Marine Minister Michael Creed yesterday (Friday 21 December) revealed his decision following a review conducted earlier this year of so-called ‘supertrawler’ activity within Ireland’s inshore waters.
After considering the issues raised therein, and following what the department called a “detailed evaluation”, Minister Creed said he believes “there is a compelling case for excluding trawling by large vessels in coastal waters inside six nautical miles.
“I am satisfied that there are sufficient fishing opportunities for these vessels outside of six nautical miles. I also believe that these actions will provide wider ecosystem benefits, including for nursery areas and juvenile fish stocks.
“I am very conscious of the exclusive reliance of small-scale and island fishermen on inshore waters and the benefits this change will bring for those fishermen. I firmly believe that this will, in the medium term, provide ecosystem and nursery stock benefits for all fishermen.”
The minister added: “I am mindful of the opportunity these measures will provide for further sustainable development of the small-scale inshore and the sea angling sectors, which the Government has committed to in the Programme for a Partnership Government.”
Minister Creed further announced that there will be a transition period of three years for vessels over 18m targeting sprat. This is in order to allow a period of adjustment for these vessels, as this fishery is concentrated inside the six-nautical-mile zone.
“I recognise that effective change needs time,” the minister said. “I have had an extensive and prolonged consultation to flag consideration of change.
“Allowing a transition period for those vessels involved in the sprat fishery will ensure that the vessels have adequate time to transition to other fishing activities. I am asking BIM to offer affected vessel owners technical assistance to adjust to other fisheries during the transition process.”
Vessels over 18m will continue to be permitted inside six nautical miles to trawl for sprat only until 2022. A total allowable catch of up to 2,000 tonnes, reflecting a reduction on recent years, will be permitted for these vessels during 2020, reducing to 1,000 tonnes in 2021. All trawling activity by over 18m vessels for sprat, inside the six-mile limit, will end from the beginning of 2022.
The news follows Ireland’s securing of €260 million in fish quotas for 2019, the year that sees the full implementation of the discards ban. Mackerel fishermen, however, will see their quota cut by one fifth for the coming 12 months.