In December 2018, following a public consultation process in which over 900 submissions were received, the then Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine announced that vessels over 18 m will be excluded from trawling in inshore waters inside the six nautical mile zone and the baselines from 1 January 2020. A transition period of three years for vessels over 18 m targeting sprat was allowed to enable adjustment for these vessels, as the sprat fishery is concentrated inside the six nautical mile zone.
A Policy Directive was issued by the Minister to the independent Licensing Authority to give effect to these measures. The Policy Directive directed the Licensing Authority to insert a condition to this effect into the licences of affected vessels.
A Judicial Review to the High Court was taken by two applicant fishermen challenging the validity of the Policy.
On 6th October 2020, the Judge held in summary that the High Court’s final order should be, among other matters, a declaration that Policy Directive 1 of 2019 was made in breach of fair procedures and is void and/or of no legal effect.
The breach of fair procedures as referenced above related to a failure with obligations to consult with the applicants in accordance with, and to the extent required by, the consultation process and in particular by failing to consult with them once a preferred option had been identified.
The High Court’s ruling of Judicial Review proceedings which relate to the Policy Directive has been appealed by the State to the Court of Appeal and a stay is being sought on the orders granted therein.
As this matter is sub judice, I am not in a position to comment until the matter can be resolved before the Courts.