Urgent Action Needed to Protect Fish Stocks and Inshore Fishing

Deputy Catherine Connolly calls on the Government to take urgent action to protect fish stocks within the 6 nautical mile zone and provide for the sustainability of our inshore fishing community, following decision by the Court of Appeal

Deputy Catherine Connolly said that the Court of Appeal’s decision striking down the Government’s Policy Directive 1 of 2019 preventing fishing vessels over 18 meters length overall from operating trawl or seine nets inside the 6 nautical mile zone, has the most serious consequences for the sustainability of our inshore fishing community.

The decision delivered by the Court of Appeal on the 10th March sets out clearly the Government’s failure to comply with its mandatory notification requirements. More specifically, the Court found that the Government did not notify the EU and the UK prior to the introduction of the Policy Directive.

Directly consequent on this failure, we now have a policy that is invalid with no protection in existence for our fish stock and for the livelihoods of small fishermen operating within the 6 nautical mile zone.

The consequences of the Government’s failure is a cause of great concern, said Deputy Connolly, particularly given the Court’s endorsement of the actual policy itself.

Indeed, the Court of Appeal did not hold with any of the arguments put forward by the plaintiffs in relation to the actual policy directive, which was set to come into effect on the 1st January 2020.

Significantly, the Court of Appeal clearly concluded that the policy was a measure for the conservation and management of fish stocks within the meaning of Articles 19 and 20(1) of Regulation 1380/2013. Furthermore, it held that the policy was not discriminatory, had not been shown to be irrational and did not involve a disproportionate interference with applicants’ constitutional rights.

Moreover, the policy directive was intra vires (i.e. within the legal power or authority of the Government) and the reasons given for the measure were legally adequate.

Deputy Connolly said, given this ringing endorsement of Government policy by the Court of Appeal, how are we now in a situation where over three years after this vital policy was first introduced, we are back at square one?

In this regard, Deputy Connolly said that urgent action is now required from the Government.

In the first instance, clarification as to how the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine failed to comply with its obligations regarding the mandatory notice to the EU and the UK, which ultimately led to the Court of Appeal making an Order quashing the Government’s Policy Directive in its entirety.

Of equal importance, she said, a timescale for the reintroduction of this essential policy must be provided as a matter of urgency. As it currently stands, the Government is no closer to fulfilling its 2020 Programme for Government commitment to “ensure that inshore waters continue to be protected for smaller fishing vessels and recreational fishers and that pair trawling will be prohibited inside the six-mile limit.”


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