Failure to invoke fishing rules could net multi-million euro penalty

Ireland could face a multi-million euro fine after the European Commission moved formal infringement proceedings over the failure to implement fishing regulations.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has received a letter informing the Government that the commission is beginning proceedings for not introducing a points system — similar to penalty points for road users — for licence holders of sea fishing boats and a separate system for skippers of vessels.

A 2009 EU regulation created an EU ‘points’ system to act as a deterrent against specified serious infringements, and to ensure compliance with the Common Fisheries Policy and States were given until January 2012 to implement this.

The commission has already withheld €2.7m in grants from Ireland for not implementing the system and will hold back a further €4m this year. This figure will reach €37.2m over the course of the EU Fisheries fund by 2020.

Mr Creed said: “The letter indicates that Ireland has two months to submit observations and I look forward to furnishing the commission with a detailed response advising that a system applying points to licence holders has been put in place already and I am working to introduce primary legislation in respect of masters of fishing vessels as a matter of urgency.”

While Mr Creed introduced a statutory instrument in March in a bid to address the issue, Fianna Fáil is to bring forward a motion next week to overrule this instrument.

If the Government fails to implement the points system which is now in operation across the EU, they could be slapped with significant fines.

Mr Creed said: “The new Statutory Instrument has taken on board the Supreme Court judgements and also satisfies Ireland’s legal obligations under the Common Fisheries Policy and will address the infringement proceedings issued by the EU Commission on this matter.”

The minister also intends to submit a memorandum to Government shortly seeking approval for the drafting of a bill to provide for the separate EU points system for skippers.

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