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Minister Creed & the 6 Mile Zone Exclusion Public Consultation

European Union Rules do not allow the exclusion of Irish fishing boats from their traditional fishing grounds inside six and twelve miles, says Patrick Murphy, CEO of the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed recently launched a Public Consultation on trawling within the 6 nautical mile coastal zone. This consultation is taking place after a number of concerns were raised by stakeholders regarding the level of trawling inside the 6nm zone.

We in the IS&WFPO feel the consultation document circulated by the Minister offering three options, one of these being a ‘do nothing’ approach, does not take into consideration the negative social and financial impacts arising from the exclusion of Irish vessels, their Owners and Crew from waters traditionally fished by them and by their forebears for generations both inside Ireland’s baseline and within a distance of Six Miles of the Baseline.

The remaining two Options suggested by the Minister we feel do not reflect the devastating consequences that Exclusion from these Inshore Waters will have on the viability of many small Family-owned businesses nor indeed the fact that pursuing Policies of Exclusion from these Inshore Waters may lead to the Minister putting himself in breach of the EU Regulation 1380/2013.

Recital No 19 to Council Regulation 1380 of 2013, the Common Fisheries Policy negotiated under Minister Simon Coveney as Chair of the EU Council of Ministers states that: Existing rules restricting access to resources within the 12 nautical mile zones of Member States have operated satisfactorily, benefiting conservation by restricting fishing effort in the most sensitive part of Union waters. Those rules have also preserved the traditional fishing activities on which the social and economic development of certain coastal communities is highly dependent. Those rules should therefore continue to apply. Member States should endeavour to give preferential access for small-scale, artisanal or coastal fishermen.

It is clear therefore that European Union Rules do NOT admit to the possibility of excluding Irish Fishing Boats from their Traditional Fishing Grounds inside 6 Miles or inside 12 Miles. The CFP clearly states that: preferential access may be considered but not exclusive.

The Common Fisheries Policy also states that: This law (the CFP) requires Member states to put in place measures to adjust the fishing capacity of their fleet to their fishing opportunities over time, taking into account trends and based on best scientific advice with the object of achieving sustainable and enduring balance between them.

Ireland’s Inshore Waters have previously been the subject of scientific and economic reports by the Marine Institute (MI) and Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) and preliminary engagement with fisheries representative groups.

IS&WFPO expressed our opinion on the contents of this report and submitted to the Department our view that a small proportion of vessels of our tiny Irish fishing fleet is actually fishing inside of 6 miles and do so mainly due to Bad weather conditions off shore and for many of these operators it is these Fishing Grounds that their grandfathers and fathers showed to them when they entered the industry and it is these Fishing Grounds that they continue to rely on.

As one of the representative groups I feel that reliance placed by the Department on the Reports prepared by the Marine Institute and BIM does not adequately reflect the reality of the potential effects on individual businesses that will be adversely affected; indeed, the figures quoted in these Reports were not specific to any particular areas along our vastly different coastline and the specific boats using methods of fishing compatible for use in the various bays and inlets around our different coastline.

For example, a vessel that may be excluded from fishing inside 6 miles outside the baseline whose home berth is Bantry pier in West Cork would have to sail 90 nautical miles before it would be able to shoot its nets. The study undertaken by the Marine Institute & BIM took the entire fleet’s data into its calculations and we believe using this “catch all” policy is not adequate for such a fundamental change be introduced into the fishing Industry.

The Minister said: “This Government has committed to the development of the inshore sector in the current Programme for a Partnership Government. The programme identifies a number of methods for supporting the sector, such as ensuring smaller inshore boats are given new opportunities for commercial fishing”.

We applaud the Minister for the statement above and would encourage him to identify opportunities for the smaller vessels of our fleet that do not impact on one fisherman’s ability to earn his living but as our fishing Quota is a National Resource it must be distributed on an equal, fair and transparent manner without fear or favour between all licenced vessels in ALL Segments of Irelands pathetically small fishing fleet.
Minister Creed continued: “I want to support new initiatives that will strengthen the economic and social underpinning of our valuable coastal and island communities. This consultation provides an opportunity to examine the case for giving priority access to our inshore vessels within the 6 mile coastal zone and in addition better support the eco-system in inshore waters”.

The Minister has prepared a formal paper, with advice from the MI and BIM, to aid the consultation process. The consultation paper sets out possible measures and their potential impacts but we in the IS&WFPO submit that the Data upon which Policy choices are signposted is both flawed and selective.

(This article first appeared in our June 2018 issue of the Marine Times Newspaper)