On October 27, 2016, the Supreme Court issued a Judgment (Barlow & ors v Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine & ors) that determined fishing by Northern Ireland vessels within the 0 to 6 nautical mile zone of the territorial waters of the State is not permitted by law.
Application of the Judgment applies to all fishing by Northern Irish fishing vessels in this zone relying on the Vosinage Arrangements. Fishing activities that have a legal basis (reliant on access arrangements to Ireland’s 6-12nm zone in the EU Regulation 1380/2013) are not affected.
Responding to a Dáil question from Deputy Charlie McConalogue, Michael Creed, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, said while the Supreme Court upheld the High Court finding that the Voisinage Arrangements were not valid, there was insufficient provision in domestic law for them.
“The Government has been notified of the development and the Attorney General’s office is examining the Judgment as part of the Government’s active consideration of the situation.”
The London Fisheries Convention 1964 allowed Coastal States to assert exclusive fishing rights within 6 nautical miles from their baselines. It also provided for contracting parties to allow these fishermen from another Coastal State who habitually fished within that belt to continue to do so, by reason of Voisinage Arrrangements.
Accordingly, pre-existing reciprocal arrangements were re-affirmed at the time by means of an exchange of letters in the 1960s between the UK/Northern Ireland and Ireland, which allowed for vessels from Northern Ireland to fish within Ireland’s 6 nautical mile zone, and vice versa.
The Common Fisheries Policy (Article 5, Regulation 1380/2013) provides for the continuation of such ‘neighbourhood arrangements’.
Statement from the Sea-fisheries Protection Authority
Northern Ireland registered fishing vessels are no longer permitted to fish within the 0 to 6nm zone of Irish territorial waters following the recent Supreme Court judgment on a mussel seed fishery case. The change came into effect on Wednesday 9th November 2016.
Northern Ireland registered fishing vessels are also required to remove any passive gear such as pots which have been laid within the 0-6nm zone.
Fishing access for Northern Irish registered fishing vessels in the 6-12nm zone are not affected by the judgment. UK vessels (including those registered in Northern Ireland) can continue to fish some stocks in certain regions of this zone, as set out in Regulation EC No 1380/2013.