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Minister Cowen meets with Fisheries Commissioner Sinkevicius

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Barry Cowen T.D, met in the Department offices in Tullamore, by video link, with Fisheries Commissioner Virginius Sinkevicius for the first time since his recent appointment. The Minister discussed a number of upcoming issues around fisheries with the primary focus on the ongoing negotiations with the UK on a possible future fisheries agreement.

Minister Cowen and the Commissioner discussed the importance of the agreed EU negotiation mandate that sets down clearly the EU objective to “uphold existing reciprocal access conditions, quota shares and traditional activity of the Union fleet”.

The Minister and the Commissioner also discussed the centrality of the link between the overall economic partnership and the conclusion of a fishing agreement. Minister Cowen said, “This was a very useful first discussion with Commissioner Sinkevicius and it was important to be able to talk first hand with the Commissioner about Irelands concerns in relation to the potential negative impacts for our fishing communities in Ireland if we do not put in place a fair and balanced Fisheries Agreement with the UK.”

The Minister went on to say that, “I reiterated this Government’s full support for the EU negotiating mandate and my confidence that the Commissioner and Michel Barnier will continue to be strong defenders of Irish and EU fishing interests. It is clear to me that the negotiations on a fisheries agreement can only be successfully considered in the overall context of the wider EU/UK future relationship agreement and leveraging this will be vital in protecting our coastal communities”.

Minister Cowen and Commissioner Sinkevicius also discussed a number of other non-Brexit related fisheries issues. The Commissioner raised a number of fisheries control issues and concerns that he has in relation to fisheries control in Ireland. The Minister reiterated the new Government’s commitment in the Programme for Government to work to eliminate illegal fishing and promoting a culture of compliance by all EU vessels operating in Ireland’s 200 miles zone. Minister Cowen also stressed Ireland’s continued commitment to promoting sustainability in setting quotas and fishing methods.

The Minister and the Commissioner also discussed the future European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund.

Following repeated calls by the Aquaculutre sector the Minister finally met with the IFA President and priorities for Irish Aquaculture were part of the discussion.

High Level of Compliance with Fish Health Controls in Ireland

The Marine Institute's fish health inspection and monitoring activities in 2018 and 2019 indicate that there is a high level of compliance with EU and national legislation, and as a result, Ireland continues to maintain its high health status for aquatic animals.

As the Competent Authority, the Marine Institute is legally responsible for implementing EU and national regulation relating to aquatic animal health in Ireland. In this role, the Marine Institute aims to ensure that the existing high health status of aquatic animals in Ireland is maintained.

A new report published by the Marine Institute's Fish Health Unit (FHU) outlines the activities of the FHU in 2018 and 2019 and highlights that there was a high level of compliance with regulatory fish health requirements. A total of 384 health surveillance inspections of aquaculture production businesses were undertaken during this period, and 98% of the 384 sites inspected had no compliance issues or compliance issues that were categorised as minor.

Bill Doré, Manager of the Marine Institute's Fish Health Unit said, "As the Competent Authority in Ireland, the Marine Institute makes an important contribution to preventing and controlling aquatic animal diseases. By working closely with other state agencies to implement aquatic animal health regulations, Ireland is able to maintain its high health status for aquatic animals."

All Aquaculture Production Businesses in Ireland, such as finfish farms, shellfish farms, and put and take fisheries, must obtain a Fish Health Authorisation from the Marine Institute. To receive a Fish Health Authorisation, Aquaculture Production Businesses submit a Fish Health Management Plan for approval. This plan addresses how aquatic animal health will be maintained, and how diseases are controlled, as well as the mandatory conditions for record keeping and reporting to the Competent Authority.

The Marine Institute's Fish Health Unit, working with colleagues in the Department of Agriculture, food and the Marine veterinary services conducts regular health surveillance of fish and shellfish farms in Ireland, and is responsible for regulating the movement of aquatic animals within Ireland and during import or export to and from the state. In the 2018 and 2019 reporting period, over 3,000 movements of aquatic animals were approved.

The Fish Health Unit also hosts the National Reference Laboratories for finfish, mollusc and crustacean health for Ireland. The laboratories undertake testing and applied research to support fish health activities in Ireland. During the reporting period, the laboratories analysed over 1,500 shellfish and 5,000 fish for diagnostic, statutory and research purposes.