Major focus on unlicenced & unregistered activity in 2023
The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority’s (SFPA) today, 24th May 2023, launched its annual inshore fisheries patrol programme as part of conservation measures to help protect Ireland’s valuable shellfish and crustacean fisheries including crab, lobster, crayfish, and whelk.
The SFPA’s campaign will focus on unlicensed and unregistered fishing vessels along the south and west coasts. The SFPA will also monitor compliance by members of the public to ensure their fishing activities are within limits for lobster and crab fishing. The SFPA are advising that anyone found to be non-compliant with sea-fisheries or seafood safety regulations can expect to face prosecution. Regulations are in place for all commercial and casual/recreational fishers, regarding the minimum size that can be caught to ensure shellfish and crustacean species such as lobster and crab can reach maturity and reproduce to safeguard the future of stocks. The SFPA’s inshore patrols will operate throughout the summer into autumn with the support of the Irish Naval Service, Air Corps, and Inland Fisheries Ireland.
In 2022, following a similar patrol programme, the SFPA’s Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs) completed 49 inshore patrols around the coastline as part of a nationwide inshore fisheries patrol programme. 150 registered fishing vessels and numerous storage boxes were inspected resulting in:
- Non-compliances detected included the retention of undersize and v-notched* lobster in storage boxes, which the SFPA seized and released.
- Several vessels fishing with expired licences were also observed and instructed to cease fishing and investigations continued into the activity of these vessels.
- Inspections were also undertaken on recreational vessels to ensure compliance with the relevant legislation.
- Further administrative checks were undertaken on commercial vessels inspected to check that accurate sales records were maintained to ensure traceability of product.
This year, the SPFA has deployed two 7.5 Metre RIBs with the capacity to winch lift and inspect lobster pots and keeps (used for holding live crustaceans prior to sale) to facilitate detailed inspections. The inshore monitoring programme also includes vehicle patrols to small local ports and landing places so Sea-Fisheries Protection Officers (SFPOs) can identify and monitor unlicensed and unregistered vessels which may be deployed during the summer months. These vessels will be targeted for inspection at sea during the subsequent patrols in that area.
Paschal Hayes, Executive Chairperson of the SFPA said: “Illegal fishing is unfair to the majority of inshore fishermen who fish sustainably and within regulations, as it jeopardises the future of this valuable industry. The SFPA, along with our control partners the Irish Naval Service and the Air Corps, is committed to creating a level playing field. Our targeted inshore compliance strategy aims to support the sustainable management of these fisheries and will help to safeguard their future for the benefit of consumers, producers and, importantly, our coastal communities.
The RIB patrols are important to ensure the long-term viability of an industry on which many coastal communities rely on for a living. Illegal fishing also poses a risk to public health as the seafood may not be stored or handled in accordance with food safety regulations and could potentially damage the excellent reputation Irish seafood enjoys both at home and abroad.
As we commence our inshore patrols programme over the next few months, we would ask anyone who has questions or would like our Sea-Fisheries Protection Officers to focus on particular issues or areas to contact your local SFPA port office