A NOVEL alliance of fishing interests and environmental groups has been formed to seek to have the recent High Court decision to remove the ban of vessels over 18m from operating within the country’s six nautical mile inshore waters.
A strongly-worded joint letter has been sent to the Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, TD, by a number of organisations who say they are ‘representing the interests of a healthy marine environment and a sustainable inshore fishing sector.’ They include the National Inshore Fisheries Organisation, An Taisce, Birdwatch Ireland, Cork Environmental Forum and Cork Nature Network.
In the letter, they call on the Minister to take the necessary steps to reinstate the ban: ‘The policy directive introduced in 2018 was one of the most important fisheries policy shifts in the history of the state and was broadly welcomed as being the right decision from a social, economic, environmental and social justice perspective.
‘According to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the majority of the over 900 stakeholder submissions made in response to the Minister’s review of fishing access inside the six nautical mile zone (6nm zone) supported restrictions on large trawlers based on environmental, economic and gear conflict issues. The rationale behind the ban was supported by expert analysis by the Marine Institute and the Bord Iascaigh Mhara.’
The letter pointed out that: ‘These reports highlighted that restricting the access of larger vessels inside the 6nm zone would lead to improved protection of coastal environments and essential fish habitat, benefitting marine biodiversity and commercially-exploited fish stocks. They highlighted the socio-economic benefits for the smaller inshore vessels, that constitute the vast majority of Ireland’s registered fishing vessels.
‘The Policy Directive created a huge opportunity for the inshore sector and, if that opportunity is to be denied, then the sector in its current form faces a very uncertain future and possibly a complete collapse.’
The letter calls on Minister McConalogue ‘to take decisive action to prioritise sustainable fisheries management in Ireland’s inshore waters in the interest of the vast majority of Irish fishers, coastal communities and marine wildlife, instead of the demands of a privileged minority.’