Wednesday, 27 November 2019
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
70. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of the investigation by the European Commission into the lack of control in certain areas carried out by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority; the background to the investigation; the terms of reference for same; the timeline for the completion of the investigation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49070/19]
Further to a 2018 audit carried out by the Commission in Killybegs in 2018 which identified “severe and significant weaknesses in the Irish control system”, Ireland received a formal decision of the Commissions intention to conduct an administrative inquiry to evaluate Ireland’s capacity to apply the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). 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 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. The Commission has set the 6th December as the deadline for the submission of the requested information.
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.
In addition to this, Article 4 of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents clearly prevents the release of documents relating to the administrative inquiry being made public.