An environmental NGO has launched a High Court challenge over a decision to allow fishing for razor clams take place in Waterford estuary.
The action has been brought by the Irish Coastal Environmental Group – Coastwatch, which claims the decision made by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority could have significant effects on the conservation of what are protected habits and species in the area.
The NGO says that razor clams are fished using hydraulic dredges which can penetrate 250mm into the sediment on the seafloor of Waterford estuary/harbour.
This operation, the NGO adds, significantly disturbs more species than the razor clams, and there is no certainty that these other species and the habitat will recover after the dredging operation.
Commercial razor-clam fishing is banned in English waters, and is only allowed in specially designated areas in Ireland, the NGO adds.
The proceedings are against various State bodies including the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority which made the decision to allow razor-clam fishing in the estuary as well as the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland and the Attorney General.
The South East Regional Inshore Fisheries Forum is a notice party to the proceedings.
The NGO, represented by James Devlin SC and Margaret Heavey BL, instructed by Harrington and Company Solicitors, applied for permission to bring the challenge at Wednesday’s sitting of the High Court.
Counsel said that any decision to allow razor-clam fishing to take place should not have been made until an appropriate assessment or screening of the estuary had been conducted in accordance with the EU Habitats Directive.
Counsel said that his client was concerned, as the decision regarding razor-clam fishing in Waterford Estuary was not published in Iris Oifigiúil, the official publication of the Irish Government.
The application, which was before Mr Justice Richard Humphreys, was adjourned for a week so that the application could be made in the presence of the defendants.
The NGO seeks various orders and declarations. It seeks an order quashing the decision made by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority in late August to open a classified production area for the fishing of razor clams in Waterford Harbour/Estuary.
It also seeks various declarations, including that the decision to allow fishing for razor clams in the area in the absence of an appropriate assessment and any proper screening without any public consultation is contrary to the EU Habitats Directive.