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Minister lodges legal appeal against Court decision to allow large trawlers fish inside Ireland’s six mile zone

In December 2018, following a public consultation process in which over 900 submissions were received, the then Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine announced that vessels over 18 metres will be excluded from trawling in inshore waters inside the six nautical mile zone and the baselines from 1 January 2020. A transition period of three years for vessels over 18 metres targeting sprat was allowed to enable adjustment for these vessels, as the sprat fishery is concentrated inside the six nautical mile zone.

A Policy Directive was issued by the Minister to the independent Licensing Authority for Sea Fishing Boats under Statute and was intended to give effect to the measures announced by the then Minister excluding vessels over 18 metres in length from trawling inside six nautical miles

A Judicial Review was taken by two applicant fishermen challenging the validity of the Policy.

The High Court’s ruling of Judicial Review proceedings which relate to the Policy Directive has been appealed by the State to the Court of Appeal and a stay is being sought on the orders granted therein.

Minister McConalogue said that “As this matter is sub judice, I am not in a position to comment on the Policy until the matter can be resolved before the Courts. However, I am committed to the sustainability of fishing in Irish waters and to implementing the commitment made in our Programme for Government that inshore waters continue to be protected for smaller fishing vessels and pair trawling be prohibited inside the six-mile limit.”

On the 29th October a joint letter was sent to Minister McConalogue and the below joint Press Release has been issued by the Organisations Involved, it may be of interest .......

Unprecedented Collaboration As Fishing and Environmental Groups Call on Minister McConalogue to Reinstate Inshore Fishing Ban

In an unprecedented response to the recent decision by Ireland’s High Court to overturn the ban on fishing vessels larger than 18m from operating within six nautical miles of the coast, 15 fishing and environmental organisations, have come together for the first time to call on Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue to take the steps necessary for the ban’s reinstatement.

The letter, sent to the Minister this morning, jointly signed by National Inshore Fisherman's Association (NIFA) and National Inshore Fishermen’s Organisation (NIFO), Birdwatch Ireland, An Taisce, Cork Environmental Forum, Cork Nature Network, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Environmental Pillar, Friends of the Irish Environment, Irish Seal Sanctuary, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Irish Wildlife Trust, Oceana, Seas at Risk, Sustainable Water Network (SWAN) and Our Fish, points out that the policy directive, introduced in 2018, “was one of the most important fisheries policy shifts in the history of the Irish state and was broadly welcomed as being the right decision from a social, economic, environmental and a social justice perspective”, and was backed by expert analysis by the Marine Institute and the Bord Iascaigh Mhara.

"When Michael Creed TD announced his decision to launch a public consultation that ultimately led to the directive, he was very clear that he wanted to create opportunity for the inshore sector. The manner he planned and subsequently created that opportunity also had far reaching environmental and socio economic benefits for our marine environment and wider coastal communities and economies”, said Alex Crowley of the National Inshore Fisherman's Association (NIFA) and National Inshore Fishermen’s Organisation (NIFO). “On that basis the proposal and the subsequent decision was broadly welcomed and supported by a broad spectrum of interests.”

“The fishing industry and environmental NGOs are often portrayed as opposing forces, however the reality is they have a common goal or vision for a healthy marine environment, therefore the issuing of this joint statement should come at no surprise”, continued Crowley. “Inshore fishers are acutely aware of the need for a healthy marine environment to support their businesses and way of life. As an economic sector and as a sector in society we are particularly exposed to negative environmental impacts.”

“Beneath the waves, a biodiversity crisis has been unfolding for many years”, said Fintan Kelly, Policy Officer at Birdwatch Ireland. “Overfishing has hollowed out marine ecosystems, and as fish stocks have collapsed, it is having a direct impact on the Irish fishing communities that depend on them. Ireland can and must do better. We are calling on Minister McConalogue to take decisive action to prioritise sustainable fisheries management in Ireland’s inshore waters on behalf of the vast majority of Irish fishers and coastal communities, instead of the demands of a privileged minority”

“The Minister must take steps to ensure that a ban on large trawlers within the 6 nautical mile limit is brought into effect as soon as possible, while ensuring that all affected stakeholders are afforded the right to consultation as highlighted in the court ruling”, concluded Kelly.

“This is a classic case of a technicality tripping up a brilliant idea. The Irish government can realise the huge environmental and social benefits of protecting Ireland’s coastal waters from industrial fishing and deliver on their ambitions to halt the biodiversity and climate emergency, by taking the necessary legal steps to reinstate the ban as a matter of priority”, said Rebecca Hubbard, Program Director of Our Fish. “Reinstating the ban would actively help support hundreds of low-impact fishers and their coastal communities, deliver massive environmental benefits, and set an impressive example for other European countries to follow”.

Social Democrats TD for Cork South-West, Holly Cairns, has welcomed confirmation that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has lodged an appeal against a court decision to allow large trawlers fish inside Ireland’s six-mile limit.

Holly, who is the party’s spokesperson for Agriculture and the Marine, said: “The overturning of the fishing directive banning some inshore fishing has been of considerable concern for many smaller fishermen and women and those concerned with ensuring a healthy marine ecosystem. I immediately raised the matter with the Minister, who has taken the right decision to appeal the ruling.

“The prohibition of trawling by large boats in coastal waters was designed to ensure sustainable fishing practices and to protect the livelihoods of small-scale and island fishermen who rely on inshore fishing. It represents the type of policy we need for sustainable fishing which will ensure that coastal and island communities make a decent living.

“There is a broad range of support for this law, including the two main inshore fishing organisations, Bird Watch Ireland, An Taisce and the other groups. Local tourism operators and others who depend on coastal waters for employment also got in contact with me after the six-mile limit rule was overturned in court.

“Unfortunately, the legal process can take time. In the meantime, it is incumbent on the Government to put in place supports for inshore fishing communities.

“Over the past few months, the previous and current Government have failed to provide satisfactory support for the sector and have introduced an unfair penalty points system.

“Lip service is paid to the industry, but when it comes to providing certainty and engagement, the Department and Government have repeatedly let the fishing community down.”