Minister for the Marine Michael Creed has promised to introduce a ban on trawling by fishing vessels that are more than 18m long within six nautical miles of the coast from 2020.
However, the new ban affords a three-year transition period for vessels over 18m long fishing for sprat, a key species on which mackerel, herring, whales and dolphins feed.
Sprat is a valuable stock for the fishmeal industry and its exploitation has been linked to the virtual collapse of the Celtic Sea herring fishery.
Mr Creed’s department undertook a public consultation on protecting inshore waters earlier this year, and said the new exclusion measures from January 1st, 2020, followed a “detailed evaluation”.
“I am satisfied that there are sufficient fishing opportunities for these vessels outside of six nautical miles,” he said on Friday.
“I also believe that these actions will provide wider ecosystem benefits, including for nursery areas and juvenile fish stocks,” he said, citing the benefits of the measure for small scale and island fishing vessels and for sea angling.
Mr Creed said the three-year transition for sprat would last until 2022, and he had asked Bord Iascaigh Mhara to offer affected vessel owners technical assistance towards a switch to other fisheries.
“A total allowable catch of up to 2,000 tonnes, reflecting a reduction on recent years, will be permitted for these vessels during 2020, reducing to 1,000 tonnes in 2021,” Mr Creed said.
“All trawling activity by over 18m vessels for sprat, inside the six-nautical-mile limit, will end from the beginning of 2022,”he said.