One of the largest fishing industry organisations in the country intends to support a judicial review of an EU penalty points system for fishing vessels which it describes as “perverse, flawed and unfair”.
The Irish Fish Producers' Organisation (IFPO) said Ireland is the only EU member state implementing the system within its fleet, while other vessels fish with "impunity" in Irish waters.
A Danish vessel recently caught fishing illegally in the Celtic Sea has avoided penalties, in spite of a request by the Irish authorities that action be taken, IFPO chief executive Francis O'Donnell said.
The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) has confirmed it notified the Danish control authorities and requested penalty points be assigned to the vessel.
“The Danish authorities are refusing to apply the penalty points, knowing that the vessel had no quota for a particular species it had fished when detected,” Mr O’Donnell said.
The EU penalty points system for serious fisheries infringements was introduced by way of a statutory instrument here in 2014, and a number of Irish vessels have been issued with points to date.
Several vessel owners have sought a judicial review of the legislation, and Mr O’Donnell says his organisation believes it should support it as the system affects the “entire Irish fishing industry”.
Points are applied to the licence holder and the "capacity" of a vessel, and the appeals system is handled by the authority and is not independent, Mr O'Donnell said. If a vessel owner seeks recourse to the High Court and is successful, the points still remain with the vessel capacity and licence holder, he says.
“The Irish fishing industry is at a major economic disadvantage as a result of the EU penalty-point system,” he said, noting Ireland was also the first member state to introduce the electronic recording system for vessels.
“We were advised that this would be a harmonised system, fair to all,” he said, adding the SFPA and Naval Service have no information on quotas applicable to non-Irish vessels working in Irish waters.