Secondary legislation giving effect to an EU regulation covering serious infringements of common fisheries policy rules has been described as ‘not fit for purpose’ by Ireland’s fishing industry representatives.

TDs from across the house have also tabled a Notice of Motion calling for SI 125 2016, to be annulled.

penalty points

Big haul of herring alongside MFV Vigilant. Photo John Cunningham

Published in early March, SI 125, 2016 replaces a previous Statutory Instrument that was the subject of two High Court challenges. The High Court made formal orders striking down as ‘unconstitutional’, provisions of a penalty point system for fishermen who engage in illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing.

The State was found to have failed to recognise the absence of principles and policies to introduce a novel way of determining serious infringements through the imposition of penalty points on holders of fishing licences.

 

According to SI 125, 2016, ‘points assigned to a holder of an Irish licence remain assigned, regardless of any criminal proceedings pending, or the outcome of any such proceedings, in respect of the serious infringement concerned.’

“It is inconceivable that anyone would draft legislation which allows penalty points to be applied to an Irish fishing licence after they have been acquitted in Court. What is worse is that a minister has signed this in view of the High Court decision. The Irish fishing industry was not consulted on this issue which allows the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority to apply points to a licence holder even though they have not committed any offence,” remarked Francis O’Donnell, Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation.

The chief executive added it was an “incredible and pernicious development” in Irish fisheries, and “mind boggling” that anyone could stand over this legislation.

Penalty points were introduced in 2014 and are similar ‘in principle’ to that for driving offences. A fishing licence holder may accumulate points over a period of time, eventually leading to the licence being suspended. In extreme cases, ‘persistent serious infringements’ could lead to the permanent withdrawal of a licence.

Inshore Ireland has submitted questions arising to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and awaits a response.