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Fishing Industry Challenges Overfishing Reports

The Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation and the Irish South and West Fish Producers have contradicted allegations made by the UK ‘think tank,’ the New Economics Foundation which claimed that it had analysed catches fish catches for a 20-year period and that Ireland was amongst five nations which was one of the ‘top five EU States’ which, it alleged, were overfishing.

The Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation (IS&WFPO) has questioned how the report by the London-based environmental and economics group, the new Economics Foundation (NEF), could make this decision and place Ireland in an overfishing league when Ireland has a low share overall of quotas in European waters.

Also contradicting the NEF claim, the European Commission says fish is now being caught at “sustainable levels.”

The European Commission’s Maritime Directorate, DG Mare, said that while 70 per cent of stocks in the North-East Atlantic were “overfished” in 2003, there have been “significant improvements over the past 20 years.” These have led to a forecast this year that 99 per cent of all fish landed is at “sustainable levels,” the EU Directorate stated.

The British-based organisation, which is reliant on environmental, financial and economic trusts and public contributions for support, claimed that its analysis of catches over 20 years had found that most “excess tonnage” of fish had been caught by Britain, Denmark and Spain – at 1.78 million tonnes, 1.48m. tonnes and 1.04m. tonnes respectively. It also then claimed that Spain, Ireland, Portugal, the Netherlands and Germany had gained the highest percentage of quotas “above scientifically-advised levels for sustainable limits” over a 20-year period.

The Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation has questioned the methodology of the report, while the Irish South and West challenged its use of scientific recommendations. These resulted in reaching inaccurate conclusions, the Irish South West Castletownbere-based Organisation sad. “The Irish fleet doesn't have access to whitefish quotas in other EU waters beyond Britain and is largely confined to the Celtic Sea/Atlantic/Irish Sea,” it said, adding that “landings of French, Spanish and German-registered vessels into Castletownbere, Co Cork have increased by 25-30 per cent per annum over the past five years.”

The NEF has been accused of not comparing like with like.

There has also been strong criticism of Irish national media reports which quoted the Foundation’s claims without seeking comment from the fishing industry.

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