Monday, August 29, 2005

CAP Watch

The Financial Times reports that the CAP reform will be closely scrutinized in Northern Ireland: "Farming is vital to its economy, accounting for 6-8 per cent of the economic activity compared with about 1 per cent for England and Wales. In spite of the changes in land use and the growing mechanisation of most processes, the sector is still a big employer, with 15,000 full- time farmers or 80,000 when those in the food processing industries are included." In the meantime, DUP MEP Jim Allister complains on the EU Commission plan to restrict the fishing of wild eels which, he argues, would hardly hist fishermen from Lough Neagh and the River Bann. More here

Here is the full communique from Jim Allister:

Brussels, having brought ruination to much of our sea fishing industry in Northern Ireland, is now turning its attention to the eel fishing industry, in which Northern Ireland occupies a key niche position.

The Commission has proposals to introduce a management plan for eels involving a stock recovery scheme which could involve severe restrictions on eel fishing rights. The Commission is considering a fishing ban in certain areas, minimum landing sizes and closed seasons. The proposals were debated today in the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament. I took the opportunity to stress the importance of our well-managed eel fishery based on Lough Neagh, both to the economy of that part of Northern Ireland (with 200 livelihoods involved) and to Europe as a whole to whom we export much of our catch.

Lough Neagh and the Lower River Bann supports the largest remaining commercial wild eel fishery in Europe. It produces 25% of the total recorded EU wild catch. I stressed the dangers to our self-regulated industry of a typical "one size fits all" Brussels approach, by pointing out that under the management of the Lough Neagh Fishermen's Cooperative Society there are already in place adequate conservation measures, including enforced daily quotas for each boat, a licensing system and escape routes at Kilrea and Toome weirs whereby at least 40% of the migrating mature silver eels escape out to sea for spawning. Thus, I argued to the Committee that, whatever the needs elsewhere for restriction, within Northern Ireland there is no justification for such draconian measures. Instead, the Commission should be focusing upon banning the sale of elvers out of Europe to the Far East as thereby they are lost forever to the European industry and, secondly, restrictions should be focused upon the eel farm sector where there is no escape of large eels, so that they can spawn and replenish the natural stock.

Notes to editors:

1. Eels spawn in the Sargasso Sea in the Western Central Atlantic Ocean. The larvae drift and swim into river mouths all over Europe and Northern Africa, from where they migrate upstream to spend most of their lives. Eventually the oldest eels will migrate downstream and across the Atlantic when they will spawn once and die.

2. The smallest eels (glass eels and elvers) are fished for stocking and on-growing in aquaculture, whilst older eels (brown eels and silver eels) are fished directly for food. Most are exported to Europe as part of a £5 million industry.

3. Lough Neagh and the Lower River Bann support the largest remaining wild eel fishery in Europe. The system produces 25% of the total recorded EU wild catch.

4. Fishing rights to all eel life stages are owned by the Lough Neagh Fishermen's Cooperative Society (LNFCS). The fishery is well managed and restricts annual catch of brown eels to 400-500 T and the catch of silver eels to 100-150 T. The escape of silver eels for spawning is at least equivalent to the catch because of the maintenance of a generous gap at the weirs where fishing is prohibited and thereby escape for spawning is guaranteed.

5. The Lough Neagh operation supports up to 150 boats each with a crew of two men and thus some 300 families may derive and depend on income from the fishery.

6. As natural decline in the recruitment of elvers to the Lough has been observed, the LNFCS has purchased 73 million glass eels for stocking purposes over the last 20 years and, at the same time, has regulated its industry through licensing and quota imposition.


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