The move follows a 2018 audit of Ireland’s mackerel, herring and blue whiting fleet in the Co Donegal fishing port of Killybegs which uncovered a wide range of irregularities including the manipulation of weighing systems and consistent under-reporting of catches. The protection authority found the EU “deemed that the risk of the industry’s non-compliance with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy could not be minimised”.
The crackdown means all fish landed by small Irish inshore vessels and supertrawlers with substantial mackerel catches must now be weighed at the point of landing.
Irish skippers and previously been allowed to weigh catches away from the place of landing, such as in fish factories.
The Sea Fisheries Protection Authority has confirmed the commission’s decision will be implemented with “immediate effect”.
The move comes as another blow to the Irish fishing industry, which is facing a 15 percent overall reduction in quotas because of Brexit.
Ireland’s marine minister Charlie McConalogue has been engaging with the European Commission over a “payback” from quotas as a result of under reporting of catches.
EU auditors found that from 2012-16 Ireland had overfished its quota of mackerel by 28,600 tonnes; its horse mackerel quota by 8,100 tonnes and blue whiting by 5,600 tonnes.
The “payback” issue affected only one sector of the industry but the entire Irish fleet is targeted by the new weighing rules.
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National Inshore Fishermen’s Association secretary Alex Crowley said: “We had expected that any sanctions would only apply to the pelagic sector, as this is where the irregularities were found.
“A lot of smaller boats landing fish would transport their catch to first point of sale themselves, so we are waiting to see what the implications of the EU decision will be.”
Dr Susan Steele, protection authority chairwoman, said it would be “contacting producer organisations and industry representatives as well as holding local meetings to ensure that the industry is familiar with the changes that are required”.
Dr Steele said the protection authority “takes its commitments under the Common Fisheries Policy very seriously.”
She said: “We have been working with the Commission and EU control partners including the European Fisheries Control Agency, and with the support of government, to improve Ireland’s compliance assessment capabilities.
“This included a significant expansion of protection authority detection and inspection resources.”