Representatives from the north and Isle of Man meet to discuss fishing industry

Nearly £1 million has been granted to the fishing industry in South Down through the European Maritime Fisheries Fund. Photo by David Cheskin, PA Wire

AGRICULTURE and rural affairs minister Michelle McIlveen has met with her Manx fisheries counterpart Geoffrey Boot to explore areas for future collaboration in the industry.

Among the issues raised was that of Northern Ireland's scallop fishermen who failed to qualify for the Isle of Man scallop fishing licence.

The licences, introduced in November 2016, were restricted to boats that had regularly fished the area from 2011 to 2015. Because of this several vessels from the north failed to qualify.

Miss McIlveen also highlighted the need to develop a more coordinated approach to Irish Sea science between Northern Ireland, Wales and the Isle of Man. The aim is to establish common assessment for inshore fish stocks under national management and to improve integration of marine science.

The Belfast-based Agri-food and Biosciences Institute is arranging a meeting between Bangor University, the Welsh and Isle of Man governments to discuss these issues, which will take place within the next few months.

"It is important to develop strong relationships with our neighbours and to work towards introducing sustainable fisheries policies that are of benefit to all," Miss McIlveen said.

The meeting between Miss McIlveen and Mr Boot took place at the Tynwald parliament buildings in Douglas and included a tour of government buildings.

Mr Boot said both parties need to work together to improve the industry.

"Fisheries are a traditional and economically important industry for both the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland and we have a common interest in managing and better understanding fish stocks to ensure sustainability," he said.

"Today's meeting helped us further develop a mutual understanding of the issues surrounding fishing in the Irish Sea and I hope to continue a positive relationship with minister McIlveen."

Meanwhile, SDLP MP for South Down Margaret Ritchie welcomed the investment of nearly £1 million to the fishing industry in the area through the European Maritime Fisheries Fund.

Mrs Ritchie had been campaigning for the funding to be provided for some time, particularly to coastal communities of Ardglass, Annalong and Kilkeel.

In August, a series of promotional events were held to provide prospective applicants with information and guidance on the various funding opportunities available. The fund was opened for applications in September.

Since September, offers for a total of £940,000 in grants have been accepted by industry stakeholders and organisations. Fishing ports in South Down have also received portions of the investment.

"I hope that further investment in our fishing infrastructure in the local ports is possible," Mrs Ritchie said.

"There are further possibilities for economic and environmental regeneration in the infrastructure in Ardglass, Annalong and Kilkeel which I hope will be realised and come to fruition."

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