Ritchie argues for protection of fishing industry
SDLP South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has said her Westminster debate on the fishing industry is crucial ahead of EU negotiations and the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.
“It is critical that the needs of fishermen in my own constituency and across Northern Ireland are heard by the UK government ahead of the annual fisheries negotiations and the reform of the CFP.
“I was delighted to secure this debate and it is clear the issues that need to be addressed to help the local fishing industry which has faced challenging times recently.
“The industry in the North of Ireland is showing signs of resurgence and renewal and it is critical that further cuts are not introduced to the Nephrop fleet, the most vital to the industry in Northern Ireland.
She continued, “It must be acknowledged that the fleet has made many technical upgrades to the gear used to cut down on by-catch, particularly of cod. However the resulting loss of earning from the by-catch mean any further quota reduction would be even more damaging to the fleet which is the most important to our local industry.
“It supports jobs not just in fishing but in the associated onshore process. On the long term plan for cod the EU Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) has acknowledged that the current plan is not working and that stakeholder and industry engagement is essential if a long term solution is to be found.
“Lasting reform will require a sustainable mixed fisheries plan but that is some way off and in the interim a poorly thought out cod plan will damage both stock levels and the local industry. As well as the annual quota considerations there are vital issues related to the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy that must be considered.
Ritchie added, “A central element here will be real and meaningful regionalisation. The Regional Advisory Councils must be invested with real power and have an extended remit. What is the point of giving them a voice if nobody is listening and they do not have the power to enact their recommendations and advice.
“It is only through real reform here that we will see a Common Fisheries policy that is sensitive to local concerns, local fishermen and the local marine environment.
“The fishing industry is at the heart of our regional economy and part of our future economic growth. Indeed for many the fishing industry is not just a job but a way of life and it is one that we must protect for the good of our economy and our community.”
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