A DECISION of the Court of Appeal to allow large trawlers fish in inshore waters is deeply disappointing and hugely worrying, according to Social Democrats fisheries spokesperson Holly Cairns.
A Department of the Marine policy directive, which banned large trawlers of over 18m from fishing inside a six nautical mile zone, was overturned by the High Court in October 2020, due to a breach of fair procedures in the consultation process.
Minister Charlie McConalogue had appealed that decision and a stay on the ruling was granted in March. However, this has now been lifted in advance of the judgment of the court being delivered.
The court’s decision means that large trawlers can resume trawling with immediate effect and no longer require an authorisation to fish for sprat inside six nautical miles.
Deputy Cairns said: ‘This is a really worrying and disappointing development. We are still awaiting the court’s final ruling on the ban, but it’s clear that this development will have an immediate negative impact on the ecosystem of our coast. The ban on trawling by vessels over 18m in coastal waters is designed to ensure sustainable fishing and to protect the livelihoods of small scale and island fishers who rely on inshore fishing.’
The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group also voiced their disappointment at the decision. ‘When are we going to get it? Look after the forage fish for the benefit of all: whales, dolphins, seabirds and fishers! We are heading for desperate times,’ the group Tweeted.
Birdwatch Ireland also said it was ‘deeply concerned’ at the decision and fears that overfishing of sprat will again occur this winter because of the ruling. ‘European sprat is a critically important species, linking plankton and top predators including seabirds and marine mammals. Sprat are also an important forage fish species for fish species like herring,’ it added.
Deputy Cairns added: ‘There is a real risk that if the Court of Appeal’s final decision is against the ban, then the whole process will have to start over again and years of progress will be lost. I hope the Minister has a contingency plan in place.’