Northern Ireland’s herring catch climbs back to 2011 levels

By Natalia Real
August 9, 2012

Northern Ireland Fisheries Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA announced this week that a deal had been struck with the European Commission (EC) for an in-year increase to the catch of Irish Sea herring.

“I was disappointed and frustrated that the final settlement at the December Council last year had resulted in a 10 per cent cut for Irish Sea herring in 2012,” O’Neill stated.

“This came about because the Commission implemented a policy to cut catches for those fish stocks which did not have a full analytical assessment. But the decision to cut the herring catch ran contrary to the independent scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES),” she continued.

According to O’Neill, ICES undertook an in-depth review of the science for herring last February and evidence gathered by Irish scientists in the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) enabled ICES to develop a full analytical stock assessment, which has been used to formulate recommendations for next year’s catches.

Northern Ireland therefore has asked the Commission to consider the position for 2012, which is 5,280 tonnes for herring right now and 4,993 tonnes for 2013 — an increase in fishing opportunities of 440 tonnes over the two-year period.

This reverses a decision to reduce the quota by 10 per cent made in December and has been warmly welcomed by officials and the local industry.

“Having a full stock assessment for Irish Sea herring is very important,” O’Neill highlighted. “This paves the way for the development of a long-term management plan which will determine catch levels in the future. It also opens up the possibility of independent accreditation of the fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), which will assist local processors to market their product.”

O’Neill assured that her department and the AFBI will be working closely with the industry on these further developments.

Spokesperson for Anglo North Irish Fish Producers Organisation Alan McCulla celebrated O’Neill’s news.

“Thanks to the efforts of fisheries scientists in the AFBI in Belfast, we have for the first time in many years an agreed scientific assessment for this stock. More importantly, this assessment shows the herring population in the Irish Sea continuing to increase, with the stock estimated to be at its highest level in over 20 years,” he said, Belfast Telegraph reports.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) has announced that licences for the Mourne Herring Fishery will be available from 1 September. The Mourne herring quota for British registered fishing vessels in 2012 has been set at 32.6 tonnes.

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