18th October

Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill to address issues raised by Supreme Court ‘Barlow’ case

Inshore Ireland has seen a letter (9/12/2016) to Michael Creed, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, regarding the Supreme Court Judgment in the ‘Barlow’ case.

Clogherhead

The 10-strong fleet at Clogherhead, Co Louth on Ireland's east coast, mostly fishes for prawns and whitefish species

It reads:

'I [Francis O’Donnell, chief executive, IFPO] refer to a recent Dail answer you gave on the 30th of November 2016 in relation to the proposed introduction of legislation in light of the recent Supreme Court decision in the Barlow case. This issue was discussed at length at the IFPO AGM on the 3rd of December in Galway, as were comments published by BBC Northern Ireland of late on the same issue.

You have indicated that you intend to introduce this legislation and to date we note that there has been no consultation with the Irish Fishing Industry in that regard. None the less, you have stated a policy intention. This is clearly a departure to the norm. It is equally in breach of the Common Fisheries Policy that you referred to in the Dail.

You are obliged to consult with us prior to the exercise of your Ministerial Prerogative on policy. Access by foreign vessels (this is the term used in the 2006 fisheries act for non- Irish vessels. See Definitions) to the exclusive Irish territorial waters is of major concern to the directorship and membership of the IFPO, Irish processing industry and Irish citizens in general as this would most likely relate to the alienation of Ireland’s natural resources.

On behalf of my Directors and members, I have to express grave reservations in relation to the proposed intent of bringing legislation forward that would extend or increase access to Ireland’s exclusive fishery zone by foreign vessels beyond that agreed at the London Fisheries Convention (LFC). I am also concerned that by making provision to allow one of the contracting parties of the LFC, (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) to alter this agreement then it is my understanding that all the other 11 countries may avail of any new agreement.

Why does the State feel obliged to adhere to an arrangement which was never implemented some 52 year later without consultation and without due and proper consideration of the issues which are many?'

Department response to Inshore Ireland invite to reply (15/02/2017)

'The Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (IFPO) has communicated its concerns about the preparation of the Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill and matters arising from the Supreme Court judgment to the Minister.

In relation to matters arising from the litigation which led to the judgment, it is important to be aware that the original case now comprises two parts; while the Supreme Court has issued judgment in one part, the other part is yet to be heard and accordingly matters pertaining to the litigation remain sub judice.

The necessity for a legislative amendment to the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006 arises in order to take account of the Supreme Court finding in relation to the longstanding reciprocal access arrangements for Northern Irish sea-fishing boats to Ireland’s 0-6 nautical mile zone.

It is important to note that the Supreme Court upheld the High Court finding that the Voisinage arrangements are not invalid but that, as it stands, there is insufficient provision in domestic law for them. The Supreme Court in fact noted that the arrangements were a sensible recognition at official level of practice and tradition, where fishing boats traditionally fished neighbouring waters.

With regard to the concerns raised in the IFPO letter in terms of compliance with the Common Fisheries Policy, Article 5 of Regulation 1380/2013 recognises and permits neighbourhood arrangements (such as these Voisinage arrangements) which existed prior to the coming into force of the CFP. The Voisinage arrangements were in place prior to the London Fisheries Convention 1964 and were continued under the terms of the Convention. Ireland is a party to that Convention and is bound by its terms.

North South cooperation across a range of policy areas is in the interests of the people of the island of Ireland. There has been regular and positive engagement between Ministers Creed and McIlveen within the framework of the North South Ministerial Council.

The Government has approved the publication of a Sea-Fisheries (Amendment) Bill to address the issues raised by the judgment and expects to have this commenced as expediently as possible. The amendment will not change access arrangements but will fulfil Ireland’s obligations and ensure that the longstanding arrangement is given a proper legal footing. The Bill has been published this week and is on the Oireachtas website.

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