Fisheries Protection Legislation
The Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1978, as amended, is the basis of sea fisheries protection legislation. It is not lawful for a foreign sea fishing boat to enter the exclusive fishery limits of the State except for a purpose recognised by international law or provided for under a treaty. If it so enters for a purpose permitted by international law, International Convention, or other purpose, it may do so only in pursuance of such purpose and for so long as permitted by that purpose.
The Master of the boat who enters in breach of the above provision commits an offence when he so enters. The Master covers the Master, skipper or other person in charge. The offence is subject on conviction on indictment to a fine up to €12,700 and confiscation of any fish and fishing gear. The court may also on conviction suspend or cancel a certificate of competency held by the Master or other officer in the case of an offence committed by an Irish sea fishing boat or person.
A foreign sea fishing boat is one which is not an Irish sea fishing boat. An Irish sea fishing boat is one either registered under the Merchant Shipping Act and after 1st July 1962 and exceeding 35 feet registered in the Mercantile Marine Act register or exempted from registration by ministerial regulations. It must be owned by an Irish citizen or a company established under and subject to the laws of the State and having its principal place of business in the State.
It is an offence for a person on board a foreign sea fishing boat to fish or attempt to fish within the exclusive fishery limits of the State unless authorised by law to do so. Breaches are subject to conviction on indictment and a fine of up to €127,000, together with forfeiture of the fish and fishing gear.
Sea Fishing Boat Licence
A fishing boat
- under the Merchant Shipping Act registered in the register of fishing boats or
- which is required to be registered,
- a ship registered on the Mercantile Marine Act
- or required to be registered
is subject to restrictions as follows.
It must not be used for sea fishing, whether within the exclusive fishery limits of the State or otherwise, nor may persons on board such a boat fish for sea fish or attempt to do so other than in accordance with this sea fishing boat licence granted by the licensing authority.
Application & Conditions
An application for a sea fishing boat licence shall be made to the authority. There is a provision regarding the application for the licence and consideration of the application. The authority may refuse a licence or attach conditions taking into account
- economic and social benefits which the operation of the boat would be likely to contribute to coastal communities,
- EU quotas,
- the projected number of annual landings at ports
- the projected annual tonnage and value of fish landed
- the projected annual level of expenditure of in the State on wages, fuel supplies, equipment and services
- the projected level of social security and tax payments in respect of employees
A sea fishing boat licence shall not be granted unless an independent survey of the boat is conducted by a competent person and is certified to be in a safe and seaworthy condition. A licence shall not be granted unless the sea fishing boat is wholly owned by a national of an EU State or a company under and subject to the laws of an EU State with a principal place of business in an EU State.
Where a sea fishing boat is owned by a company, particulars of the beneficial owners and the shares and persons who control the same must be given to the licensing authority on the application. Particulars must be given of any change in control or ownership.
Conditions may be applied to a licence. This may include
- restriction of sea fishing,
- nationality of the crew,
- events which may affect the validity of the licence.
The licensing authority may suspend or revoke the licence if it believes there has been a contravention of the conditions. Particulars of any change in the underlying company must be furnished, and some changes may revoke the licence.
Fishing Control Measures
The Minister may, by regulations, specify conditions to be complied with by sea fishing boats in relation to
- fishing for sea fish within the exclusive fisheries jurisdiction of the State
- landing in the State of fish from such bolts
- transshipment of fish
Regulations may apply to sea fishing generally or to particular classes of fish, landing fish or transhipment.
Breach of the licensing requirements are subject on conviction on indictment to a fine up to €500,000 together with forfeiture of the fish and fishing gear.
The Minister may by bye-laws prohibit or restrict certain methods of trawling within the exclusive fisheries jurisdiction of the State. Contravention is an offence subject on summary conviction to a fine up to €635 or on conviction on indictment to a fine of up to€12,700 together with forfeiture of the fish and fisheries gear concerned.
The Minister may describe and adopt measures regarding the conservation of fish stock and measures for rational exploitation of fisheries. They may relate to sea fishing for particular classes or descriptions of sea fishing. They may relate to sea fishing other than for specified classes. They may relate generally to fishing boats or certain classes of fishing boats.
EU & North Atlantic Convention
The Minister may, with the consent of the Minister, make regulations for the purpose of carrying out the Convention on the Conduct of Fishing Operations in the North Atlantic and any replacement convention from time to time.
The Minister may make regulations giving effect to European Union laws, in particular those in relation to fisheries and fishing policy. Breach of the regulations is subject on summary conviction to a fine up to €126,900 and to forfeiture of the fish and fishing gear.
Sale of Fish
The Minister may order that specified kinds of sea fish, when measured in the specified manner, shall be deemed undersized in accordance with the terms of the order made. The order may make different provisions for different sizes of fish. It is an offence to be in possession of any undersized sea fish. Contravention is subject to summary conviction to a fine of up to €650 together with forfeiture.
It is not lawful to sell or offer for sale any undersized sea fish. Contravention is an offence subject on summary conviction to a fine up to €500. The fish may be destroyed or forfeited on conviction.
The Minister may make regulations regarding the possession of nets and types of nets in a specified area or generally. There may be different provisions regarding different types and meshes, either generally or in relation to different types of fishing for different types of fish, different methods of fishing, different periods, et cetera. Contravention of the provisions as an offence.
Sea fisheries protection officers have extensive powers to enforce the legislation. They may stop and search any person carrying or believed to be carrying fish of any kind or where they may suspect sea fish may be so found. They may enter at all reasonable times
- any premises where fish are believed to be sold or stored,
- the premises of any person engaged in carrying goods,
- any pier wharf jetty.or related premises
- any ship both railway wagon lorry cart or other vessel
They may examine sea fish found in the place and open packages for such purposes. They may stop, enter, and search any boat used that is believed to be used in fishing or suspected of containing undersized fish. They may examine all fish and nets. They may remove and detain sea fish netting and instruments. They may require particulars of the name and address of the person having custody of the fishing boat
Sea fisheries officers have powers to examine and take copies of records. There is provision for the destruction of sea unfit sea fish. It is an offence to obstruct or impede a sea fisheries protection officer.
See fisheries protection officers have powers to
- stop and board a vessel
- require the production of certificates of registries licences, logbooks, papers and documents
- require explanations concerning the same
- search the boat
- demand names and addresses
Breach & Detention
If he suspects there has been a contravention by any person on board, he may require the boat and persons on board to land at the nearest and most convenient port. He may detain the import. He may make requirements and use force. Obstruction is an offence.
There is a provision for the detention of boats and persons on board where the commission of an offence is suspected. Applications are made to the District Court for an order authorising continuation detention beyond the initial period of 48 hours. Detention may be permitted. Release may be conditional on giving security.
Boats and persons charged may be detained pending prosecution. There is a provision for an application to the District Court for orders.
Contravention of the regulations and conditions is an offence. Similar penalties apply, and there is a provision for conviction on indictment, summary conviction and forfeiture of fishing gear.
It is an offence not to have on board certain papers evidencing the nationality of the boat. The Master may be convicted.
It is not lawful to carry on board any Irish sea fishing boat or any other boat within the exclusive fishery limits a device by which the mesh of any part of net could be obstructed or otherwise diminished. Contravention is an offence.
Where an offence under the legislation has been committed by any person on board the Master, even if not the actual offender, may also be proceeded against. It is a defence if he exercised due diligence and showed he did not consent and furnish the requisite information.