Thursday, 29 April 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
Fishery Harbour Centres
I thank the Deputies for raising the issue and for their contributions. That the three of them are coming together, as Waterford Deputies, to raise the issue shows the importance they place on it. The Minister of State, Deputy Butler, has also been raising and discussing the matter with me. I welcome the opportunity to address it in the House.
As the Ceann Comhairle will be aware, in January 2021 five additional ports were designated for landings by Britain and Northern Ireland-registered vessels, namely, Greencastle, Rathmullen, Burtonport, Ros a Mhíl and Howth. The five ports join Killybegs and Castletownbere, which continue to be designated for landings by vessels of any third country origin. I designated these five additional ports having regard to the level of activity by Britain and Northern Ireland-registered vessels in the recent past.
Any Britain or Northern Ireland-registered boat landing into any of the seven designated Irish ports must comply with additional documentary and procedural requirements as a result of the changes brought about by Brexit. The designation of ports is within the states' authority but all requirements and protocols are subject to EU and international law and must be strictly adhered to in order to gain entry to such ports.
The designation of the five additional ports was an important decision that allows fishers and small vessels in particular to continue landing at Irish ports following Brexit. The SFPA has undertaken significant work in putting in place the arrangements necessary, including additional staff, to provide for these port designations. I am glad the outcome will mean many of those fishers will now have the opportunity to access a number of additional ports.
There are significant practical and cost implications for the State in the designation of EU ports for third country landings as, under EU regulations, such designations represent an entry point to the European Union, following which food is free to circulate within the full EU Common Market. On this basis, for any ports designated, Ireland is obliged to ensure that it has in place a meaningful control presence.
As outlined by the Deputies, Dunmore East has not been designated at this point but this will be kept under review. In 2018, there were 15 landings by UK-registered Northern Ireland vessels into Dunmore East. This reduced to nine landings in 2019 and reduced further in 2020. Over the two years, 2018 and 2019, the total landings amounted to 318 tonnes into Dunmore East by UK-registered Northern Ireland vessels. I understand that these were landings of nephrops, mainly from the Smalls. I included Howth as a designated port at the beginning of the year and this provides a landing option for UK Northern Ireland-registered vessels fishing for nephrops in the large fishing grounds in the north Irish Sea and may also provide an option for such vessels fishing in the Smalls or Labidine. I designated Howth because, unlike Dunmore East, there were 26 landings by UK-registered vessels into Howth in 2018 and this increased to 28 landings in 2019.
I can also assure the Deputies that the current ports designated and the opening times and days for those ports were decided to allow UK-registered Northern Ireland vessels to continue to land into Irish ports, while ensuring that the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, SFPA, has the capacity to continue to perform its vital control functions effectively. I reassure the Deputies that the designation of ports for landings does not preclude vessels from coming into ports for force majeurereasons such as the need to reach a safe harbour.