Trawlers in Irish waters to be priority of watchdogs
Watchdogs have vowed to prioritise the overseeing of trawlers in Irish waters with new bans on discarding fish coming into force.
More than 2,745 inspections of boats were carried out over the last year, the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) said, with 10 vessels detained by the Navy for breaching rules.
The agency said infringements at sea ranged from the under recording of catches to having incorrect equipment on board.
Susan Steele, SFPA chairwoman, said: "The SFPA is committed to playing its part in ensuring a strong future for the Irish fishing industry through the detection of all illegal fishing.
"This year, with the support of the Naval Service, we prioritised the implementation of the new landing obligation, which effectively bans the discarding of fish overboard and was introduced for pelagic fisheries in 2015.
"The generally low level of non-compliance reflects the genuine effort on the part of many fishermen to comply with the regulations."
The ban on discarding fish overboard is being extended in January to demersal fisheries, covering species like plaice, halibut and turbot.
Ms Steele added: "We will be prioritising efforts aimed at deterring those who won't comply and supporting those who do."
A review of inspections revealed a total of 1,476 were undertaken by SFPA officers.
Some 1,078 boardings and inspections took place at sea by Navy and Air Corps crews with boats from Belgium, Denmark, the Faroe Islands, France, Germany, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Spain and the UK all checked.
The Navy itself inspected 492 Irish registered vessels and 586 foreign registered vessels.
Authorities have been criticised this year over the presence of some of the biggest trawlers in the world in Irish waters.
Among them were the Dutch-owned Annelies Ilena, formerly the Irish-owned Atlantic Dawn and the Margiris, both of which were inspected and found to be compliant with the regulations.
Despite this these giant freezer vessels have been subject to bans in Australian waters and off west Africa and were the focus of an online petition backed by tens of thousands of people to force the Government to ban them from Irish waters.
The SFPA said it carried out more than 146 inshore inspections on patrols along the south, west and north west coasts from May to October as part of a range of efforts to protect the long term sustainability of valuable crab, lobster and whelk fisheries.