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Displaying items by tag: Sea Fisheries Protection Agency

A Scottish fishing skipper has been fined €17, 500 in relation to breaches of fisheries legislation in Irish waters.

Jonathan Bellany, with an address in Aberdeenshire, United Kingdom, was also ordered to forfeit €26,888.56 from the value of the catch and gear onboard when he appeared before Cork Circuit Criminal Court on May 30th, the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) says.

Bellany confirmed guilty pleas to charges for offences of failing to retain onboard catches of sea-fish subject of catch limits, failure to record legal discards of catches and failure to have a completed stowage plan describing the location of catches stored onboard the British registered vessel, Andromeda, the SFPA says.

“The charges arose from an inspection by officers attached to the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) patrol vessel Ocean Guardia” in the waters of the Irish exclusive economic zone on May 20th, 2024, it says.

The detention was coordinated by officers onboard the Ocean Guardian, SFPA sea-fisheries protection officers and An Garda Síochána.

The SFPA says that the court heard evidence that during the course of an inspection onboard the vessel, officers observed crew members sorting catch of sea-fish on a conveyor belt and segregated certain catches by species and size which were discharged through a funnel device back into the sea.

“The court heard that over the course of 30 minutes, officers observed approximately 30-50kgs of catch, including hake, megrims, haddock, being discarded in this manner. The court also heard that all catches should have been recorded on a daily basis,”it says.

“Evidence was given that the recording requirements and quotas are specifically important regarding quota species in order to preserve the survivability of stocks and prevent the collapse of stocks in particular fishing areas, by ensuring accurate, scientific data is available for the purposes of setting quotas,”it says.

“A sea-fisheries protection officer’s view was that the crew had a lack of training and knowledge of the legal requirements. It was stated that the master is responsible for what occurs on the vessel,”it says.

“The court also heard how the master did not have a stowage plan onboard the vessel in relation to the catch onboard,”it says

An SFPA spokesperson said that “the SFPA notes the important decision of the court and the seriousness attached to the contraventions detected”.

“The landing obligation and recording requirements are key tools to ensuring the sustainability of species and future fishing activity by fishing communities. Failure to comply with the landing obligation, engaging in illegal discarding, failing to record catches and any legal discards undermines the sustainability of sea-fisheries having regard to adverse impact on the survivability and sustainability of fish stocks, including by the discarding of dead juvenile catches back to the sea,”the spokesperson said.

“The SFPA highly commends the officers involved in this investigation and the cooperation between the EFCA patrol officials, sea-fisheries protection officers and An Garda Síochána,”the spokesperson said.

Published in SFPA

A West Cork fishing skipper has had fines totalling 4,000 euro imposed after a court hearing relating to breaches of sea fisheries law.

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) says that the case was heard at Bandon District Court, Co Cork, on May 19th, 2024.

Johnny Walsh, from Kinsale, Co Cork, pleaded guilty to four charges relating to breaches of sea-fisheries law, namely the non-compliant use of below minimum mesh size while fishing for Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus), failure to retain a stowage plan and a certified capacity plan, and failure to having an operating Automatic Identification System (AIS) on board.

The SFPA says the offences were detected during an at-sea inspection onboard the vessel “Naomh Peadar II”, in the Celtic Sea, by officers on board the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) patrol vessel “Ocean Guardian”.

The vessel was detained in an operation involving sea-fisheries protection officers of the SFPA and the Garda Síochána on May 17th and 18th.

An SFPA spokesperson commended “the thorough and efficient inspection by the officers involved in this investigation and the cooperation between the EFCA patrol officials, sea-fisheries protection officers and An Garda Síochána”.

“Masters and owners of fishing vessels must ensure consistent compliance with mesh size requirements for gear used during each trip, particularly having regard to the potential damaging impact of not doing so,” the SFPA spokesperson said.

The spokesperson also said that “masters and vessel owners must ensure Automatic Identification Systems are operating at all times, and take immediate remedial steps, and have procedures in place, where a power outage occurs”.

Published in SFPA

Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) officers confiscated 48 live undersize crawfish off the southwest coast late last month.

The SFPA says that the crawfish were “returned safely to sea” after the discovery during a routine patrol.

It says that a file is currently being prepared for consideration by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Crawfish, also known as European spiny lobster or crayfish, are one of Ireland’s “most at risk” species and are listed as vulnerable and decreasing by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

They are also the highest-value crustacean species caught in Irish waters, achieving prices of €30 - €40 per kilo on landing, the SFPA says.

Crawfish are primarily caught in inshore waters around the south and southwest coast and are an important source of revenue for the inshore fleet during the summer months.

Protection of these valuable stocks depends on a range of legal measures enforced by the SFPA, just one of which is the “minimum conservation reference size”, it says, which stipulates a carapace size of 110mm.

It is prohibited for the master or person in charge of an Irish sea-fishing boat to cause or permit the boat or any person to have onboard, land, or tranship crawfish that fall below this minimum size.

Displaying or selling below the minimum size is also illegal.

Illegally removing immature animals from an already vulnerable stock is likely to result in further stock depletion, the SFPA says.

“Trade in undersized fish not only damages the stocks, but it also impacts the communities who depend on them,” the SFPA said.

“ Illegal fishing is unfair to the majority of inshore fishermen who fish sustainably and within regulations. The inshore patrols undertaken by the SFPA are a vital tool in our work to protect stocks,” it said.

“We encourage buyers at all stages of the food chain, restaurateurs, processors and consumers to be aware of the minimum size and please let us know if you are offered undersized fish for sale,” it said.

The SFPA confidential telephone line is on 1800 76 76 76, or it can be emailed at [email protected].

Published in SFPA

The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) has confirmed that another case involving breaches of sea fishing legislation has resulted in a conviction and fine in court.

It says that Mark Fetherstonehaugh of An Rinn, Co Waterford, who is master of the fishing vessel Maarten Luther, had pleaded guilty on June 13th at Wexford Circuit Court to a charge of under-recording of catch of monkfish by 1,595 kgs.

Sentencing for the case took place at Wexford Circuit Court last Friday, June 30th, where a conviction was recorded and a fine of €500 imposed, it says.

The offence was detected during an inspection by SFPA officers at Kilmore Quay, Co Wexford, in February 2020.

The conviction “underscores the seriousness of inaccurate logbook data and demonstrates the active measures taken by SFPA officers to inspect for compliance”, it said, commending its officers for their “diligence”.

Published in SFPA

A number of undersized lobsters and brown crabs due for sale have been returned to sea, after they were seized by the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).

An inspection last weekend at the Limerick City Casual Trader area resulted in 28 undersized lobsters and four undersized brown crabs being removed by SFPA staff.

A file is currently being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions, the SFPA says.

It says it was operating on information received through the SFPA confidential telephone line.

The minimum landings size for lobster is 87mm carapace length, and in Irish waters the minimum size for brown crab is 140mm, it says.

A key initiative for the conservation of lobster is the “v-notch” scheme, where a small mark is cut into the tail of any female lobster found.

Once marked in this way, it is illegal to land, possess or sell such a lobster. A certain percentage of the population is therefore protected for breeding, thus boosting egg production and in turn recruitment to the stock.

An SFPA spokesman said that “the volume of such a find of undersize lobsters is both significant for the future viability of the fishery, and concerning, given the scale of the find”.

“ The fishery for lobster is one of the most traditional fisheries among coastal communities and the mainstay of many small vessels fishing all around the coast of Ireland. The actions of a few fishermen selling undersize and v-notch lobsters and undersize brown crab undermine the legitimate fishermen trying to maintain a sustainable fishery and livelihood,” the SFPA spokesman said.

“The majority of inshore fishermen act responsibly and in conjunction with state agencies, including the SFPA, to ensure the protection of the species which have been in decline in recent years. Many inshore fishermen participate in voluntary measures such as v-notching to assist with restocking of lobster,” the spokesman said.

Consumer trust in the quality, provenance and safety of Ireland’s seafood produce underpins the reputation and success of the sector on which many coastal economies rely, the SFPA said.

“If a member of the public has any concerns regarding fisheries control, seafood fraud and/ or seafood safety, they are advised to please contact the SFPA through its confidential telephone line on 1800 76 76 76, or email [email protected]”, it says

Published in SFPA

Skippers and owners of smaller Irish fishing vessels are to be given training in the use of electronic logbooks at sea.

The training is to be provided for the 12 to 15-metre category of vessel which had been exempt until now in use of electronic recording and reporting.

The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) says it will provide the training to an estimated total of 48 vessels in this category.

The Electronic Recording & Reporting System (ERS), as it is known, is a system for recording, reporting, processing, storing, and transmitting fisheries data (catch, landing, sales and transhipment) according to the EU rules.

The key element of the ERS is the electronic logbook, which is used to record and transmit details of fishing operations securely.

The information is managed by the master of the fishing vessel and is transmitted to the member states authorities where the authentic fishing operation details are kept in a secure database.

All vessels 12m or greater are required to use Electronic Recording & Reporting System (ERS) since January 2012.

To date, an exemption has been in place for some vessels that fall into the 12-15m category on the basis of either: the vessel is at sea less than 24 hours per trip, or the vessel is fishing within the 12 nautical mile limit, the SFPA says.

“This exemption is now being removed for the 12-15m category – which consists of approximately 48 registered vessels - ahead of pending regulations that will require 10m-12m vessels to also have ERS on board,” it says.

Details and dates of the training are as follows:

  • Thursday 30th March – Castletownbere 09:00 – 17:00
  • Tuesday 4th April - Greencastle 09:00 – 17:00
  • Thursday 13th April - Dingle 09:00 – 17:00
  • Tuesday 18th April - Dublin 09:00 – 17:00
  • Thursday 19th April - Wexford 09:00 – 17:00
  • Tuesday 25th April - Westport 09:00 – 17:00
Published in SFPA

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) has commended its officers for their work on a case which has led to a conviction for failing to record a fish catch accurately.

Following a prosecution taken by the SFPA and the Director of Public Prosecutions, Eamon Moss of Kilmore, Co Wexford was convicted and fined €500 at Wexford Circuit Court on February 14th, 2023.

The SFPA said in a statement that the defendant pleaded guilty to an offence under the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006 of failing to record approximately 1,077kgs of a catch of black sole in the fishing logbook in March 2019 as master of the Irish-registered fishing vessel, "Rony".

“The under-recording of black sole was detected following an inspection of the vessel hold and records by sea fisheries protection officers, during which the inaccurate recording of multiple species was detected,” it said.

SFPA executive chair Paschal Hayes said that the legal requirement on vessel masters to ensure accurate recording of catches is “crucial in order to obtain a reliable assessment of the extent of fish species caught, which is key to the sustainable management of stocks”.

“This conviction underscores the seriousness of inaccurate logbook data and the active measures taken by SFPA officers to inspect for compliance. The SFPA commends its officers for their diligence and hard work on this case,” he said.

Published in Fishing

Ten enforcement orders were served on seafood businesses late last year, the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) reports.

The orders were served during the final quarter of 2022 for breaches of food safety legislation under the Food Safety Authority of Ireland Act, 1998 and the European Union (Food & Feed Hygiene) Regulations 2020.

The SFPA says the enforcements were issued by sea-fisheries protection officers during risk-based official controls.

It says that “no closure orders were issued over this period”.

The SFPA’s responsibilities include enforcement of food law in the seafood sector up to the point of retail, and this involves the assessment of food safety controls across the marine and aquaculture sectors.

The SFPA says it has responsibility for the enforcement across a range of 2711 business operations nationally.

It says its officers carried out 60 inspections in land-based establishments in the last quarter of last year.

SFPA executive chairman Paschal Hayes said “the low level of non-compliance found illustrates the considerable efforts being made by seafood businesses to work within the regulations, as well as the robust inspection system in place to assure and, where necessary, to enforce compliance”.

SFPA executive chairman Paschal HayesSFPA executive chairman Paschal Hayes

The SFPA said it had also confirmed a successful food safety prosecution in the case of SFPA v. Castletownbere Fishermen’s Co-op Society Ltd.

“The defendant entered guilty pleas to food safety legislation offences, arising from an inspection conducted on 18th of October 2021, relating to the condition of parts of the food premises, failure to ensure pest control and protection against contamination, and failure to comply with procedures on traceability of raw fishery products,” the SFPA states.

“The defendant was fined €2000, and an order relating to costs was made in favour of the SFPA,” it says.

Published in Fishing

The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) says it looks forward to “continued and ongoing engagement” with Irish environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs), following a meeting with representatives last week.

A range of issues related to “safeguarding and enhancing Ireland’s marine environment and resources” were discussed, the State regulatory body says.

The SFPA described the meeting as “wide-ranging and productive”, and said it outlined its own regulatory remit and “the various strands of Irish and European legislation covering the sector”.

It says it also discussed a number of “areas of focus”, including the shellfish classification programme and monthly water sampling programmes undertaken with industry.

The SFPA says it also gave details on a “number of upcoming projects utilising technology to underpin the sustainability of Ireland’s marine life”.

It says the meeting was part of “an ongoing programme of engagement being undertaken by the SFPA to share best practice, knowledge”.

SFPA chair Paschal HayesSFPA chair Paschal Hayes

It also aims to share “latest developments in relation to strategic initiatives” as part of its regulatory remit to ensure compliance with the EU Common Fisheries Policy, sea-fisheries law and food safety law.

SFPA chair Paschal Hayes said the meeting was “a welcome opportunity for productive dialogue and engagement on a range of issues pertaining to the marine environment and sustainability of our marine resources”.

“Ireland’s marine industry is one that supports over 16,500 jobs, plays a significant role in our coastal communities and has created an industry that is valued at €1.26 billion,” he said.

“Beyond these economic figures, Ireland’s marine resources are of tremendous importance, sustaining a rich and wonderful array of marine life and whose very existence is dependent upon the continued health and vitality of our marine ecosystem,” Hayes said.

“To ensure the long-term viability of our marine resources for future generations, a collective approach is required with shared responsibility,” he said.

“We were pleased to have the opportunity to meet with environmental NGOs focused in the marine areas and we look forward to continued and ongoing engagement, underpinned by an unwavering focus on ensuring sustainability, and a shared agreement on the value and importance of healthy maritime environments,” Hayes said.

Published in Fishing

The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) says it will continue to engage with fishing industry representatives after an online meeting was held yesterday in relation to the row over fish landings.

The row erupted last month after Danish vessel Ruth headed back to Denmark instead of landing some 1200 tonnes of blue whiting for human consumption into Killybegs, Co Donegal on March 31st.

The SFPA had directed that the catch be landed over a weighbridge instead of a pierside system.

Since then, several Norwegian vessels have opted to land into Derry over the border, rather than into Killybegs - then trucking catches to south Donegal, while a number of vessels either abandoned attempts to land or sold catch destined for human consumption as fish meal.

The SFPA said in a statement that the interim fisheries control plan enables 95% of bulk landings of pelagic fish to avail of an exemption to weigh-after-transport, meaning that just 5% are subject to supervised weighing on landing.

The Danish fishing vessel MV Ruth, arrived to land 1,270 tonnes of blue whiting for local processing and export to Africa but left port with the fish still aboardThe Danish fishing vessel MV Ruth, arrived to land 1,270 tonnes of blue whiting for local processing and export to Africa but left port with the fish still aboard

“Over the past five days, approximately 9,500 tonnes of bulk pelagic fish were landed at Killybegs harbour, totalling 20 landings. During this same period, one vessel chose to leave port and sail to Derry to discharge its catch,” it said.

The SFPA said the meeting discussed a number of items. This included “ two options for conducting weighing before transport currently available in Killybegs harbour for the 5% of landings which are selected for supervised weighing”.

The SFPA said it outlined in detail how, in both instances, fish are in water when weighed in order to preserve the quality of the catch.

SFPA executive chair Paschal Hayes said “as the regulator with responsibility for sea-fisheries and the seafood production sector, our role is to ensure that landings of fish in Ireland are in compliance with the EU Common Fisheries Policy to safeguard sustainable fishing stocks in Irish and European waters”.

SFPA executive chair Paschal HayesSFPA executive chair Paschal Hayes

“The interim fisheries control plan agreed between Ireland and EU Commission in December 2021 enables 95% of bulk pelagic landings to be weighed in permitted fish processors, on the condition that 5% of landings – estimated at 30 landings annually – are weighed under supervision pierside,” he said.

“It is our intention to continue to meet the conditions agreed in Ireland’s control plan so that the entire industry can benefit of the exemptions on weighing after transport,” Hayes said.

Published in SFPA
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About the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA)

The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority was established on the 1st of January 2007. The SFPA is independent in the exercise of its functions, which are below.

The principal functions of the Authority are:

  1. To secure efficient and effective enforcement of sea-fisheries law and food safety law
  2. To promote compliance with & deter contraventions of sea-fisheries law and food safety law
  3. To detect contraventions of sea-fisheries law and food safety law
  4. To provide information to the sea-fisheries and seafood sectors on sea-fisheries law and food safety law and relevant matters within the remit of the Authority, through the Consultative Committee established under section 48 of the above Act or by any other means it considers appropriate
  5. To advise the Minister in relation to policy on effective implementation of sea-fisheries law and food safety law
  6. To provide assistance and information to the Minister in relation to the remit of the Authority
  7. To collect and report data in relation to sea fisheries and food safety as required by the Minister and under Community law
  8. To represent or assist in the representation of the State at national, Community and international fora as requested by the Minister, and
  9. To engage in any other activities relating to the functions of the Authority as may be approved of by the Minister.