Creed critical of failure to apply fishery points system

Fish producers have praised opposition parties for blocking Government moves to introduce an EU points system for the industry.

However, Agriculture, Food, and Marine Minister Michael Creed, who signed the regulation into law in March, described those who voted against it as reckless.

The planned points system would apply to the licence holder of a sea-fishing boat, Irish and foreign, in cases where a serious infringement of the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy was detected within Ireland’s 200-mile exclusive fishery zone.

Mr Creed said failure to comply with the regulations had led to the suspension of funding under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) Operational Programme.

However, this week, thanks to Sinn Fein and Fianna Fáil, the Dáil voted to annul the regulation.

Mr Creed said it was an important law and was required to ensure Ireland meets its obligations.

“The Commission has suspended contributions under the EMFF including €2.6m in 2017 and a further €4m in 2018,” he said.

“This figure will accrue to €37m in the event of continued non-compliance. There is a significant potential for further fines arising from the European Commission infringement proceedings.”

Michael Creed

However, in a joint statement, the four main fish producer organisations pointed out that, since 2014, Fine Gael had brought forward three statutory instruments (SI) to try and bring the EU penalty point system for fishermen into law here.

The Irish Fish Producer’s Organisations, the Killybegs Fishermans Organisation, the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation, and the Irish South and East Fish Producers Organisation said that, in 2014, the High Court ruled the first SI to be unconstitutional and “very out of line with fair procedures”, while a further SI in 2016 was a carbon copy of the first.

“This 2018 statutory instrument again failed to follow any fair procedure and attempted to administer points in advance of any criminal proceedings, it failed to allow fishermen ample time to appeal and in particular, points would remain on the fishing licence even though the fisherman was exonerated in court and found to be completely innocent,” the producers said.

They acknowledged a penalty point system is needed but said the industry would not accept a system “that is above the courts and ignores the rights of the individual to have a fair hearing”.

The producers added: “Fishing representatives are now waiting to see what moves, if any, Minister Creed will make and support the amendments put forward on Tuesday that would see a fairer penalty point system similar to that of the UK, whereby points are assigned only after conviction for alleged offences.”

They said the minister promised to engage fully, on the issue, with fishermen but failed to act.

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