Low levels of non-compliance by EU and national sea-fisheries and seafood safety legislation was dedected among fishermen, fish farmers and fish processors in 2016, according to the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority.
More than 3,000 fishing vessel inspections at sea and inshore, along with landing inspections in ports and factories, were conducted in 2016 by the State agency (2,696) and the Naval Service (1,213). Three vessels were detained; 42 infringements (under recording of catch and exceeding quota) were detected, and 15 cases were referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
“We are finding low levels of non-compliance, which is testament to the real efforts of the majority of fishermen, fish farmers and fish processors to work within the law,” remarked Susan Steele, SFPA chair.
“Protection of fish stocks is critical to safeguarding this industry which is the main source of employment for many coastal communities around the country, and contributes €891m annually to the economy,” she added.
Supported by the Naval Service and the Air Corps, compliance with the EU Landing Obligations was a priority of the authority throughout 2016, which requires fishermen to land what they catch.
“This major change in fishing practice is vital for the future of the industry. Science-based evidence of fish stocks is determining quota allocations, as the increases in mackerel and prawn quotas from the recent EU negotiations have demonstrated,” Susan Steele added.
The SFPA is responsible for ensuring fishermen and seafood producers comply with their obligations under sea-fisheries and seafood legislation. The agency’s remit covers all fishing vessels operating within Irelands’ 200 mile limit, along with around 2,000 Irish registered fishing vessels wherever they operate, and all seafood produced in Ireland’s 170 processing companies.
This includes monitoring and inspecting food safety controls on fishing vessels; in aquaculture production areas (e.g. mussels and oysters), as well as in establishments handling, preparing and processing seafood up to but excluding retail sale.
In 2016, the SFPA carried out more than 540 food safety inspections; 1,390 official control checks and issued 26 legal notices to food business operators.
“Food production involving wild or farmed fish requires particular attention at all stages of the chain. Our controls and inspections are designed to support Ireland’s international reputation for the highest standards in food product so that consumers can be confident that the Irish seafood they are consuming is safe and traceable,” added Susan Steele.
All vessels over 12 metres fishing within the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone are monitored electronically to assess compliance risks and indentify those that require more focussed inspections.
During 2016, the SFPA carried out 2,696 inspections at landings and 1,213 boarding inspections at sea by the Naval Service on vessesels from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Spain, France, UK, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway and Russia.
Inspectors also carried out inshore coastal patrols to monitor compliance with new regulations introduced in 2016 to help protect Ireland’s valuable crab, lobster and whelk fisheries (Regulations restrict commercial fishing to licensed operators in an effort to safeguard stocks, while also ensuring product traceability to legitimate operators, which is vitally important from a food safety and public health perspective).
The SFPA also carried out vehicle patrols at smaller regional ports to monitor unlicensed and unregistered vessels that are then targeted for inspection at sea during subsequent patrols in their area.