Irish fishing rules 'bizarre'


IRELAND’S “BIZARRE” interpretation of EU rules on Irish Sea management is having a disastrous impact on east coast fleets, a fishing industry leader has warned in advance of key EU fish talks this week.

A €25 million Dublin Bay prawn fishery has been closed by the Government, while British and Northern vessels continue to work the same grounds, Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO) chief executive Lorcan Ó Cinnéide has said.

One Louth fisherman using a passive or environmentally sustainable fishing method – seine netter John Kirwan of Clogherhead – has had to tie up his boat and may be forced to close the family fish shop in Drogheda, due to lack of supply.

Mr Kirwan told The Irish Times that no allowance had been made for the fact that his boat uses seine nets, which involves about 25 per cent of the fuel that trawlers use. Four generations of his family have fished the Irish Sea, but his son and crew face the dole now, he said. Up to 50 vessels are affected by the closure, which was imposed at short notice in mid-October – even though the fleet still had 25 per cent of quota to catch.

The fleet was told that “days at sea” or kilowatt days – an EU effort management system – had expired. The management is linked to the Irish Sea cod recovery programme. Part of the prawn fishery overlaps key cod spawning areas.

The complex suite of measures is managed by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in consultation with the Sea Fisheries Protection Agency and the Naval Service. Several vessels which voluntarily accepted a “Swedish grid” system – designed to reduce the bycatch of whitefish in the prawn trawl – were told that they would not be affected by the closure.

“The irony is that there are uncaught Irish quotas notably for haddock and Dublin Bay prawns in the Irish Sea which cannot be caught by Irish vessels for December, while quotas are exhausted in the areas they are allowed to fish – off the south coast,” Mr Ó Cinnéide said.

“Adding to the frustration of east coast fishermen, it is clear that other countries, notably Britain, are using completely different means from Ireland to operate the cod recovery programme and that the effect of this is that their fishermen are continuing to fish in the Irish Sea, while Irish vessels are confined to port,” he said.

“Britain is operating a far more liberal interpretation of the EU rules than Ireland, leading to major questions as to how Ireland has disadvantaged itself in connection with this,” he said.

The Federation of Irish Fishermen called on Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney to re-open the Irish Sea, but Mr Ó Cinnéide said he believed the issue was being “sidelined” by Mr Coveney’s department in the run-up to the EU fisheries meeting council later this week.