The Commission asked Ireland to conduct a formal administrative inquiry to evaluate its capacity to apply the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). This came as a result of “the severe and significant weaknesses detected in the Irish control system” during an audit carried out by the Commission in Killybegs, in 2018. Principally, the Commission identified shortcomings related to the effective control of pelagic fisheries, issues related to underreporting of catches of these species, the inadequate and ineffective sanctioning system for offences committed by operators and the lack of control and enforcement of bluefin tuna catches by recreational vessels.
The formal administrative inquiry requires Ireland to provide further substantial volume of information on these specific findings to enable the Commission to further evaluate Ireland’s capacity to apply the rules of the CFP and to assess the potential consequences of any failure to do so. The Commission will analyse the information provided by Ireland and identify any further steps or actions necessary. A similar type investigation in another Member State in relation to pelagic controls resulted in significant quota reductions.
As Minister, I have no role in the operational control matters which formed the Audit findings. The monitoring and control of fishing vessels within Ireland’s Exclusive Fisheries Zone are matters for the Irish control authorities. Under the Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act, 2006, all operational issues of this nature concerning sea fisheries control are, as a matter of law, exclusively for the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority and the Naval Service. The issues arising in the administrative inquiry are operational matters for SFPA and, as Minister, I am precluded from getting involved in these matters.
The information required by the Commission includes large amounts of primary data. I understand that the SFPA have had a number of meetings with DG Mare to keep them abreast of progress. Department officials have had regular meeting with the SFPA from a corporate governance and policy perspective. I am advised that the SFPA is also liaising with stakeholders on the issues arising from the inquiry.