Minister for Agriculture appeals High Court trawler decision

11 November 2020 

The Minister for Agriculture has launched an appeal against the High Court’s decision to permit large trawlers within Ireland’s inshore waters. 

Last month the High Court ruled the ban that came into effect in January that prevented large trawlers from Ireland’s six mile zone was void and had no legal effect. 

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said that while he was not in a position to comment on the policy, he is committed to the sustainability of fishing in Irish waters and “to implementing the commitment made in our Programme for Government” in regards to inshore water protection. 

The benefits of reinstating the ban 

Following the High Court’s decision, a coalition of both fishing and environmental groups came together and wrote to Minister McConalogue and urged him to reinstate the large trawler ban. 

Alex Crowley of the National Inshore Fishermen’s Association stressed that the fishing industry and environmental NGOs have a “common goal or vision for a healthy marine environment”. 

“Inshore fisheries are acutely aware of the need for a healthy marine environment to support their businesses and way of life. 

As an economic sector and as a sector in society we are particularly exposed to negative environmental impacts”, he said. 

Policy Officer at BirdWatch Ireland Fintan Kelly warned that a “biodiversity crisis has been unfolding for many years” beneath the waves. 

“Overfishing has hollowed out marine ecosystems, and as fish stocks have collapsed, it is having a direct impact on the Irish fishing communities that depend on them. Ireland can and must do better,” he said. 

Ireland’s “leading role” 

Just earlier this month, a report authored by Mr Kelly concluded that Ireland has played a “leading role” in the EU-wide failure to end overfishing. 

The current bloc-wide Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) came into force in 2014 and set a legally binding deadline to end overfishing by 2015 “where possible” and set a 2020 target as the latest year to stop the practice. 

However, almost half of the agreed fishing limits within the policy were exceeded, figures from last December reveal. 

The collapse of herring and cod stocks as a result of overfishing has hit small inshore fishing vessels the hardest, which to date makes up 80 per cent of Ireland’s national fleet. 

As a result, the sector has now become heavily dependent on a limited number of shellfish and lobster stocks. 

“This lack of resilience has left the sector extremely vulnerable to crises, such as the collapse in markets driven by Covid-19,” BirdWatch Ireland said. 

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Kayle Crosson