Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 12th October 2020.

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Photo of Emma Rogan Emma Rogan Sinn Féin 3:15 pm, 12th October 2020

T3. Ms Rogan asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs what measures he has put in place to effectively monitor supertrawlers that enter our waters, given that a recent report from Greenpeace showed that they massively stepped up their activities during the pandemic lockdown. (AQT 513/17-22)

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Well, they should not be entering our waters. In most instances, it is our fishing boats and, indeed, Irish fishing boats that are out there. Supertrawlers tend not to come into the Irish Box so much because of the nature of the fishing. There are more nephrops there, and it does not lend itself to the supertrawlers that exist on the west of Ireland, for example, or in the North Sea. I should say that exiting the European Union will assist us in this, in that the waters will be ours and therefore the fishing will be dispensed by our Government and the Administration here. The 20% that was left to France was not utilised, but they took it off our fishermen anyway. The EU generously allowed French fishermen to come to Northern Ireland, but that will no longer be available, which, I think, we will all view positively.

Photo of Emma Rogan Emma Rogan Sinn Féin

Given the Minister's contribution during the recent Fisheries Bill debate on the damage caused by supertrawlers, will he now commit to doing all in his power to see supertrawlers banned from our waters?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

As I indicated, supertrawlers will not fish extensively in the Irish Sea. We are not responsible for the area in which they operate extensively, which is off the west coast of Ireland, in the North Sea and in the Bay of Biscay. For some reason, under the cod recovery programme. Northern Ireland fishermen could not fish for cod in the Irish Sea save for a very limited tonnage. Cod naturally progress north to south, and the French and Spanish supertrawlers waited in the Bay of Biscay to catch considerable amounts of cod. Let us be sensible about these things: there has not been a cod recovery programme, because of the boats in the Celtic Sea and the Bay of Biscay. It is important, as we go forward, that we have much better and much more practical solutions that aid the fishermen in South Down, in the main, and in Strangford, who are trying to make a living in those waters in difficult circumstances.