From 1 January all trawling by larger trawlers, over 18m in length, in coastal waters inside Ireland’s 6 mile zone will cease other than for a sprat fishery which is being phased out during 2020 and 2021.
Minister Creed said “The inshore waters inside our 6 mile zone will be restricted for trawling to smaller fishing vessels, 18m in length or less, from 1 January which will both support our small scale and island fishermen and provide wider ecosystem benefits, including for nursery areas and juvenile fish stocks. This new policy will, I believe, support the development of small scale inshore and sea angling sectors which is a Government commitment.”
The Minister’s decision on this new policy was announced in December 2018. It was taken following an extensive public consultation and was greeted extremely positively by many in the fishing industry and the wider environmental conservation sector. The National Inshore Fishermen’s Association (NIFA) hailed the decision as “undoubtedly the most significant policy decision made in the history of the state in terms of supporting Ireland’s Inshore Fishing sector! From a Social, economic, environmental and moral perspective this was the right decision.” It was similarly heralded by Padraig Fogarty of the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) as “the biggest step we have ever seen towards marine conservation in Ireland.”
The Minister acknowledges and accepts that the forthcoming restriction will particularly affect some vessel owners and taking account of this he introduced a phasing in of the policy for the sprat fishery so that vessels in the fishery have adequate time to transition to other fishing activities.
Minister Creed stated that “I see this new policy as an important reflection of Ireland’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, namely SDG 8 decent work and economic growth, SDG 12 responsible consumption and production, and SDG 14 life below water. The catch of one large vessel will have the potential to be spread out over many small vessels and thereby help support families in coastal communities.”
These measures come into effect as an increase in conservation measures for the Celtic Sea were agreed at the December Fisheries Council. The new EU rules which commence at the beginning of 2020 involve a 25% increase in the size of mesh in nets used to fish for mixed whitefish in the Celtic Sea. This increase is designed to make the fishing gear used by all EU vessels in the Celtic Sea more selective by avoiding or minimising catch of stocks in need of protection.
Minister Creed said “The new measures agreed for the Celtic Sea to help rebuild the depleted cod and whiting fish stocks will also provide substantial benefits for all our whitefish stocks including for our inshore waters. As this will involve a change in the fishing gear used by Irish fishermen I have asked BIM to provide grant aid support to them to reduce the costs of the required fishing gear change.”