Written answers

Thursday, 17 November 2022

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Court Judgments

Photo of Pa DalyPa Daly (Kerry, Sinn Fein)
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318. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will provide an update on the Court of Appeal judgement related to pair trawling inside the six nautical mile zone; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57121/22]

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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As you know, following a public consultation process in which over 900 submissions were received, the then Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine announced in December 2018 that vessels over 18m would be excluded from trawling in inshore waters inside the six nautical mile zone and the baselines from 1 January 2020. A transition period of three years for vessels over 18m targeting sprat was allowed to enable adjustment for these vessels, as the sprat fishery is concentrated inside the six nautical mile zone.

A Policy Directive was issued by the Minister to the independent Licensing Authority to give effect to these measures. The Policy Directive directed the Licensing Authority to insert a condition to this effect into the licences of affected vessels.

A Judicial Review to the High Court was taken by two applicant fishers challenging the validity of the Policy. On 6th October 2020, the Judge held in summary that the High Court’s final order should be, among other matters, a declaration that Policy Directive 1 of 2019 was made in breach of fair procedures and is void and/or of no legal effect. The breach of fair procedures as referenced above related to a failure with obligations to consult with the applicants in accordance with, and to the extent required by, the consultation process and in particular by failing to consult with them a second time once a preferred option had been identified. A stay on the order was refused by the High Court on 10th December 2020.

I appealed the decision of the High Court to the Court of Appeal. I also sought a stay on the order of the High Court. The Court of Appeal reinstated the Ministerial Policy Directive on 19th March 2021, when the Court was persuaded that the balance of justice leaned in favour of the State and granted a stay on the order of the High Court up until the hearing of the substantive appeal in June. Following a full hearing by the Court of Appeal on 22nd June 2021, the Court decided to temporarily extend the Policy Directive excluding large vessels from trawling in inshore waters within 6 miles of the coast, save for a restricted sprat fishery.

On September 23rd, 2021, the Court of Appeal refused my application to further continue the stay. This refusal means that the decision of the High Court stands and the Policy Directive is no longer valid, meaning vessels over 18 metres in length overall have resumed trawling in the waters inside 6 nautical miles. These vessels also no longer require an authorisation to fish for sprat inside 6 nautical miles.

The Court of Appeal issued an unapproved judgment on 19th July last and my Department is at present considering the implications of the that unapproved judgment in consultation with its legal advisors. Further submissions to the Court have been provided.

As this matter continues to be sub judice, I am not in a position to comment further until the matter can be resolved before the Courts.


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