Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Fisheries and the Marine, Padraig Mac Lochlainn, TD has called on Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue to ensure that there will be a level-playing field if there are future agreements between the EU and Third (non-EU) countries when it comes to access to Irish waters.

During a Dáil debate on Tuesday 14 November, the Sinn Féin Deputy asked the Minister if he will work to ensure that any future agreements between the EU and Third (non-EU) Countries about access to Irish waters under the jurisdiction of the Common Fisheries Policy include a stipulation that they face the same stringent control and conservation regime as the Irish fleet, particularly with regard to mixed species catch.

Replying to the question, Minister McConalogue said:

“Fishing vessels of any non-EU country may not fish in EU waters, including Irish waters, unless there is an agreement in place allowing them to do so.

“All fishing vessels operating in EU waters – whether EU vessels or non-EU vessels – are required to comply with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

“Ireland’s control authorities, the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) and the Naval Service, are responsible for the monitoring and control of fishing vessels in our Exclusive Fisheries Zone to ensure compliance with the rules of the CFP. Under the Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006, all operational issues of this nature concerning sea-fisheries control are, as a matter of law, exclusively for the SFPA and the Naval Service and I am expressly precluded from getting involved in operational matters.”

Referring to an issue raised in the answer from the Minister, the Irish Fish Producers Organisation once again questioned the oversight of the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority. It stated:

“This Dáil Question from Padraig Mac Lochlainn TD and response from the Minister clarify a key issue of concern to our members – that under the current legislation, there is no provision for independent oversight of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) and its operations as a fisheries policing authority. This needs to be addressed as a policy issue, not as an operational matter, in order to create a monitoring, control and enforcement framework that is applied equally to Irish and foreign vessels in Irish waters.”