A consultation paper to review the options for more restricted access to large fishing vessels trawling inside Ireland’s six nautical mile zone ‘is expected’ marine minister Michael Creed has told the thirteenth meeting of the National Inshore Fisheries Forum.

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Inshore boats at Roundstone, Connemara

This issue has been the subject of scientific and economic reports by the Marine Institute and BIM and some preliminary engagement with fisheries representative groups, including the NIFF.

Concerns centre on the relatively open access for large trawlers to inshore areas where coastal communities and island fishermen are dependent on inshore stocks.

“I am open to looking at the benefits, from an economic perspective for the inshore fleet of introducing some restrictions on large vessels. This could also have a positive biological impact on fish stocks and bio-diversity,” Minister Creed remarked.

“I am awaiting a paper from the Department setting out the issues, possible benefits and options to inform my consideration of the issues and possible impacts, both positive and negative. I am planning to undertake a public consultation on the options and to hear and understand the diverse interests of stakeholders to ensure that any new measures introduced are fair and balanced.”

Meeting agenda Minister Creed and the NIFF also discussed feedback on recent public consultations that addressed conservation measures for brown crab and razor clams. The consultations were held following recommendations from the NIFF and the measures are under consideration for their potential benefits to protect fish stocks in the long term.

Supported by BIM and a steering group including the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; the Marine Institute and the SFPA, an Inshore Fisheries Strategy on behalf of the NIFF is being prepared for the sector.

The Inshore Fisheries Forum structures, which include NIFF and six Regional Inshore Fisheries Forums (RIFFs), were established in 2014 to foster stakeholder-led development of proposals for the inshore sector.

Razor clam

Proposal is to increase the minimum conservation reference size for razor clams in the North Irish Sea. The change, if implemented would require that only razor clams with a minimum size of 125mm could be landed. Currently any razor clams over 100mm may be landed.

Feedback from the consultation demonstrates positive support for the conservation measure and also identified potential additional management measures.

Brown crab

This industry-led proposal also seeks to increase the minimum conservation reference size. The change, if implemented, would require that only brown crab with a minimum size of 140mm could be landed.

The proposal was put forward by the members of the fishing industry through the South East Regional Inshore Fisheries Forum, and received positive support from the consultation process.