I am advised by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) that Lough Swilly is located within a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). As the exploitation of these fisheries is by means of dredging, an “Appropriate Assessment” against predetermined conservation objectives is required. These assessments are undertaken by the Marine Institute an Agency within the aegis of the Department of Agriculture Food and Marine.
Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) is the agency which issues oyster dredge licences under the 1959 Fisheries (Consolidation) Act. Until the completion of an Appropriate Assessment, IFI must ensure, on a precautionary basis, that no intensification of the oyster dredge fishery occurs. This precautionary policy has been further strengthened by the Habitats Directive as transposed by European Commission (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011
In accordance with this principle, IFI limit the number of licences annually to no more than the average number of licences that have been issued over the previous 5 years when dredging actually took place, prior to 2011. If the number of licences issued in 2011 was restricted then the number issued in the years after 2011 must not exceed that number until the Appropriate Assessment is completed by the Marine Institute.
This precautionary management regime means that a total of 24 licences are available for issue in 2013 in the Lough Swilly area.
The Appropriate Assessment, when completed, will provide a status report on the current fishery, identify potential impacts of current fishing and aquaculture activities in Lough Swilly and identify the necessary conservation measures required to ensure sustainable management of the fishery into the future.