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The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority’s (SFPA) says it has initiated its annual inshore fisheries patrol programme to help protect Ireland’s valuable shellfish and crustacean fisheries including crab, lobster, crayfish, and whelk.

The SFPA says its campaign will focus on unlicensed and unregistered fishing vessels along the south and west coasts, and will also monitor compliance by members of the public to ensure their fishing activities are within limits for lobster and crab fishing.

“The SFPA is advising that anyone found to be non-compliant with sea-fisheries or seafood safety regulations can expect to face prosecution,” it says.

“ 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,”it says.

The SFPA’s inshore patrols will operate throughout the summer into autumn with the support of the Naval Service, Air Corps, and Inland Fisheries Ireland.

Last year SFPA rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) completed 39 inshore patrols around the coastline as part of a nationwide inshore fisheries patrol programme.

It says a total of 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 says it will deploy its 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 can identify and monitor unlicensed and unregistered vessels which may be deployed during the summer months,” it says.

“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,” SFPA executive chairperson Paschal Hayes said.

“The SFPA, along with our control partners, the 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,” he said.

Published in SFPA

A new monitoring programme for harvesting King Scallops on the Irish coastline will come into effect this weekend.

The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), says that from June 1st there will be increased sampling of whole scallops and more toxins will be analysed.

“The SFPA has worked collaboratively with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and the Marine Institute (MI) in preparation to implement the enhanced monitoring programme,”it says.

It has also held briefing sessions and consulted with industry in the lead up to this change, it says.

King Scallops are a live bivalve mollusc species which are harvested/fished by Irish fishermen primarily from offshore wild fisheries, and by the inshore fleet from a number of classified production areas.

Specific EU regulations apply to live bivalve molluscs including scallops to ensure compliance with food safety standards.

All commercially harvested scallops must comply with these regulations so they can be placed on the market for human consumption, the SFPA says.

The harvesting or fishing of scallops can only take place from classified production areas that are on an “open” biotoxin status for scallops when they can be marketed live and whole in the shell, or on a “harvest restricted” biotoxin status when only shucked product of those parts of the scallop which have tested below regulatory limits for marine biotoxins can be placed on the market.

“ No harvesting of scallops is allowed from a classified production area that is on a “closed” biotoxin status for scallops,” it says.

More information is on the following link Food Safety Information Notice Harvesting of King Scallops

The "Code of Practice for the Irish Shellfish Monitoring Programme (Biotoxins)”  has also been updated and is available on the Food Safety Authority of Ireland website.

The SFPA Food Safety Unit can be contacted at email [email protected].

Published in SFPA

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 guide to assist fishing skippers to meet landing obligation requirements has been published by the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).

A waterproof copy of the guide has been posted to all vessel owners with an electronic logbook onboard. One guide will be delivered for each 12 metre and over vessel.

The guide was compiled with input from the SFPA consultative committee.

Discarding is a term specifically used for catches of species which are not kept but returned to the sea.

The “landing obligation” is the term used by the EU to put an end to the wasteful practice.

Under the landing obligation requirements, all catch subject to Total Allowable Catch (TAC) limits must be retained, recorded, and landed, unless an exemption applies.

The SFPA’s guide offers detailed instructions on how discards can be recorded using ieCatch V3, the latest version of the Irish electronic logbook software.

Illustrated with step-by-step procedures, screenshots, and examples, it guides users through the process of logging a discard.

Welcoming the publication of the guide, SFPA executive chair Paschal Hayes said he was “encouraged that representatives from the Sea-Fisheries Protection Consultative Committee have partnered with the SFPA in the production and promotion of our Landing Obligation Exemptions Guide”.

“It is imperative for fishing vessel masters and owners to familiarise themselves with this guide to ensure accurate recording of discards and compliance with conditions for discarding under de minimis and high survivability,”Hayes said.

“Accurate reporting of discards plays a role in the sustainable management of our marine resources. The SFPA continues to ensure the implementation of the Landing Obligation through inspection, control activities and consultation with fishers, other control agencies and various stakeholders,”he said.

Sea-Fisheries Protection Consultative Committee chair Catherine McManus said the guide is “a practical example of the Consultative Committee, working with the SFPA”.

“ Promoting compliance with the Landing Obligation is important to ensure fishers are fully informed of their obligations and that the future sustainability of the sector is safeguarded. I want to thank my colleagues in the Consultative Committee who worked with the SFPA to progress this initiative,” McManus said.

The guide is accessible here

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The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and Marine Institute will host a workshop for industry this week on the requirements relating to sanitary surveys for shellfish harvesting areas and Ireland’s implementation of the relevant legislation.

The workshop will be held in person at FSAI’s head office in Dublin as well as online from 10am to 2pm this Thursday 8 February, and will include speakers from the SFPA, FSAI, Marine Institute, IFA-Aquaculture, CEFAS (UK) and AquaFact.

Keynote speaker will be Michelle Price-Howard from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries, Aquaculture and Science (CEFAS). Price-Howard works with CEFAS as principal scientist for seafood safety and is an environmental microbiologist with 20 years of experience in environmental assessment, water quality and food safety microbiology.

Price-Howard’s work has included environmental risk assessments for sanitary surveys of both aquaculture and wild-harvest shellfisheries for Food Standards Scotland. She has also been involved in providing training at EU and national level on the planning and conducting of sanitary surveys.

In addition, the SFPA will provide presentations on data management and shellfish classification as well as an update on the sanitary survey programme in Ireland.

There will also be an extended session to allow for a discussion on any topic relevant to sanitary surveys that participants may wish to raise. To help better plan the event, participants are asked to send questions or topics in advance if possible to Una Walton at [email protected].

In-person registration is now closed but the workshop can be accessed remotely via Microsoft Teams (Meeting ID: 340 075 071 736; Passcode: g33dRq) or by calling in (audio only) to +353 1 592 3998 with phone conference ID 397 409 122#.

Published in Aquaculture

The Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO) has moved to clarify its concerns about both the operation and oversight of the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).

IFPO chief executive Aodh O Donnell says his organisation’s primary interest is to ensure that Ireland has fit-for-purpose controls which are fair to everyone.

“Our current focus is on two main areas: inspections and accountability,” O Donnell says. “We are concerned that the information offered by the SFPA — in their annual report or on their website — does not offer sufficient transparency regarding the level of physical inspections, in particular.

These statistics provided by the SFPA appear to be based only on catches landed in Irish ports. They don’t appear to reflect the number or level of catches from Irish waters which are landed elsewhere.

“For example, the SFPA figures for 2022 show just 50 landings of catches from Norway vessels to Irish ports. Given the high level of Norwegian fishing opportunities in Irish waters, it’s likely that there are exponentially more Norwegian catches from Irish waters landed into other countries. This is the basis for our concern that the limited information from SFPA statistics may not reflect the full number of Norwegian or other foreign vessel catches in Irish waters.”

O Donnell adds that the IFPO also has ongoing concerns about the level of physical inspections carried out on Irish fishing vessels compared to foreign vessels.

“Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the SFPA to offer greater transparency on how controls and inspections are applied to all of those fishing in Irish waters. Otherwise, the Irish fishing industry has to question whether there is a level playing field in Irish fisheries controls,” he says.

O Donnell adds that in the interests of sustainability, there needs to be a more productive relationship between the SFPA and the fishing industry.

“But this is a challenge while there are so many unresolved issues, such as inspections, by-catches and concerns over the recording procedures in weighing system regulations,” he says. “The bottom line is that there needs to be greater independent oversight of the SFPA at Government level in Ireland and at present there is none.”

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the SFPA has launched a public consultation on its Statement of Strategy for 2024–2026 which will be open for submissions until Tursday 21 December.

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The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) sets out its strategic programme every three years and is currently preparing its Statement of Strategy for 2024–2026.

This will focus on what the SFPA wants to achieve during this period to ensure effective regulation of the shared marine resources surrounding Ireland.

As part of the process of developing the strategy (the current version can be viewed HERE), the SFPA says it welcomes the contribution of members of the public and stakeholders, especially those who fall within the its regulatory remit.

Views are sought specifically in relation to the following questions:

  • What matters should be considered in developing the SFPA mission, vision, and value statements?
  • What metrics should the SFPA use to measure performance and monitor achievement of strategic goals?

The SFPA says it will be grateful to receive your response together with any more general views you may have on its strategic direction and how it can best deliver on its remit.

Responses should be submitted by email to [email protected] by Thursday 21 December.

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Sea Fisheries Protection Agency (SFPA) officers recorded an 18% increase in fishing vessel inspection activity last year, the State regulator reports.

A total of 1,903 fishing vessel inspections were conducted in 2022, which marked an 18% increase in inspection activity from 2021, it says in its annual report.

“Throughout 2022, a total of 87 case files were opened as a result of 161 suspected sea-fisheries infringements. The figure of 161 represents the total of both food safety and sea-fisheries infringements,” it says.

“Points for serious infringements were applied in six out of seven cases put forward and one case had points applied to the master of a fishing vessel for the first time under new legislation,”it says, adding that “increased inspection and enforcement provide an effective tool to protect against illegal fishing activity”.

"A total of 1,903 fishing vessel inspections were conducted in 2022"

Officers also conducted 1,958 food safety official controls across 2,323 food premises under the authority’s remit.

The SFPA says it responded to 74 food incidents where there were “concerns regarding the safety or quality of food which required examination in the interests of public health”.

“ Seafood safety enforcement measures in 2022 ranged from informal advisory measures to the service of compliance notices, as well as to the commencement of criminal prosecutions for serious non-compliances,” it says.

“In 2022, two separate criminal prosecutions were commenced against food business operators for breaches of the regulations on food safety including on hygiene, temperature controls, pest control and traceability requirements,”it says.

The SFPA says 16 compliance notices were issued in 2022.

“2022 was a year of significant change within the SFPA with the appointment of a new authority and new senior management members across the organisation,”SFPA executive chair Paschal Hayes said.

“With renewed leadership and the substantial implementation of the 2020 Organisational Capability Review, the SFPA demonstrated its capacity as an effective, fair regulator and promoter of compliance with sea-fisheries and seafood safety law throughout the year,” he said.

Published in SFPA

Almost 46,000 fishing vessel landings were recorded at Irish harbours last year by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).

The total of 45,943 landings amounted to 267,200 tonnes, valued at €448,692,973, it says.

It says that 2,080 non-Irish vessels landed into Irish ports in 2022.

The data is derived from landing declarations and sales notes for all vessels landing into Ireland, plus Irish vessels landing outside Ireland provided to the SFPA by the sector, it says.

“Collecting and reporting data in relation to sea fisheries, as required under community law, is an important part of the SFPA’s mandate,” SFPA executive chair Paschal Hayes has said.

“ The SFPA uses the available data to help us monitor trends in fishing vessel landings, locations and species being caught. This information is also beneficial to key stakeholders as well as supporting our service delivery and workforce management,”he said.

Annual and quarterly statistics, including landings and inspections, are published on the SFPA website.

The statistics pages on the SFPA website provides fishers and members of the public with a “one stop shop” to access a range of useful data on fishing activity, including Quota Uptake which is available on a weekly basis, the SFPA says.

Published in SFPA

Seafood exporters to Britain have been warned of a delay in implementing export health certification.

The British government has confirmed that implementation of export health certification for goods, including fish and fishery products, from the EU to Britain will be delayed until January 31st, 2024.

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) says this means that “all of the proposed sanitary and phytosanitary controls changes for fish and fishery products consignments from Ireland to Britain, including export health certification and pre-notification requirements” will not go ahead on the scheduled date of October 31st, 2023.

“They are now scheduled to be implemented from January 31st, 2024 instead”, the SFPA says.

It says the British government has also published an updated version of their “Border Target Operating Model” which contains their plans for a new approach to importing goods that will “be progressively introduced from the end of January 2024”.

“The SFPA will continue to communicate further updates as and when required in this ever-evolving third country regulatory environment,”it says.

It says queries may be emailed to [email protected]

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