The warning came as the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), which regulates sea-fisheries and the seafood sector, announced its end-of-year figures which showed it carried out more than 4,300 inspections at sea and on land during the past 12 months.
They resulted in 12 vessels being detained, 24 cases being referred to the DPP and 23 legal notices issued to food businesses.
Despite this, the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) said that it showed there was continued low levels of non-compliance within the industries.
During the year more than 3,600 sea-fisheries inspections were undertaken at sea, on landings and inshore.
Infringements detected included under-recording of catches and exceeding quotas.
The SFPA also conducted more than 700 inspections of food businesses, the majority of which were of land-based. As a result, it issued just 23 legal notices.
The SFPA is responsible for all fishing vessels operating within the country’s 200-mile limit. It also oversees the operations of more than 2,000 Irish-registered vessels and all food produced by Ireland’s 170 seafood processing companies.
Susan Steele, chairwoman of the SFPA, said the Irish seafood industry, which is worth about €1.1bn annually to the economy, has been identified as one of the main drivers of export growth for Ireland’s agri-food sector.
She said consumer trust in the quality, provenance and safety of Ireland’s seafood produce is vital for further growth in the sector.
“So, too, is the existence of sustainable fish stocks,” said Dr Steele. “Yet illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing continues to be one of the greatest threats facing the fishing industry globally. It is jeopardising the development of sustainable fisheries across the world, including Ireland, as well as posing serious consequences for food security.”
She said good regulation underpins the future development of the valuable shared marine resources of Ireland.
“The majority of fishermen, producers and processors want to work within the law and the low levels of non-compliance that we are detecting are evidence of that,” she said.
“We recognise too that compliance isn’t always easy. The new EU Landing Obligation regulations, which require fishermen to land what they catch, have meant significant changes in fishing practice in recent years. However, these are vital changes to ensure a sustainable industry, with fish stocks capable of providing higher and more profitable catches.”