Northern Ireland

Effects of ever decreasing cod quotas on NI fishing fleet

boat coming into harbour
Image caption Constant quota reductions mean only four boats in NI now fish for cod

Just like his father and grandfather before him, Kilkeel fisherman Trevor McKee went to sea at just 13 years of age.

It may be a hard life battling the raw cold and the long watches, but Trevor has never regretted the life of a skipper.

Never that is until last week when he and his brothers were forced to tie-up right in the middle of the main whitefish season.

The reason is cod quota and the fact that the local fleet has now used up its meagre allocation for the year.

Unable to land any more cod, Trevor is forced to stay in port.

His boat, the Silver Sea, now lies alongside the wall and Trevor says it's now the end of the line for what remains of a once proud white fish fleet.

Just over a decade ago Northern Ireland had a fleet of 40 boats fishing for cod, haddock and whiting.

Constant quota reductions and restrictions on days at sea has decimated the fleet which numbered just four boats at the beginning of this year.

No future

And now comes what could be the final crisis moment.

The annual cod quota is now exhausted and that means the remainder of the fleet now seems to have no future.

In the past some white fish boats have turned to the prawn fishery, but Trevor McKee says that's not an option for the Silver Sea which can burn as much as 1,200 pounds of fuel a day.

Neither would moving to somewhere like the North Sea be viable as that would involve leasing quota at prohibitive rates.

Trevor had hoped his seven-year-old son might one day join him at sea but that now seems unlikely.

He says his only hope is that he can convince the marine scientists and fishery administrators to grant him a special scientific quota to allow him to prove that cod are actually plentiful in the Irish sea.

Like many fishermen he passionately believes the scientists are failing to measure the true strength of the cod population in the Irish sea.

For now though the Silver Sea lies tied up against the harbour wall while Trevor and his brothers fear this is the end of the local white fish fleet.