Birdwatch Ireland “deeply concerned” by court refusal to uphold provisional coastal trawling ban
Birdwatch Ireland says it is “deeply concerned” by the Court of Appeal’s refusal to uphold the government’s interim ban on large vessels fishing in the six nautical mile zone.
The suspension was requested by Navy Secretary Charlie McConalogue, pending a court of appeals ruling on a permanent ban.
A full hearing was held on June 22 and judgment was reserved.
The case arose after former Navy Secretary Michael Creed announced in December 2018 that vessels over 18 meters (m) would be excluded from trawling within the six nautical mile zone and lines basic from January 1, 2020.
A three-year transition period has been granted to vessels over 18m targeting sprat, as fishing is concentrated within the six nautical mile zone.
Birdwatch Ireland says the ban followed extensive consultation and was supported by “expert analysis from the Marine Institute and Bord Iascaigh Mhara.”
“These reports highlighted that restricting the access of larger vessels within the six nautical mile zone would lead to better protection of coastal environments and critical fish habitat, for the benefit of marine biodiversity and fish. commercially exploited fish stocks, ”the NGO said.
“They highlighted the socio-economic benefits for small coastal vessels, which constitute the vast majority of fishing vessels registered in Ireland. The potential benefits included opportunities for diversification, more jobs and added value from landings, ”he said.
“Better management of coastal waters could be achieved by aligning fisheries more closely with local ecological and environmental goals and reducing conflicts between mobile and static gear,” he said.
He said he could also strengthen the link between local fishery resources and local economies.
Two fishermen have applied for judicial review, challenging the validity of the policy. The High Court ruled on October 6, 2020 that the policy was established in violation of due process and was void and / or without legal effect.
After an appeal from a number of NGOs, the minister appealed the High Court’s decision to the Court of Appeal.
Birdwatch Ireland politician Fintan Kelly said it was “of serious concern” that the sprat catches in 2019 had increased significantly – compared to 2016-2018 – to 13,000 tonnes, worth ‘approximately 3.5 million euros.
“Anecdotal evidence from inshore fishermen and anglers around the coast suggests that landings in 2020 could again be an increase from 2019 levels, putting significant pressure on the marine environment,” did he declare.
“We are now concerned that overfishing of sprat will recur this winter because of this decision,” Kelly said.
He noted that the European sprat is a critically important species, linking plankton and top predators, including seabirds and marine mammals.
Sprat is also an important forage fish species for commercial fish species like herring, Kelly said, and overfishing poses “a significant risk to the health of commercial fish stocks which has socio-economic implications for the fishing industry “.
“This is particularly relevant considering that three of the five herring stocks exploited by Irish fishermen have collapsed and have no catch notices for 2021,” he added.
He said research from BirdWatch Ireland shows that sprat is an important prey species for 12 of the 23 breeding seabirds regularly found in Irish waters. Many of these species are birds on the Amber List of conservation concern.
Overfishing of sprat is also a threat to the whale species that pass through Irish waters during the summer months and are heavily dependent on the Sprat, he said, with up to half the fin whale diet. and 70% of the humpback whale diet relying on young sprat and herring.