The Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation have recently been in contact with Minister McConalogue to request that he urgently address the recent closure of the line caught mackerel fishery as this year’s small quota allocation has been caught. Line caught mackerel quota is currently 400 tonnes per annum, or 0.7%, out of a total of 58,539 tonnes (2021) of Ireland’s Total Allowable Catch for mackerel. This amount of quota for the 1,176 under 12 meter small scale fleet (SSF) polyvalent boats on the Irish fleet register is inequitable and is nowhere near enough to provide a high quality product for islands and coastal communities, where tourism is reliant on the availability of locally caught mackerel during peak tourist season.
Issues of access to the fishery resource have been highlighted many times by IIMRO in the past; during the Island Fisheries Heritage bill process and the previous mackerel quota consultation in 2017. The use of track record as a management tool rewards those who impact the stocks most, is not an environmentally sustainable metric to use and is not in line with current climate policies. Quota is a national public resource managed by the Minister and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the current fishery quota arrangements are not a fair distribution of a public resource. This has resulted in the Irish small scale fleet being over reliant on non-quota species due to inadequate access to the fisheries resource over many years. At the same time 1,583 tonnes of Irish mackerel quota was swapped to other EU member states by Ireland in 2020.
“IIMRO and it’s members are very unhappy at the sudden closure of the hook and line mackerel fishing. We feel that more quota must be made available for this fishery and also a better management system put in place to ensure all those wishing to enter the fishery have quota to fish.” says Jerry Early, Chairperson, IIMRO
Short fishery supply chains with high value, low volume species are vitally important for island and coastal communities and it is imperative that we spread the economic benefits of access to our renewable fishery resources across the country as per Article 17 of the Common Fisheries Policy. There has been much talk of burden sharing in relation to fisheries in recent times and it is long past time to allocate quota resources under Ireland’s control in a fair and equitable manner.
Article 17 of The Common Fisheries Policy: Criteria for the allocation of fishing opportunities by Member States. When allocating the fishing opportunities available to them, as referred to in Article 16, Member States shall use transparent and objective criteria including those of an environmental, social and economic nature. The criteria to be used may include, inter alia, the impact of fishing on the environment, the history of compliance, the contribution to the local economy and historic catch levels. Within the fishing opportunities allocated to them, Member States shall endeavour to provide incentives to fishing vessels deploying selective fishing gear or using fishing techniques with reduced environmental impact, such as reduced energy consumption or habitat damage.“