On the 27th of September 2017 the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D., hosted the 12th meeting of the National Inshore Fisheries Forum (NIFF). The Inshore Fisheries Forum structures, which include NIFF and six Regional Inshore Fisheries Forums (RIFFs), were established in 2014 to foster stakeholder-led development of proposals for the inshore sector.
Minister Creed signed into law conservation measures concerning Irish velvet crab stocks. The Minister also introduced measures to regulate fishing activities affecting Natura 2000 sites at Hook Head and the Saltee Islands. These measures are being introduced following full consultation with the Inshore Fisheries Forum structures.
Minster Creed said, “Heading into their third year, the Forums have taken a lead in tackling conservation issues and changing practices with a view to long-term sustainability. I welcome the support these measures have received from the Forums which reflects the mature approach this sector is taking in dealing with its own challenges.”
The Minister and the NIFF discussed the implementation of the new measures and the status of other measures under review for important stocks such as lobster, brown crab and razor clams. The Minister also discussed the impact of Brexit on the fishing sector and the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the London Fisheries Convention, which governs access to waters inside the 12 mile limit.
Commenting on issues arising for the sector from Brexit the Minister noted “While the implications of Brexit are far from clear at this point in time I will continue to highlight Irish fisheries concerns on the EU agenda and work with other impacted EU Member States and the Barnier team to ensure that fisheries are not isolated in the overall negotiations on a new EU/UK relationship”.
Regulations signed by Minister Creed will introduce a Minimum Conservation Reference Size (MCRS) of 65mm for velvet crab that will apply to Irish sea-fishing boats from 1 January 2018. This measure was initially developed by the West Regional Inshore Fisheries Forum (RIFF) with advice from the Marine Institute. The proposal was brought to the Minister last year by the NIFF, and a public consultation on the measure was held at the end of 2016.
Hook Head and Saltee Islands Fisheries Natura Declaration
These gear and monitoring measures were developed through industry members working with the Marine Institute (MI) and Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) to address risks to sensitive habitats in the Hook Head and Saltee Islands SACs. The risks were identified by the MI in a 2014 risk assessment report of sea-fishing activities in Natura 2000 sites in the Irish Sea. Industry members – including individual scallop fishermen, members of the Southeast RIFF and representatives of the Irish South and East Fish Producers Organisation (ISEFPO) – met with the MI and BIM through 2015 and 2016 to develop risk mitigation proposals for the fishery. A public consultation on the resulting Mitigation Response Plan was carried out in 2016.
The inshore sector (comprising fishing boats of less than 12 metres in overall length) makes up more than 80% of the fishing fleet and is predominately active within six nautical miles of the Irish shore. The NIFF was set up to facilitate the development of a coherent inshore sector “voice” by encouraging inshore fishermen to discuss their fishing issues and generate commonly-supported initiatives. The NIFF is supported by a network of six RIFFs around the Irish coast. Delegates from the RIFFs bring forward regional proposals to the NIFF for wider industry discussion. The RIFF members include inshore fishermen, environmental interests, marine leisure, marine tourism and other marine stakeholders. The structures also provide opportunities for collaboration between the inshore fishing sector and their communities on sustainable strategies to optimise the income opportunities afforded by the coastal resource.