On Tuesday 5th June 2018, a man was convicted by Judge Mary Fahy at Galway District Court for being in possession of 1,425 undersized native oysters (Ostrea edulis), contrary to Bye-Law 628 of 1982.
Patrick Cormican, with an address at Newline, Maree, County Galway, pleaded guilty to a single charge of being in possession of the undersize native oysters when apprehended by Fisheries Officers at approximately 1pm on 7th December 2017, at Blackweir, County Galway.
Solicitor Dioraí Ford, representing Inland Fisheries Ireland, outlined to the court that Fisheries Officers observed Mr. Cormican loading bags of oysters into a tractor-trailer at Blackweir on that date. The officers were aware that these bags contained undersized oysters. Mr. Cormican is a licenced oyster fisherman and on the day in question had approximately 5,000 oysters, of which 1,425 were undersized. Officers spent over an hour and a half measuring and counting the oysters.
The court heard that Mr. Cormican was co-operative on the day in question and had a previous conviction in relation to oysters dating from 1991. Judge Fahy commented on how serious a matter this was, particularly with the local connection with the world famous Clarinbrige Oyster. Mr Ford outlined that the Fisheries Officers involved in the case had never seen such an amount of undersized oysters before while carrying out an inspection of this type.
Judge Fahy convicted Mr. Cormican and imposed a fine of €750. Costs of €800 were also awarded against Mr. Cormican.
Oysters in Ireland
There are two species of oysters commonly eaten in Ireland – the native oyster (Ostrea edulis) and the non-native Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas). The native oyster grows wild and is typically caught by licensed dredging, while the Pacific oyster is most commonly farmed on trestles and harvested mechanically.
Native oyster stocks are under threat and sustainable fishing requires adherence to size limits, in order to allow oysters to grow large enough to breed before harvesting. The minimum legal size is 76mm. Inland Fisheries Ireland is charged with protection of oysters, and conducts regular inshore patrols to check for compliance. Sales outlets such as fishmongers and restaurants should be familiar with the legal requirements and refuse to accept undersize oysters.