Navy to carry out fishery duties in foreign waters

THE Naval Service will make history next month when for the first time one of its ships carries out fishery protection duties in foreign waters.

Under an EU agreement, the LÉ Aoife will patrol British, French and Spanish territorial waters and take with it fishery protection officers from Ireland and the three other countries.

The mission will be co-ordinated from Haulbowline naval base where the Naval Service has monitoring equipment capable of tracking fishing vessels in European waters.

The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) said the mission represented a further development in international co-operation on fisheries control, whereby Ireland would be providing an inspection vessel manned with inspectors from the four countries.

The SFPA said historically the control of “trans-boundary fishing” was a problem as fishing vessels could cross from one jurisdiction to another to avoid inspection.

The problem was initially very prevalent in the North Sea and the first proposals for trans-boundary co-operation within the EU were developed there.

However, the European Commission has now formalised the protocols through the introduction of legislation in Ireland, Britain, France and Spain to allow inspections be carried out by one vessel in the territorial waters of the four states.

A spokesman for the Naval Service said the 31-year-old LÉ Aoife would have a crew of 40 for the mission who will be captained by Lieutenant Commander Mick Kenneally.

If the ship comes across a French vessel it wants to inspect the French fisheries inspector will lead the boarding team.

Similarly, if it is an Irish trawler, then the Irish inspector onboard will take the lead.

Peter Whelan, chairman of the SFPA, said the authorisation of this latest fisheries patrol is aligned with its goal of promoting a level playing field across EU waters.

“I welcome this initiative which I believe will benefit all fishermen who operate in compliance with the law. As fisheries are a common resource it is vital that all operators from all EU fleets respect the rules.”

He said it was vital that fish stocks are rebuilt by implementing conservation measures and tackling illegal fishing by fleets in our waters which is a major cause of the decline in our fish stocks and quotas.

“This initiative will provide an opportunity to stop the cycle of decline which in turn will support the development of a sustainable profitable future for our industry. We will continue to work with the competent authorities of other (EU) member states to promote a uniform standard of fisheries control,” he added.

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