes as a means of sustainably managing fish stocks. For this reason, and the apparent lack of compatibility of the effort regime with the current activities of the RSW pelagic segment, the minister has decided to discontinue the RSW pelagic effort regime.

After the announcement of Minister Creed’s decision, Francis O’Donnell CEO of the IFPO told Fishing News: “I welcome the flexibility provided by Minister Creed to modernise within the polyvalent pelagic ring-fenced fleet. Some of the vessels are wooden, for example, and need to be replaced with modern and safe sea-going vessels.

“I suppose we were hoping that all fleet segments could avail of capacity flexibility such as the RSW and general whitefish sector and, in particular, those with 6a and 7a track record. In any event, we hope that this helps vessels to modernise while not increasing the price of fishing capacity, excluding new entrants, or those already engaged in the whitefish fleet, as they will need access to fishing capacity like everyone else to modernise and replace.
It may be worth asking Minister Creed to consider this in the future as part of a new review. The IFPO may consider this.”

He added, “It does worry me that the same organisation that pushed for a mackerel and capacity review is now asking for a horse mackerel review for six of its vessels only having now secured the 10% flexibility. Equally, the 2% set aside by Minister Creed of mackerel for whitefish swaps is a step in the right direction. How anyone could reject this makes no sense.

“I find this very unfair, as all whitefish vessels had access to 5% of pelagic stocks in the past. It’s inconceivable that a certain cohort of vessels would now try to get more horse mackerel for themselves and exclude the polyvalent vessels that were excluded in 2005, something the IFPO never agreed with.

“Waking up and smelling the coffee comes to mind. It’s past time people faced up to reality. It’s a grab for a few that will hurt many.”

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