The DAFM has outlined the EU Commission’s Administrative Inquiry in relation to Ireland’s capacity to apply the rules of the CFP
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has issued a statement on the EU Commission’s Administrative Inquiry in relation to Ireland’s capacity to apply the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy
Current State of Play
- Ireland has received the findings of a formal Administrative Inquiry, undertaken by the European Commission to evaluate Ireland’s capacity to apply the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy.
- The findings, outlined by Commissioner Sinkevicius, EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, deems the Irish control and sanctioning systems as unsatisfactory and has put forward certain specific measures to address the issues raised.
- The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has brought the matter to the attention of the Government by way of Memo to Government and is examining the issues.
- The Minister will shortly be commencing a process of engagement with the EU Commissioner. In advance of this engagement, the Minister is not in a position to comment on the findings of the Inquiry and the package of measures that the Commissioner has set out.
In July 2019, Ireland received a formal decision of the Commission’s intention to conduct, for the first time, an Administrative Inquiry under Article 102(2) of the 2009 EU Fisheries Control Regulation to evaluate Ireland’s capacity to apply the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
This is further to a 2018 Audit carried out by the Commission in Killybegs which identified “several serious deficiencies in the Irish fisheries control system, which threaten to undermine the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).”
Principally, the Commission identified shortcomings related to the effective control of pelagic fisheries, issues related to underreporting of catches of these species; inadequate and ineffective sanctioning system for offences committed by operators; and the lack of control and enforcement of bluefin tuna catches by recreational vessels.
The formal Administrative Inquiry required Ireland to provide information on specific findings to enable the Commission to further evaluate Ireland’s capacity to apply the rules of the CFP and to assess the potential consequences of any failure to do so. All the required data was submitted by Ireland to the Commission in February 2020. Commissioner Sinkevicius wrote to the Minister setting out the Commission’s findings in December 2020.
Under the Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006, operational issues concerning sea-fisheries control are, as a matter of law, exclusively for the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) and the Naval Service.
The findings are divided into 6 headings
- Possible under declaration of catches between 2012 & 2016
- Sanctions for under declaration
- Investigation into weights processed by factories between 2012 & 2016
- Effectiveness of Irelands sanction system
- Effectiveness of the Irish control system including Ireland’s Control Plan which allows for weighing of pelagic landings in the factories;
- Control of recreational fishery for Bluefin Tuna (this delivered up to date acceptable results and no further actions are required.)
The Commissioner has advised that resulting from the Administrative Inquiry the state of play of the Irish fisheries control and sanctioning system is unsatisfactory and has suggested a package of measures to bring Ireland’s fishery control up to standard. These measures involve:
- based on the Commission’s analysis, it has concluded that Ireland over the period 2012-2016 has overfished the quota of mackerel by 28,600 tonnes; Horse Mackerel quota by 8,100 tonnes and Blue Whiting by 5,600 tonnes. The Commissioner advised that the Commission will open a payback procedure of the amount overfished, to be taken from future quotas, as permitted under the EU Control Regulation;
- appropriate measures to be systematically taken to sanction detected infringements;
- removing a derogation that permits pelagic fish, such as mackerel, to be weighed in factories. This will require that all fish are weighed on the quayside on landing.
- collaborate with the Commission to establish an action plan to solve the issues related to automated cross checks, risk analysis and national control plan.
- the EU Commission has commenced infringement proceedings against Ireland as a result of Irelands failure to establish points systems for masters of sea fishing vessels who commit serious infringements of the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy. A Statutory Instrument to give effect to a points system for licence holders was signed into law on 26 August 2020.
- the EU Commission has suspended €25 million in EU co-funding for Ireland’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Operational Programme, with the total €37.2m at risk for the full period of the Programme, it will continue to suspend further funds until the matter is resolved.
- The Minister is currently finalising Heads of a Bill for Pre-legislative Scrutiny in relation to the introduction of primary legislation to implement a points system for masters.