THE Clonakilty-based Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), the independent regulator for the sea-fisheries and seafood sector, has released provisional inspection figures for 2017, which show continued low levels of non-compliance with sea-fisheries and seafood safety regulations across the sector.
During the year, more than 3,600 sea-fisheries inspections were undertaken at sea, inshore and on landings. Infringements detected included under-recording of catches and exceeding quota. Twelve vessels were detained, with 24 cases referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Meanwhile the SFPA conducted over 700 inspections of food businesses, the majority of which were of land-based establishments. Twenty-three legal notices were issued to food business operators as a result.
The SFPA is responsible for all fishing vessels operating within Ireland’s 200-mile limit, over 2,000 Irish registered fishing vessels, wherever they operate and all seafood produced in Ireland’s 170 seafood processing companies.
Commenting on the figures, Beara native, Dr Susan Steele, chair of the SFPA, said: ‘The Irish seafood industry, which is worth about €1.1bn annually to the Irish economy, has been identified in Food Wise 2025 as one of the main drivers of export growth for Ireland’s agri-food sector. Consumer trust in the quality, provenance and safety of Ireland’s seafood produce is vital for that goal to be achieved.
‘So too is the existence of sustainable fish stocks yet illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing continues to be one of the greatest threats facing the fishing industry globally. It is jeopardising the development of sustainable fisheries across the world, including Ireland, as well as posing serious consequences for food security.’
Dr Steele added: ‘Good regulation underpins the future development of the valuable shared marine resources of Ireland. The majority of fishermen, producers and processors want to work within the law and the low levels of non-compliance that we are detecting are evidence of that. We recognize too that compliance isn’t always easy. The new EU Landing Obligation regulations, which require fishermen to land what they catch, have meant significant changes in fishing practice in recent years. However, these are vital changes to ensure a sustainable industry, with fish stocks capable of providing higher and more profitable catches in the medium- to long-term. This will ultimately benefit the industry and the many coastal communities around Ireland that rely on it for a living.”
All vessels over 12 metres fishing within the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone are monitored electronically to assess compliance risks and to identify vessels that require further inspection. During 2017, sea fisheries officers of the SFPA undertook 2,420 inspections at landings, while a further 1,208 boarding inspections took place at sea by the Naval Service.
The at-sea boardings included 581 vessels from flag states other than Ireland including Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Russia.
In addition to approving food business operators, the SFPA’s work in the area of seafood safety includes verifying seafood traceability, labelling claims, hygiene and fish quality.
The SFPA has a key role in responding to food incidents and complaints as to the nature, substance, quality or safety of a seafood product. During 2017, it undertook 710 inspections and 1,337 official control checks.