The matter the Deputy refers to is my announcement in December, following an extensive public consultation process, that vessels over 18m will be excluded from trawling in inshore waters inside the six nautical mile zone and the baselines from 1 January 2020. Trawling for sprat by vessels over 18m will be phased out by 31 December 2021.
Based on my assessment, I considered that there was a compelling case for excluding trawling by large vessels in coastal waters inside six nautical miles. Ireland’s fishing fleet comprises approximately 2,000 vessels but fewer than 200 of these are large trawlers. In environmental terms, large vessels trawling can have a significant impact both on fish stocks and on important coastal marine environments. Excluding trawling by large vessels in coastal waters inside six nautical miles will provide wider ecosystem benefits, including for nursery areas and juvenile fish stocks.
I am also very conscious of the exclusive reliance of small scale and island fishermen on inshore waters and the benefits this change will bring for these fishermen. According to BIM’s report, if smaller vessels take up all of the opportunities currently fished by vessels over 18m inside the 6nm zone it would mean an increase of 62% in the value of their landings. While it is unlikely that the volume of landings will simply be transferred from larger vessels to smaller vessels, the percentage gains for individual small vessels in our inshore fishing sector are hugely significant to the coastal communities they come from.
I firmly believe that this will, in the medium term, provide ecosystem and nursery stock benefits for all fishermen. These measures will provide for further sustainable development of the small scale inshore and sea angling sectors, which the Government has committed to in the Programme for a Partnership Government.