Irish marine minister submits changes to sea fisheries bill – Fishupdate.com

Irish marine minister submits changes to sea fisheries bill Published:  23 January, 2006

IRISH Marine Minister, Pat the Cope Gallagher, today submitted amendments to the Sea Fisheries Maritime Jurisdiction Bill to address concerns raised during the Second Stage Dáil debate on the Bill. The Bill, published last September,seeks to modernises the legislative framework for sea fisheries, some of which dates back to 1959 and has been undermined by two judgements of the Supreme Court.

During the debate on the Second Stage of the Bill in the Dáil a number of Deputies raised concerns regarding some of the contents of the Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill 2005.

Having “listened carefully” to the concerns expressed by the Deputies, Minister Gallagher decided that a number of amendments should be made, this package of amendments have now been finalised and include:

Removing the power to fire into boats;

Removing the power to forfeit a boat when repeat offences occur;

Graduating fines based on size of vessel;

Establishing a regulatory agency independent of the Department charged with enforcement of sea fisheries law.

The amendments are outlined below in more detail:

1. Removing the power to fire into boats – Section 40 of the Bill regarding the Navy’s power to fire into boats will be removed by amendment.

2. Removing the power to forfeit a boat – This power was already in legislation where repeat offences occurred but it will now be removed from the legislation.

3. Graduating fines based on size of vessel – Strong concern had been expressed by Deputies at the level of fines being imposed and the fact that they made no distinction between large and small vessels. These matters are taken into account by the Courts in determining the actual fines in individual cases, but to ensure fairness and proportionality the package of amendments submitted significantly graduate the maximum fine applicable based on the size of the vessel.

The amounts involved for smaller vessels are now generally one fifth of the fine levels in the Bill as published. For mid size vessels they are approximately a half and in most cases for the large vessels there have also been reductions of between 20% and 50%. The new maximum fines levels and the graduation of fines based on vessel size have been drawn up taking account of the requirement in EU Law that Member States have in place a system of dissuasive fines and sanctions.

Several Deputies requested the introduction of administrative fines rather than the current situation. It has been the consistent advice of the Attorney General that it is not constitutionally possible to introduce administrative fines in this area of legislation.

4. Establishing an independent regulatory agency (Sea Fisheries Protection Authority) – The original proposal in the Bill would have seen an official of the Department (a Seafood Control Manager) acting independently in relation to sea fishery law enforcement, while remaining within the Department. Many deputies felt this was unsatisfactory and it has now been agreed that a new statutory independent regulatory authority will be established. The new Authority will be wholly independent of the Department, legally charged with the State’s sea fisheries law enforcement functions and will be operated by a board of 3 independent commissioners (similar to Railway Safety Commission, ComReg, CER etc.). A fully representative (14 person) statutory Consultative Committee will be appointed by the Minister to ensure the sector can formally input to the work of the new Authority. A system for dealing with individual complaints and concerns is also to be set up under the Bill, through the appointment of individual Complaints Officers. The new Authority will be fully accountable to the Committees of the Oireachtas.

Minister Gallagher said “The amendments I have brought forward now represent a very substantial package of changes to the Bill, without damaging the integrity of the legislation itself. In combination they will ensure fair, effective, efficient and accountable sea fisheries management arrangements going forward.”

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