The country’s marine watchdog has said that it has carried out almost 4,000 sea-fisheries inspections this year and found high levels of compliance with regulations.
Independent regulator Susan Steele, who heads the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority, said controls and inspections of trawler owners, fish farmers, and factory processors are designed to support Ireland’s international reputation for the highest standards in food product.
People can be confident that the Irish seafood they are consuming is safe and traceable, she said,
The sector sustained thousands of jobs and contributes €891m yearly to the economy.
Provisional figures for 2016 showed 3,900 sea-fisheries inspections, including 1,213 by the Naval Service, of fishing vessels at sea and inshore along with inspections of catches on landings in ports and in factories. Staff from the authority conducted 2,696 inspections.
Non-compliance with Irish and EU regulations among fishermen, fish farmers and fish processors were at low levels, provisional findings showed.
Only three fishing vessels out of a total of 2,000 Irish-registered vessels were detained during the year compared to 10 last year.
Up until Monday last, the inspections carried out by the Naval Service included vessels from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Spain, France, Britain, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway and Russia.
A total of 42 infringements were detected with 15 cases referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to under-recording of catches and exceeding quotas.
Ms Steele said: “We are finding low levels of non-compliance which is testament to the real efforts of the majority of fishermen, fish farmers and fish processors to work within the law.
“Protection of fish stocks is critical to safeguarding the industry which is the main source of employment for many coastal communities around the country.
“This year, with the support of the Naval Service and the Air Corps, we continued to prioritise compliance with the new EU Landing Obligation regulations which require the fishing sectors to land what they catch.
“This major change in fishing practice is vital for the future of the industry.”
Ms Steele said science-based evidence of fish stocks is determining quota allocations as the increases in mackerel and prawn quotas from the recent EU negotiations demonstrated.
The authority is responsible for ensuring fisher- men and seafood producers comply with their obligations under sea-fisheries and seafood legislation.
The state agency’s remit covers all fishing vessels operating within Ireland’s 320km limit and all seafood produced in Ireland’s 170 seafood processing companies.
Its role includes monitoring and inspecting food safety controls on fishing vessels and in aquaculture production areas, such as mussels and oysters, as well as in establishments handling, preparing, and processing seafood.
The figures show the authority carried out over 540 food safety inspections and 1,390 official control checks. A total of 26 legal notices were issued to food business operators.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved