As the Deputy is aware, I recently carried out a review of trawling activity in inshore waters inside the six nautical mile zone. Following an extensive public consultation process, I announced in December 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. 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 benefit, including for nursery areas and juvenile fish stocks. Small scale and island fishermen strongly rely on inshore waters and I am very conscious of the benefits this change will bring for these fishermen.
As Minister, I have responsibility for policy in relation to sea-fishing boat licensing.
On March 5th last, I issued Ministerial Policy Directive 1 of 2019 to the Registrar General of Fishing Boats under Section 3 of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2003, as amended by Section 99 of the Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006, to give effect to these measures. This Policy Directive is intended to give effect to the measures I recently announced in relation to trawling activity (that is operating trawl or seine nets) inside the six nautical mile zone and inside the baselines. This Policy Directive is available to view on my Department's website and is due to be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas shortly.