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Written Answers - Proposed Legislation

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 755 No. 1

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 17.  Deputy Seán Crowe Information on Sean Crowe Zoom on Sean Crowe  asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney  if he will introduce a new fisheries Bill to decriminalise those involved in the fishing industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7081/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Programme for Government committed to replacing the criminal sanctions system for minor fisheries offences with administrative sanction system to bring Ireland into line with other European jurisdictions.

I sought the advice of the Attorney General on the matter. The Attorney General has responded with a detailed advice on the issue which I am currently examining. The advice highlights the difficulties in relation to the Constitution and in relation to the laws of the European Community relevant to the question of implementing a system of administrative sanctions for fisheries.

There are many significant differences between the legal systems in Ireland and that of other EU Member States. Ireland’s constitutional and legal position provides certain basic rights which must be respected within our system of justice.

Furthermore, European Union legislation requires that penalties for fisheries offences must be “effective, proportionate and dissuasive”. That is, they must act as a deterrent and they must also ensure that there is no benefit gained by infringing the rules.

Given the nature of the penalties involved, there is a general requirement under the Constitution that alleged breaches of fisheries control regulations must be tried in a court of law. I am continuing to actively examine the issue in the context of the Attorney General’s advice in relation to the Programme for Government commitment.

At EU level, a new fisheries control framework was introduced in 2009 which came into force at the beginning of 2010, following fisheries control failures identified by the EU Court of Auditors across the EU. This new framework including the application of electronic reporting of catches by all large and medium sized vessels, a new penalty points system, a payback system for overfished quotas and provisions to allow for the suspension of Community assistance in the event of non-compliance by Member States with the agreed control provisions. The new control system is designed to promote a level playing field. I am fully supportive of all measures that promotes effective controls across the EU and that promotes a culture of compliance within the Irish and EU Fishing industry. The future of our industry is totally dependant on healthy fish stocks and fishing must be carried out on a sustainable basis in accordance with the rules in place across the EU.

 18.  Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh  asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney  if he will allow for the deregulation of small fishing boats and classify them as artisan fishing boats; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7085/12]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Article 6 of Council Regulation No. 1224/2009, establishing a Community control system for ensuring compliance with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy, provides that a fishing vessel may only be used [104]for commercial fishing if it has a valid fishing licence. This EU legal requirement is reflected in our national fishing boat licensing system and I have no discretion in the matter.

The registration of all commercial fishing vessels serves important functions. It is an essential element of our control systems for ensuring that we comply with the Common Fisheries Policy and with EU environmental law.

It is an essential element of our systems for managing access to quota species and to certain non quota species which are the subject of management plans to ensure the long term sustainability of particular stocks.

It is also worth noting that financial assistance under the European Fisheries Fund for improving hygiene, product quality, energy efficiency, gear selectivity and safety on board is only available to licensed fishing boats.


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