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A guidance map for the Dundalk Bay Natura area off the Louth coast where certain types of fishing are prohibited has been published by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).

The map delineates a specific zone within Dundalk Bay where use of certain fishing gears is prohibited, including any types of dredges, beam trawls or bottom otter trawls.

The orders for two Natura declarations were signed by Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue in June. They relate to a specific area in Dundalk Bay where bird and animal species are protected.

The declaration came into effect on July 1st of this year, prescribing measures for managing the risks posed by specific sea-fishing activities.

The map for the Dundalk Bay Natura area can be viewed here


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The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) says it has concluded a case brought against the master of a fishing vessel for breaches of bass conservation laws two years ago.

The master of the fishing vessel Atlantic Jem, Sean Roche, pleaded guilty at Midleton District Court, Co Cork, on June 15th to two charges of contravening the Bass (Conservation of Stocks) Regulations 2006 in 2021.

The case arose from an SFPA inspection of the landing from the Atlantic Jem in December 2021, at Ballycotton, Co. Cork, where nine bass were discovered by its officers within boxed catch of other fish species.

The SFPA says the court heard evidence that the master admitted to knowledge of the prohibition on retention of bass by Irish vessels.

The case was adjourned to June 22nd to allow the master to make a charitable donation of €1,000.

The donation was subsequently made, and the Probation Act was applied to finalise the matter, the SFPA said.

Ireland introduced particular restrictions and controls to protect bass, as a conservation measure, due to the depletion of stocks in Irish waters.

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The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) says the master of a fishing vessel has pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to offences relating to failure to use acoustic deterrent devices on gear.

The French-registered vessel was detained earlier this week by the SFPA, after an inspection from the European Fisheries Control Agency’s (EFCA) offshore patrol vessel off the Irish south-west coast.

The master of the detained vessel was brought before Bandon District Court on the evening of June 21st.

“The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) directed that the charges be dealt with in the Circuit Criminal Court on indictment,” the SFPA states. T

“The master pleaded guilty to four alleged breaches of failing to have the requisite acoustic deterrent devices (ADDs) on two sets of bottom-set gillnets. This is in contravention of EU legislation on the signal and implementation characteristics of ADDs,” it says.

“Gillnets are made of monofilament nylon mesh that is invisible underwater and therefore acts as a hazard to cetaceans and other marine mammals,” the SFPA says.

“ By utilising ADDs or “pingers” to emit a certain frequency at regular intervals, pingers warn cetaceans such as dolphins of the presence of the obstacle and enable them to avoid the nets and deter them from swimming into nets, becoming entangled and drowning,” the SFPA states.

Cetaceans are part of the prohibited species list, and catching and landing this species represent a threat to the conservation status of the species which includes all species of dolphins, porpoises, and whales.

The SFPA says it has been using enhanced technologies both at sea and ashore to verify compliance.

After the master of the vessel confirmed his guilty pleas in the Circuit Criminal Court in Cork on June 22nd,2023, the court set a bond of €107,000, which, if lodged, will allow the release of the vessel.

The case has been adjourned to Cork Circuit Criminal Court for sentencing on October 24th, 2023.

“The vessel and catch remain detained at Castletownbere port,” the SFPA states.

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Inshore fishermen say that new EU regulations on spurdog make the re-opened fishery less worthwhile.

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) has published regulations for the commercial fishery of spurdog in north-western waters, noting that it had been a prohibited species for five years.

Ireland has been allocated a quota of 1,871 tonnes across a number of sea areas for this year.

“Spurdog is judged to have recovered sufficiently to support commercial landings again this year and next year,” the SFPA says.

EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki outlawed the catching of sharks, including spurdogsEU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki outlawed the catching of sharks, including spurdogs

The fishery had been closed by former EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki when she outlawed the catching of sharks, including spurdogs.

The SFPA cites advice by the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) that spurdog can “support a sustainable fishery”.

The SFPA states that the maximum conservation reference size for spurdog is 100cm, and this is “to protect stocks of mature females and the breeding stock, which are vital for the species' recovery and future sustainability”.

It says spurdog caught over 100cm in size must be “promptly returned to the sea in a way that does not harm the individual”, and must be recorded in logbooks.

The SFPA says that the landing obligation applies to spurdog of 100cm or less in length, and these fish must be “retained, recorded and landed”.

NIFA director John Mennary pointed out that gillnetters can only select larger fish, which means most spurdog caught by this method may have to be discarded.

“We were always told to let the young fish grow, and we don’t want to be landing the small fish,” he said.

“So this is going to be an issue for what was once a good fishery for inshore boats,” he said. Markets are also an issue, he said.

The main market for Irish-caught spurdog had been for processors supplying the fish and chipper trade in Britain, before the fishery closed for conservation reasons.

“These factories are closed now, and markets are more challenging,” Menary said.

“We have asked Bord Bia if it can help to develop new markets,” he said. “There may be potential for exporting to Germany for smoked products.”

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The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) today, 19th May 2023, launched their guide, Skates and Rays of Ireland 2023.

16 species of skates and rays are regularly caught in Irish waters, some of which can be fished commercially under quota restrictions while others are partially or totally prohibited. Skates and rays are required to be fished in accordance with Irish and EU regulations and this ensures the long-term sustainability of these stocks. The guide details how to identify these species, and what three-letter codes to use to record all these species.

The key features to help identify each skate or ray are shown in red, including key characteristics of a particular species. The guide is currently being distributed to fishers who may encounter skates and/or rays, and fish buyers who may handle skates or rays. These waterproof guides can be used for reference by fishers and fish buyers’ onboard vessels or in the processing/receiving areas of fish buyers’ premises.

Commenting on the launch of the guide, SFPA Chairperson Paschal Hayes said; “Since January 2009, it has been a legal requirement that catches of various species of ray including cuckoo ray, thornback ray, blonde ray, spotted ray, sandy and shagreen ray are reported separately. Some fishers are logging all skates or rays, irrespective of what species they are, as one species, such as blonde rays. Additionally, some fish buyers are recording all their catches as another species, such as thornback rays. Such discrepancies result in errors in SFPA’s automated cross-check system VALID, which requires follow-up by Sea-Fisheries Protection Officers (SFPOs). All species over 50kg, whether they are a quota species or not, must be logged, recorded, or reported using the correct species-specific code. Failure to record species correctly can result in inaccurate stock assessments and may result in reduced quotas. For this reason, the guide will endeavour to help improve the accuracy of the identification of species and their subsequent correct recording.

‘We are pleased that John Lynch, CEO, Irish South and East Fish Producers Organisation and current Chair of the joint North Western Waters Advisory Council and North Sea Advisory Council focus group on skates and rays which have been advising that identification guides of this type are in place to ensure the correct identification of the different species of skates and rays in the logbook data.

“This is an easy-to-use guide to help identify the various species common to Irish waters, to ensure the long-term sustainability of these skate and ray stocks within the wider healthy marine ecosystems. It is essential that they are fished in strict accordance with Irish and EU regulations. Accurately recording the species of skates and rays that are caught enables more accurate stock assessments which provide clear scientific advice. By working together, we can phase out the use of the catch-all species codes and ensure that everyone across the country is using the correct codes to record all species of skates and rays.”

Fishers and fish buyers that require help in identifying any of the species of skates and rays are encouraged to contact their local SFPO and/or SFPA office and they will assist in identifying the species, as well as how to use the guide. Photographs of species caught by fishers will also assist in identifying species and these can be sent to the local SFPOs, or SFPA Port Office.

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The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) announces the publication of a new Fisheries Information Notice (FIN) *as of May 2nd, 2023.

This FIN pertains to the latest regulations for Irish vessels operating within North Western Waters and is specifically focused on commercial fishing of Spurdog. The FIN is publicly accessible on the SFPA’s website (link: FFSU-FC-FIN-OC-03-23 Spurdog Regulations for Irish Vessels Operating in North Western Waters).

This comprehensive and informative notice provides key details on Spurdog regulations, including:

  • Identifying features of Spurdog.
  • Removal of Spurdog from Prohibited Species List.
  • Maximum Conservation Reference Size Guidelines for Spurdog, including how to measure it.
  • Spurdog handling instructions.
  • How the landing obligation applies to Spurdog.
  • Recording Spurdog catches in the logbook.

After five years as a prohibited species, Spurdog is judged to have recovered sufficiently to again support commercial landings this year and next year. The decision is based on International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) advice that Spurdog can support a sustainable fishery.

The total allowable catch (TAC) for Spurdog was set at 0 tonnes since 2011 as per ICES advice. A TAC for Spurdog has been put in place given the Spurdog's improved stock status. Irish fishing vessels may engage in a directed fishery for Spurdog. The notice outlines that the Master of an Irish fishing vessel shall comply with catch limits set in the current Fisheries Management Notice and not target Spurdog when a vessel has exhausted its available quota.

The maximum conservation reference size for Spurdog is 100cm, a guideline established to protect stocks of mature females and the breeding stock, which are vital for the species' recovery and future sustainability. The total length of the Spurdog is taken in a straight line from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail fin.

Masters of fishing vessels that catch Spurdog over 100cm must comply with the following regulations:

  • It is prohibited to retain, tranship or land Spurdog greater than 100cm in length.
  • Spurdog caught over 100cm in size must be promptly returned to the sea in a way that does not harm the individual.
  • All catches of Spurdog above 100cm must be recorded as PRO in the logbooks.
  • Prohibited landings of Spurdog over 100cm in length aim to protect stocks of mature females and the breeding stock.

The landing obligation applies to Spurdog 100cm or less in length. Spurdog less than 100cm must be retained, recorded, and landed. When catching Spurdog in the respective EU and UK zones, the following must be adhered to for catch reporting:

  • Separate catch reports (FARs) must be made for catches from respective EU and UK zones.
  • Spurdog must be recorded in the logbook using the species code ‘DGS’.
  • The weight of any Spurdog caught must be split by retained weight (kg) and discarded weight (kg) and must be entered into the logbook.
  • Any discarded Spurdog that measures greater than 100cm must be recorded as PRO.
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Irish seafood companies have been reminded that only cooked and processed bivalve molluscs can be exported to North America.

The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) issued an information notice to exporters this week in relation to technical requirements for Irish companies trading with the US in “an evolving third country regulatory environment”.

It says that live bivalve molluscs – including oysters, mussels and razor clams – and frozen unprocessed bivalve molluscs are not currently approved for export from Ireland to the US.

“If these products are exported to the US, they will be rejected at the border control point and will either need to be destroyed … or reimported into Ireland at significant cost to the exporter,” it warns.

Exports of cooked or processed bivalve molluscs do not require an export health certificate, it says.

However, seafood exporters must be registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and pre-notify export consignments using the FDA online system, it says

Queries may be addressed to [email protected]

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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

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Three extra Irish ports have been designated by Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue for landings by Northern Irish-registered fishing vessels.

Malin Head, Glengad and Bunagee in Co Donegal have all been approved and will come under the remit of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) in Greencastle.

The SFPA’s port office in Greencastle was also opened on Friday by McConalogue.

Under regulations designed to deter illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, the designated ports in Ireland for all non-EU vessels are limited to Castletownbere, Co Cork and Killybegs, Co Donegal.

However, vessels registered in Northern Ireland may have access to the ports of Greencastle, Rathmullan, Burtonport, Ros an Mhíl, and Howth.

Malin Head, Glengad and Bunagee have now been added to that list.

“ Designated ports are a critical component in an overall framework that seeks to ensure effective fisheries management and minimise the risk of IUU fishing,” the SFPA says.

It says the establishment of a permanent SFPA port office in Greencastle “formed an important part of the measures undertaken … to ensure regulatory preparedness and compliance with EU sea-fisheries legislation and fisheries conservation control” after Britain left the EU.

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Irish seafood exporters have received approval under a new registration system required for the vast Chinese market.

A total of 36 Irish food business operators have had registrations renewed under the new system, the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) has confirmed.

The changed requirement was introduced last year by the Chinese competent authority, the General Administration of Customs China (GACC), the SFPA says.

It “marked a major change in how export registrations for Irish exporters trading with China are governed” and was a significant challenge, it says.

“The SFPA, in liaison with Department of Foreign Affairs colleagues in Beijing, have been working with the Irish fishing industry over the past six months to ensure as smooth a transition to this new regime as possible,” it says.

This involved “full migration of all Chinese export registration requests to a new GACC online portal”.

The registrations which have been successfully renewed by the 36 seafood businesses are valid until 2028, the SFPA says.

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