Tuesday, 28 June 2011
Department of Justice, Equality and Defence
Naval Service Operations
Question 402: To ask the Minister for Defence the total length of shoreline for which the Navy and Air Corps are responsible for in terms of surveillance; the way this compares with similar responsibilities in other EU countries; the extent to which the costs for such surveillance is shared throughout the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17647/11]
The current Irish Exclusive Economic Zone, (EEZ) or Exclusive Fishery Limits, (EFL) extends to 200 miles offshore and covers an area of 132,000 nautical square miles which is equivalent to an area of 175,000 square land miles. This represents 16% of EU waters. The size of the EFL for surveillance purposes is more relevant than the length of the shoreline. The UK for example has a much longer shoreline than the Republic of Ireland but due to its proximity to Ireland, France and other countries, its EFL only extends to a much shorter distance. The Naval Service and the Air Corps currently patrols the entire 200 mile limit and periodically patrols beyond these limits to protect specific fisheries. These patrols are carried out on a regular and frequent basis and are directed to all areas of Irish waters as necessary including coastal areas. The Naval Service is committed to having at least three vessels on patrol within the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone at any one time, and all vessels are multi-tasked in that they undertake general surveillance security and other duties while conducting their primary day-to-day tasking of providing a fishery protection service. The primary day-to-day tasking of the Naval Service is to provide a fishery protection service in accordance with the State's obligations as a member of the European Union. However, as the need arises, Naval Service vessels are deployed to other duties such as aid to the civil power, search and rescue or recovery and drug interdiction operations.
Naval Service patrols are complemented by assistance provided by the Air Corps. The Air Corps Maritime Squadron carries out aerial surveillance of our EEZ using the two CASA maritime patrol aircraft.
Funding is available from the EU under the Fisheries Control Programmes to strengthen fishery surveillance systems in Member State countries. The Naval Service and the Air Corps through my Department and the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, apply on an annual basis for EU funding for projects that enhance their fisheries surveillance role.
In relation to maritime surveillance generally, an Inter-Departmental Maritime Surveillance Working Group (MarSur WG), chaired by the Department of Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, was established under the auspices of the Maritime Co-ordination Group of Assistant Secretaries. The Working Group is working towards the creation of a common information-sharing environment to enhance safety and security within the Irish maritime domain. The National MarSur project is mirroring attempts in the EU for countries to share their maritime data with the national authorities of other countries within the EU. The Department of Defence and the Naval Service are represented on this Group along with other Government Departments and Agencies responsible for safety and security in the maritime environment. The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport which chairs the Inter-Departmental Maritime Surveillance Working Group is currently investigating the possibility of accessing funding at EU level to assist in progressing the National MarSur project.
Ireland along with some other EU countries participate in the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre – Narcotics (MAOC-N). This Centre has led to a greater focus on intelligence exchange amongst countries to tackle large drug shipments by sea. MAOC-N was set up by seven European countries and is designed as an international co-ordination force with access to national tasking agencies and requires participation and resource sharing from all active members. An Garda Síochána and the Customs Service have full-time officers based at the Centre in Lisbon. Irish Naval Service personnel travel to the Centre when requested by the Joint Task Force.
I am satisfied that the necessary supports and resources at both national and international level are available to the Naval Service and the Air Corps to assist them in this challenging work.