Northern Ireland

EU fisheries meeting 'positive'

fishing boat
Image caption The meeting to discuss fishing levels across Europe lasted until 04:00 GMT on Saturday

The fishing quota of prawns for Northern Irish fishermen has been maintained, despite fears it could face a cut of 19%.

The minister responsible for fisheries, Michelle O'Neill, said she had achieved a positive outcome for Northern Ireland following meetings in Brussels.

However, there will be a 25% cut to the quota of cod that is allowed to be caught in the Irish Sea.

Ms O'Neill said this was better that a proposal that no cod could be caught.

Before the meeting of the European Fisheries Commission , the minister had secured an agreement with the local fishing industry which meant the fleet would be exempt from the controls on the time they could spend fishing under the Cod Recovery Plan.

"It is absolutely crucial that our fleet has the time at sea that it needs to catch its prawn quota - it is also vital that more is done to help cod stocks recover," said Ms O'Neill.

"The Commission welcomed this development and there is no doubt that this strengthened our negotiating position."

"I'm pleased with the outcome," said Ms O'Neill.

Ministers from across Europe met up at the annual EU negotiations, which ended at 04:00 GMT on Saturday.

"I came to Brussels with the objective of maintaining the quota levels for our prawn fleet.

"That has been achieved and the Commission was convinced by our arguments which were supported by strong science that clearly demonstrated that the stock is in excellent health and the current management arrangements were effective."

The Irish Sea's herring catch has also been cut.

The Commission's original proposal had been to impose a cut of 25%, but this reduction fell to 9% following scientific advice that showed the stock was in very good condition.

Alan McCulla, chief executive of the Anglo-North Irish Fish Producers Organisation, said it was not all good news.

"Twenty five percent reduction in cod, 25% reduction in days at sea is practically going to wipe those four boats out," he said.

"And it was very disappointing news for herring and totally unjustified. That's something, along with the cod we will have to come back to the department with in the new year."

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