Inshore patrols to target unlicensed fishing in Mayo

THE Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) will shortly commence a nationwide inshore fisheries patrol programme as part of its measures to help protect Ireland’s valuable crab, lobster and whelk fisheries and public health.

Unlicensed operators will be specifically targeted during the programme, which will run until late autumn and will include patrols along the Mayo coast.

The SFPA are advising that anyone found to be non-compliant with sea-fisheries or seafood safety regulations can expect to face prosecution.

Licensing, registration, operation of on board vessel trackers where they are required and compliance with fishing within designated fishing areas will be among the issues that will be scrutinised. The SFPA will also be checking that accurate sales records are being maintained.

Only licensed fishermen are permitted to sell their catches commercially to ensure traceability of product, to protect consumer health, and ensure conservation of the fisheries.

Susan Steele, chair of the SPFA said: “Illegal fishing by a small number of fishermen is unfair to the majority of inshore fishermen who fish legally. It jeopardises the future of the industry by threatening the long-term sustainability of Ireland’s valuable inshore fisheries on which many coastal communities rely for a living.

“It also poses a risk to public health, and could potentially damage the excellent reputation Irish seafood enjoys both at home and abroad.

This year the SPFA will deploy two 7.5 Metre Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIB) craft with the capacity to winch lift and inspect lobster pots and keeps (used for holding live crustaceans prior to sale) to facilitate detailed inspections.

Their shore monitoring programme will also include vehicle patrols to small local ports and landing places so SFPA sea-fisheries inspection officers can identify and monitor unlicensed and unregistered vessels, which may be deployed during the summer months. Such vessels will be targeted for inspection at sea during subsequent patrols in that area.

Detailed compliance assessments of local fishing fleets have already been undertaken by the respective SFPA Port Office staff to identify the inshore vessels operational in their port area. This will direct patrol effort specifically against known unlicensed operators.

The inshore patrols began this week with the support of the Naval Service, Air Corps and Inland Fisheries Ireland.

Susan Steele says that anyone, including recreational fishers and members of the public, who has questions or would like the SFPA’s Sea-Fisheries Protection Officers to focus on particular areas should contact their local SFPA port office.