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Fishermen implore urgent access to mackerel fishery

KFO calls on Minister to prioritise Council quota outcome

The Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to distribute the additional mackerel quota negotiated at the December Fisheries Council as a matter of urgency. The KFO was highly appreciative of the efforts made by Minister McConalogue and the Department in securing this extra quota. However, three months into 2024, the pelagic vessel owners who lost up to 25 per cent off their bottom line following from the quota transfers of mackerel to the UK under Brexit, have still not seen the benefits of this additional quota.

This extra quota came about following agreement on sharing arrangements for mackerel in Norwegian waters after two years of a dispute between Denmark and Ireland. Under the agreement, Ireland received an additional mackerel quota of 2,495 tonnes for 2023 and 1,769 tonnes for 2024 which can be fished in the western area off Ireland and the UK. It was welcomed at the time as a small victory in reversing the savage quota cuts experienced by the Irish pelagic fleet under Brexit. However, the reluctance to allocate and thereby activate this quota during the early months of the year when mackerel swim close to Ireland and prices are at their highest has effectively turned this into an “own goal”. Other countries which also benefitted from this agreement have already fished their additional quota, while Ireland’s allocation remains uncaught.

Dominic Rihan, CEO of the KFO commented: “There are compelling reasons why we believe this additional mackerel quota should be immediately assigned to the pelagic vessel owners in line with the agreed Ministerial Policy. If this mackerel is allocated later in the year, vessels will have no choice than to travel to the fishing grounds around Shetland and further north incurring high operational costs in terms of fuel to catch what at that stage would be a small volume of mackerel”.

The KFO urges the Minister to issue the relevant authorisations allowing this mackerel to be caught by the pelagic fleet. This additional allocation for many KFO members is the difference between them returning a profit or not, in 2024.