Dr. Michael Woods T.D. Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources has secured approval for a £1.8m major exploratory fishing project aimed at helping Irish Fishermen to develop new methods of catching albacore tuna.
Dr. Woods said "Irish tuna fishermen supported my stance against the EU decision to ban the use of drift nets, with their presence at the EU Fisheries Council last June. I secured a stay on implementing the ban for four years to allow Irish Fishermen to develop new methods. I also made a commitment to those fishermen to get EU funding for the development of alternative catching methods".
"I am delighted that in such a very short period since the Council meeting I have secured funding for these major diversification trials which can help to protect the future of the Irish tuna industry", he added.
The Minister said that some 13 Irish fishing vessels from the South West will participate in the trials with further vessels expected to included in 1999. The trials will take place on the traditional tuna fishing grounds located upwards of 200 miles off the Irish coast and may extend as far south as the Bay of Biscay. An Bord Iascaigh Mhara will oversee the programme which will begin immediately with the assistance of the Marine Institute. The project will also involve stock assessment quality and marketing initiatives and the use of remote sensing technology to aid fish detection.
This will be the biggest exploratory fishing project ever undertaken by BIM and the trials will be closely linked to initiatives to improve quality and develop marketing opportunities. It will lead to maintaining catches and also to further enhancing the potential to increase tuna landings", said Dr. Woods. "The two alternative fishing methods to be used trawling and trolling with luree - are ideally suited to many vessels in the Irish fleet and I am fully confident in the capabilities of Irish fishermen to contribute to the success of the trials", he added.
The Minister emphasised that tuna is a non-quota species, and the market in Ireland is valued at £4 million annually. He stressed the importance of developing alternative methods of tuna fishing to ensure that Irish vessels remain active in this sustainable and profitable fishery. "The tuna fishery is of vital seasonal importance to whitefish ports in the South West and can account for up to 50% of the value of their landing from July to September, he said.
"This is a major innovative programme designed for the development of alternative methods for catching tuna, thereby helping to protect and sustain employment for fishermen and their families in these ports, he concluded.
The Government is funding 50% of the total investment in the project. The EU money awarded for the project comes from the European Commission - Study Projects carried out under the Common Fisheries Policy.